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 September 27th 2011
Located at the Collingwood Children's Farm near the Abbotsford Convent, the Farm Café is a very kid-friendly place to have breakfast or lunch. In a city where the cafés compete to see who can be the most cool and detached (which waiters have the skinniest jeans, and so on) it's refreshing to visit the Farm Café and see people who are honestly interested in good, simple food.
The idea of the Farm Café began in 2005. Two people, Pip and Tom, began running the coffee and pancake stall once a month at the Collingwood Children's Farm Farmers Market. Once a month became every weekend, and to compensate Pip and Tom for their hard work the Collingwood Children's Farm offered them a small kitchen and an old veggie garden on the premises for lease. They went into business as the Farm Café, and are now a popular destination for families with children (or just people riding along the Yarra River).
Much of the food on the menu is grown on the Farm and prepared in the Farm Café kitchen, and it shows: everything tastes fresh. Everything else is sourced from local producers. Try the green pea, zucchini and haloumi fritters with a mixed tomato herb salad and natural yoghurt – they're gluten free and absolutely delicious. There's baked beans, too, but not as we know them: white beans in a tomato and fennel seed sauce with creamy fetta and fresh herbs. Children, of course, have a menu of their own, complete with mini beans and 'toastie soldiers'.
All the seating is outdoors, surrounded by veggie patches and the occasional wandering peacock. There are umbrellas over each table, providing shade and a measure of shelter, but you wouldn't want to be here during a thunderstorm. If the weather's nice, though, the Farm Café is practically a sanctuary in the city – it's hard to believe that the city centre is only a couple of kilometres away. The seating area can hold fifty people at full capacity, and on fine days it fills up quickly with parents taking their children to the Collingwood Children's Farm and scruffy hipsters sitting over lattes. It's much better to show up around 10am or 4pm – especially since those are the times when Bella the cow gets walked across the grounds for her twice-daily milking.
The Collingwood Children's Farm is an excellent place to host a children's party. The staff are very practiced with dealing with kids, the farm area is interesting and great fun to run around in, and there are regular activities that the kids can enjoy. They can feed the animals, milk the cows, and if you choose a hosted farm party, even ride ponies. They'll even charge you less if it rains on the day you've booked. You're welcome to bring your own food (although party poppers aren't allowed, since the animals can eat them and get sick), but why not get platters from the Farm Café? Children are almost guaranteed to love the icecream cake.
The Farm Café itself can be booked for functions (at about a thousand dollars a night). It's suitable for work or social events, and the atmosphere is practically unique in Melbourne. Alternatively, you could opt for the Gourmet BBQ catering options, which the staff recommend as the best idea for a group lunch at the Farm Café. This requires at least fifty guests, though – if you've got less than that, you're probably better off booking at another restaurant.
All in all, the Farm Café is an excellent place to eat and relax. Beautiful surroundings, ethical and wholesome food, nearby animals – what more could you want?