Brunch out south of the Yarra
Sometimes, we have these days where we just want to press the pause button on life and escape to another dimension. Operator 25 offers such escape to city slickers, who come here to take a moment to get away from it all. It is one of those places in Melbourne CBD that you can’t find unless someone tells you about it. The café is secretly located on a tiny street just a stone throw away from Melbourne’s dynamic (and dramatic) legal district. The staff here is serious about their coffee and manage to give a personal service, in a very unhomely part of town. Just like nearby Krimper (see earlier review), it seems that the space here is a converted warehouse in a heritage listed building, presumably a telephone operating centre in its previous life.
My co-bruncher and I are so excited about this place that we actually meet here twice before I manage to write this review. The first time, we go for items from the lunch menu, selecting the Braised Beef Cheeks, Truffled Soft Polenta Sautéed Kale, Confit Shallots, Dutch Carrots and Gremolata, and the Pressed Lamb Shoulder with Kipfler Potatoes Broccolini, Roasted Vine Tomatoes and Rosemary Jus. Both dishes are just perfect. The pressed lamb melts in your mouth, surrounded by a colourful medley of crunchy broccolini and soft potatoes perfectly balanced against the acidity of the tomatoes. The beef cheeks have a rich aroma, well paired with creamy polenta. Needless to say, we both have food coma for a few days.
On our second date, only a week after our first, we try some basics from the breakfast menu. I order poached eggs with mushrooms and avocado and my co-bruncher orders the French Omelette special with pulled lamb shoulder (haven’t had one of these before!). Both dishes are again simply delicious. Other more adventurous breakfast choices include the Breakfast Tortilla filled with Scrambled Egg, Bacon, Aged Cheddar, Herb Oil, Sweet Corn and Black Eyed Beans Salsa and the Ricotta and Vanilla Hot Cakes, Poached Pear, Hazelnut Maple Syrup, “strudel” Mascarpone (perfect for the dieters out there…).
Coffee is bold and soy chai is adequately spicy. Milk based coffee is by Code Black Coffee and there are changing single origins and filter coffee options on the display board. There is ultra-cool graffiti on the wall of a 1950’s pin-up girl phone operator, daffodils in jars and a number of communal tables (not a bad way to meet new people!).
To sum it up, this is a solid brunch choice in the city, offering a little treat for city workers, urban explorers and coffee fanatics. It is a place that allows you to turn an ordinary day, to something a little extraordinary. Don’t be surprised if you bump into me here- I plan to become a regular.
Food: 9 out of 10
Atmosphere: 8 out of 10
Staff: 8.5 out of 10
Getting here: 25 Wills Street, Melbourne CBD, leave the car at home and get off at Flagstaff train station.