Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published December 7th 2011
Moving from the city to the suburbs is a harrowing experience, made that much worse by the dwindling availability of excellent brunch places. It's a time when you feel the need to ask many questions. Where did all the tall buildings go? Why are there strange children playing in the road? And is there a way to get a quality breakfast and coffee without taking a thirty minute train trip? On 611 Gilbert Road, Preston is Jackson Dodds, an answer to at least that last question. It's open for breakfast and lunch any day of the week, and is worth visiting if you've got an hour or so to spend on a lazy brunch.
The interior is city-chic (think Café Arcadia on Gertrude St) with a friendlier twist. There's the familiar specials blackboard and faded wooden chairs, but the waiters and waitresses – city folk, you might want to sit down before you read on – actually smile. At the back is a play area for children, complete with smaller chairs and brightly-coloured toys. The whole atmosphere is very welcoming to families and other non-hipsters. You could conceive of it as a training ground for young café dwellers: while the adults lean and chat over their lattes, the children lean over their colouring books and sip babycinos. Far from being vaguely puzzled by the idea of crying babies, the waiters and waitresses can, on occasion, perform minor miracles and stop the crying – most of them have had long practice making silly faces on command.
But what about the coffee? Well, it's okay. Don't expect marvels from the Jackson Dodds baristas. What you'll get most of the time is a decidedly average coffee – average in the sense of 'generally unremarkable', not in the sense of 'bad'. It's certainly very pleasant to sip a latte with your breakfast or with a cake, but if you're looking for a place to go just for a coffee, Jackson Dodds might not be the café for you.
The food, on the other hand, is amazing: very generous portions and an extremely skilful chef. The poached eggs have firm whites and golden runny insides. The bacon sits in that perfect zone between underdone and too crispy. And the presentation is just amazing to look at – very simple, relying on the colourful food to sell itself. The vegetarian big breakfast comes with haloumi and a tasty tomato relish, and the meatlovers big breakfast delivers a sausage that can charm even the most continental-breakfast loving foreigner. If you're looking for a lighter meal, try the orange, goat's cheese and roasted hazelnut salad. The orange works surprisingly well with the goats' cheese, creating a sweet and salty flavour that refreshes while still sating your hunger.
Unfortunately, Jackson Dodds has recently undergone a change of management – hence the average coffee – and isn't as good as it once was. Bear that in mind if you're a long-time fan and you won't be disappointed. Don't give up on this café yet, though. A place as good as this deserves a few months to get back on its feet. Those who've been let down by the recent changes, get coffee somewhere else for a while before returning. Before you know it they'll be serving espresso shots to rival Seven Seeds (or at least Auction Rooms Café).