Anyone even remotely culinary-minded would have heard of the infamous Stefano's restaurant- reliably popular despite being situated a 6 hour's drive from Melbourne on the NSW border. However, for those who would love a regular dose of Stefano chic without the price tag, the bakery is a great hangout for brunch or lunch on a sunny day. With the same sophistication as its parent restaurant, it still retains a sense of humility where one can order a serving of 'vegemite on toast' if you sweet-talk the waiters!
The café has a lovely airy atmosphere and is a great place to sit alone with the morning paper or to catch-up with friends under the sun. The service is attentive and efficient and the waiting staff is very friendly. The breakfast menu is divided into a sweet and savoury section, but whatever dish you choose is guaranteed to please the palate, ranging from fluffy pancakes to a classic eggs Benedict, all executed with finesse. Being quite the sweet tooth, I opted for the pancakes ($14.50) served with berry compote and sides of lemon curd, cream and maple syrup. The portion was huge and they were light and fluffy. My health-conscious companion opted for the Bircher muesli ($14). It came beautifully served with Greek yoghurt and a perfectly poached pear you could slice through with a spoon- which is strangely therapeutic on an early morning. There is the choice between poached or fresh fruit, but my thinking is, for a price-tag of $14, why not choose the more labour-intensive of the two?
The café churns out baked goods, such as hearty and crisp baguettes and sourdough loaves made from organic flour, at a reliable pace from the early morning and is usually sold out be mid afternoon. The cabinet is also always embellished with cupcakes, slices and delicious pastries one can peruse after a satisfying brekkie. Alternatively you can check out the abutting Gallery 25, which showcases the work of local artists on a regular basis.
Stefano's has long been an institution in Mildura and is renowned in Australia. This is showcased in his products which can be purchased in the café and numerous other retail outlets, including jams, chutneys, cookbooks and also his infamous brewery beers. However, the bakery is also a great place for locals to spend their mornings and to chat amongst themselves while waiting for their coffees. Brand name aside, it has a very personal niche in the Mildura community.