I'm a Melbourne-based writer and traveller with a passion for good food.
Published February 21st 2014
Fresh and Local - Sample Honest Rustic Cooking in the CBD
The Grain Store is, quite simply, that perfect CBD brunch spot. A homely mix between rustic and elegant, this café tempts the taste buds with its fresh, local produce and creative dishes.
The café's name pays homage to Melbourne's history, when many buildings in the area were once warehouses used to store shipments of various goods, including grain. But with its painted timber interior and fresh flowers, the image conjured when you walk through the Grain Store's "barnyard doors" is one of a rustic country house, the aroma of brewing coffee lingering in the air.
Like all quintessential Melbourne eateries, you really have to look for it. The Grain Store is located on Flinders Lane down the "other" end of the city (near Southern Cross station). Tucked away in a plain, unassuming grey building, it is all too easy to walk past the café without realising, even if you know it's there. But if you manage to find this well-hidden gem, you will be rewarded with the perfect place for brunch with friends, a coffee date, or even just to chill by the window in the morning sun with the day's paper in hand.
[ADVERT]The Grain Store prides itself on nutritious and delicious "honest cooking" – fresh, local produce without the use of many additives. A partnership with CERES Fair Food, an ethical online grocer and food delivery service that provides boxes of fresh, local, organic fruit and vegetables to Melbourne, ensures the Grain Store also does its bit for the environment.
I first experienced the culinary delights of the Grain Store when I went for a cheeky breakfast before work with some colleagues of mine. I found the food to be edgy, innovative, fresh, and beautifully presented. Don't come looking for a boring 'big breakfast' option here. Instead try the bacon steak with jalapeno cheese croquette, which is served with fried egg, tomato and pea salsa, and whipped goat's feta. The housemade fennel sausages with sweet corn blini is also recommended. Attentive service by the wait staff, even though we were seated at an out-of-the-way table, left us extremely satisfied with our dining experience.
Bacon steak and smoked jalapeno cheese croquette, egg sunny side up, new season tomato and pea salsa, whipped goat's feta - $19
Although the lunch menu boasts scrumptious-sounding options such as honey poached Milawa organic chicken and slow-cooked Tasmanian trout, it's hard to go past the mouth-watering assortment of freshly prepared sandwiches, rolls and tarts, which are tantalisingly displayed on the counter.
However, one of my Grain Store favourites actually comes from the dessert menu: cookies and milk. Forget mass-produced stale biscuits sitting in a jar on the counter. A 10-15 minute wait will reward you with four large, sweet cookies fresh out of the oven, dripping with globs of melting chocolate chips, and served with a refreshing glass of cold milk. Unless you're hungry and possess a sweet tooth to the extreme, this dish is best shared between two people. Otherwise, eat a couple in-store and grab the rest to take away.
The Grain Store is also open for dinner on Thursdays to Saturday nights. Book ahead to reserve a table.
The popular café has received its fair share of media attention since its opening in 2013. It has been featured on Channel 9's Postcards, featured in Urbanspoon's Most Popular New Restaurants of 2013: Australia Edition, and written up in Delicious magazine, Time Out and Broadsheet, to name but a few. Accordingly, the Grain Store has secured a steady crowd to occupy its tables throughout the day, which sometimes makes finding a place to sit a challenge – arrive early, especially for lunch! Larger groups (five people or more) are advised to book ahead.
Tables in a room off to the side that can accommodate larger groups
Tantalising food and lovely service has made the Grain Store one of my new favourite places to eat in the CBD. Although some may consider it to be a tad out of the way (relative to other CBD options), the culinary reward at the end is well worth the effort. Your taste buds will thank you.