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Like the rest of food-obsessed Melburnians, I'm always on the prowl for new places to add to my foodie hit list. Then when trying out new cafes, I generally start making a mental checklist of boxes to tick when it comes to what that venue is doing well. The Foodstore Cafe in Hawthorn got plenty of ticks of approval from me when I visited last Saturday.
☑Ample and free parking
The amount of Melbourne's traffic is obscene, even on weekends, so it is a drawcard if you can park close to a cafe.
So when I managed to sail right into a parking spot just outside Food Store Cafe in Auburn Road, one could almost see that giant tick of approval lighting up above my head.
As the cafe is stand-alone rather than part of a strip of shops there is no competition for the spaces.
Talking with Foodstore Cafe friendly owner Ahmad Hawli later in the day he said: "When we see a car pull up outside we know they are stopping just for us.'
While I didn't have a long drive to The Foodstore Cafe I'd stupidly not fuelled up on caffeine before leaving. So I arrived frazzled.
I was delighted to discover that The FoodStore Cafe serves Veneziano Coffee. It might come from nearby Richmond but it is from one of Australia's leading coffee roasters.
There is a house blend but also for purists, single origin coffee is available.
And what's more, The FoodStore Cafe doesn't just have a one-size cup fits all approach. I could have my coffee served in a large-sized cup. Some days you really have to count your blessings.
Well and truly blessed. Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt
Then there are all the parents doing school drop-offs, he said. ' Foodstore is close to Bialik College, Auburn South Primary School, Auburn High School, and the University of Melbourne's Hawthorn Campus.'
Foodstore Café has an open kitchen. I sat at a bar stool for a few minutes and watched chef Garry Sachdeva, at work. Gosh, can this guy move.
By 1 pm, the Foodstore Cafe was quite packed. I watched Garry toss pancakes and create stunning plates of food with a sprinkle here and a drizzle there. Everything was done perfectly but all in a whirlwind of getting food out to customers quickly.
When things did slow down around 1.30 pm, I did manage to have a chat with him about how he adapts his creative menu to meet his customers' dietary requirements.
Evidence of a popular cafe - photo @nadinecresswellmyatt
'We make sure that a host of the items on the menu are either GF or vegan', he said. 'For example, our Bircher muesli with coconut, chai and fresh berries is vegan as is our acai blend with raw protein, banana and coconut water. Our salmon benedict with smoked paprika hollandaise and our zucchini, sweet potato, and corn quinoa fritters can both be made gluten-free.
Zucchini, sweet potato, and corn quinoa fritters can be made gluten-free. Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt
[I]And sometimes we can simply adapt dishes for customers. For example, our ancient grain porridge, which has cinnamon, infused oats, chia, quinoa poached fruits, and almond crumble can be made from black rice to make it a gluten-free option.
When serving coffee we offer soy, almond and coconut milk and a lactose-free option as alternatives to traditional cow's milk. [/I
Some of the most popular dishes on the menu are the smashed avocado with Danish fetta, chilli pickle, soft herbs, crispy quinoa and poached eggs on sourdough toast and the salads such as the
calamari salad with carrots, tomato noodles, pickles and capsicum on rocket topped with a sweet chilli and lime dressing, the chicken nourish bowl and the Middle Eastern beef salad with iceberg carrot slaw, cucumbers, beetroot, onion, fennel pickle, hummus and honey mustard dressing.
When you just want something simple. Eggs on toast with a side of beautifully sliced avocado. Source Facebook Foodstore Cafe
All these good and wholesome meals are there for you to enjoy but there are also a few treats to welcome in the weekend. I noticed a range of baked goods and a parade of some of the most sensational pancakes you are every likely to see cross the floor in a waiter's hand. My longing glance was trailing behind him.
The mango smoothie also looked impressive with its halo of Persian fairy floss.
Side view of my lamb salad - Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt
There are half serves of dishes available for smaller appetites, so taking your child here does not have to be expensive. Foodstore Cafe offers highchairs, colouring-in sheets, babyccinos and lots of food options that kids will love. My little friend next to me ordered Nutella on toast and scrambled eggs. And the colourful milkshakes are popular with kids.
This is something we would never have dreamed of years ago as a measure of a great cafe. But with the advent of social media, plating is everything. It's become a matter of I'll have what she's having because I've seen it on my feed and it looks so good that I want it to feed me as well.
It was fascinating to watch what they do to a meal before putting it on a story on their Instagram accounts.
Plates were turned every-which-way for the best angles and shots were taken with a birds-eye view from above in order to achieve the flat lay effect.
Not being nearly so advanced, I got the job of holding forks for the shots. Who would have known that there is an art to exploding an egg, so the rich yellow yoke cascades down the sides of a mountain of avocado like molten lava! It is all about putting pressure on one side with the fork and then cutting in with the knife.
There is an art to those photos of rivulets of yoke. Source Facebook Foodstore Cafe
One thing these meals didn't need was any rearranging. Not sure how Garry Sachdeva, creates these amazing creations when he is so busy. But dishes are certainly Instagrammable as Garry uses clever colour palates, balances textures, creates focal points and does some pretty rapid-fire artistic drizzling.
The pièce de résistance on the menu has to be the pancakes. We ordered from the specials menu and I watched Garry plate the orange blossom pancakes below.
It was fascinating to watch him as he had to balance a scoop of ice cream on top of another scoop of ice cream to get the towering dramatic effect.
With some Melbourne cafes now charging exorbitant prices for brunch dishes, well over the $20 mark, it is great to see a cafe keeping it level-headed. As you can see from the photos Foodstore Cafe offers generous serves. You can order a smashed avo with all the trimmings for $17.50, a salad such as the one I photographed of pulled lamb, saffron roasted cauliflower, green peas, corn, quinoa and kale topped with lime and tahini yoghurt for $18.50.
Normal size coffees were all under $4. No wonder all those drivers are stopping off in the mornings for their fix.
☑Nice venue and friendly staff
The Foodstore Cafe is family run and you'll find a friendly, mostly relaxed if at times bustling atmosphere. The venue has clean lines and is not cluttered with tables. There's lots of natural light. There are a few bar-style stools for a quick coffee, some outside tables and the choice of booth style backed seating done out in a rich tapestry or normal chairs.