Teacher educator and author of many teacher reference books. Amused by random ideas and loves random acts of kindness. Enjoys writing humour...seriously!Please see my Instagram: wilsonjeni
Published June 9th 2020
Support your locals
I am just about sick of talking about the Coronavirus but it has prompted me to want to write after a long time 'off'. I have been wondering how my local cafes are going to survive and how important it is that they get the support they need and deserve. So I am reviewing a few that I hope you will support in exchange for a great dining experience that we have all been craving for.
Can you taste the freshness from Zen Den?
All the cafes I am reviewing have a few things in common, for example, they are all family owned and run. They all offer excellent friendly and personal service, they give bang for your buck but they are also unique in many ways. Read on to find out why you need to support these small cafes in the Northern suburbs. They are off the beaten track (main roads) but worth the trek.
Station 134 Café
1/134 Main St, Greensborough 94350556
For a start, Station 134 Café is a local family business. The owners are sisters Bella and Madi, mum Kylie, husband Rob, cousin Georgia and auntie Marj. I hope I haven't forgotten anyone. Each of them has business experience, particularly in the hospitality industry. They are very friendly and remembered me just after one visit and after isolation.
I am in awe of the fact that they have done pretty much everything themselves. The tiling, painting, floors and they even made the tables. At the same time, they have been creating a wine bar next door but you guessed it, it has been hampered just a little by Covid 19.
They believe local produce is best. Their coffee is roasted in Arthurs Creek and bread and cakes are baked fresh from the Lower Plenty Bakehouse. Their milk is Gippsland from fourth-generation farmers. They also purchase food from the local butcher, grocer and eggs from a farm in Doreen. I'm sure all of these suppliers would appreciate our support.
My tip for Station 134 café visitors is the brekky tower which included two types of toast, avocado, halloumi, mushrooms, feta, relish, eggs of your choice, Hollandaise, hash browns and pancakes on top with berries ice cream and chocolate syrup. If you're there a little later, there's also the lunch tower which includes a burger, chicken parma, calamari, arancini, fat chips, Greek salad, served with tomato and hearty sauce and fruit salad on top. In my opinion, you can't go past their unique towers to be shared with a friend but you won't be disappointed if you order something else.
There's plenty of parking and it's away from the hustle and bustle of Greensborough Shopping Centre but within walking distance. It's just next to the bus stops and the train station, so it's not surprising they have a lot of early morning trade with commuters picking up the delicious coffee and hot chocolate.
Small Plates 9 Arthur St Eltham 84141355
I am going to be bold and say that this is the best tapas restaurant for miles. The delicious tapas (starting at $8 per plate) and share platters are all made on the premises. These are a great offer for the indecisive, plus you'll want to sample everything.
Could you resist this dessert?
Nancy and Quinton, parents of Fluti, Florie and Nuri, have come together as a family to create the most inviting tapas cafe that you may ever have been to. In many ways, this is a pretty amazing local family who have vast experience in running successful food outlets. Experience certainly shows. They are previous owners of the deli and chicken shop in Bolton Street and the award-winning Burger Lounge in Eltham. To top it off, all food is served with a smile.
Here she is....the cheese filo
My personal favorite is the cheese filled filo pastry with pomegranate and pistachio. I always order it and have never been disappointed. This is made freshly by Nancy herself and presented with loving care. You have never tasted anything like it. I may have understated this pastry that's in a class of its own - it simply irresistible and a must order item.
This is a classy little glass gazebo style café tucked away behind Main St near Thompson's chemist. It's worth looking for.
736 Main Rd Eltham
03 9439 8838
Delicious beetroot, feta, walnuts and spinach salad.
Ever popular with the locals. This is a comfy café and that's exactly how the owner Julie wants it. She's a true-blue gutsy go-getter risking everything to set up her café. She has achieved her aim of creating a cafe for all comers. Come in thongs or bare feet and just how you are.
Julie has experience in the trade and has established Café Zen Den for take away, to cater for conferences, events and hold functions. The Zen Den is deceptively big with tables spread across three spaces: a room for families and groups, a quieter room, and an outdoor garden space. The eclectic furniture was picked by Julie's daughters.
The waiting staff look like a bunch of friends mingling in the same space enjoying their time together. But the main reason for going to the Zen Den has to be the food. This café has a large selection of well-known for its vegan and vegetarian food. If I had to choose my most popular dish, it'd be a hard call between the hearty curries and salads. I think it'd have to be weather determined.
Salmon as fresh as it comes.
The Zen Den is located on the right side of Main Rd as you drive into Eltham from Doncaster. It's a bit out of the town, so keep your eyes open for it. This venue was previously the bike shop and at first glance, does not appear to have a car park.
Taffy's on Lookers
15 Looker Rd, Montmorency
Easy to miss but hard to forget, Taffy's on Looker is reminiscent of good old-fashioned corner store (which it used to be) with the owner welcoming visitors like her family.
It's a nice spot to be if you want to browse for gifts as you wait. Surprisingly, despite the demands of running café, Maggie also hand makes all the slices from the yesteryear – best slices ever and many of the gifts. Her skills at crafting baby clothes sends me into a reminiscent spin.
Taffy's also sells nutritious doggie treats for $1. Be careful not to mistake them for the slices… it's happened before.
It turns out that Maggie runs the café like an afternoon tea at her house. She welcomed us as if she'd known us all her life and was keen to serve us with freshly made coffee and home cooked treats. Her husband, daughter in law and other family members also help out.
You must take kids. They serve very cheap kids food including a vegemite sandwich for only $2 and kids chips for a ridiculous $3. You can buy yourself a toastie for $8 or a thick cut sourdough sandwich for $10 - old-fashioned prices and good old-fashioned service by Maggie and the team who love what they do.
Maggie will be happy to take time for a funny conversation and a hearty belly laugh. If you want to know all about her ailing limbs, you'll have to allow a bit more time. She's an absolute cracker!
Final comment: You can't go wrong with any of these small family run businesses. I hope you get a chance to enjoy being served at one of our best cafes in the Northern suburbs. Leave a note about the food you tried.