Grafton is feeling a bit chummy because Welcome Eatery has arrived, and is here to stay.
As an office employee in the building that houses this popular new eatery I could be accused of bias. Or worse, of being bound by necessity. But not in the slightest. I visit daily, multiple times in fact and with unfettered discretion. When the Grafton road café first began a few years ago it was decidedly canteen-ish. Then the Welcome team moved in to re-invent the space and open the doors to the neighbourhood. To feed the good people of Grafton wholesome and tasty fare. The focus is on classic, clean eating with a modern spin, so there's nothing too greasy or stodgy to bog you down. But whatever you eat will satisfy.
Manager Ralph Jenner describes Welcome Eatery as an open-ended space where people can come in and do what they want. And that you can do; there’s plenty of lingering that goes on in here and there’s no prescribed formula. It's not strictly organic or anything fancy like that, but it's honest, and to say their stuff is "fresh" is an understatement. The kitchen make as much as they can in-house, which for Welcome is all about control. To see it through, and avoid being at the mercy of suppliers. It's certainly a bonus of being a weekday-cafe that there's never days of prep sitting round. When the team come in on Monday, they literally start from scratch. They don't use any bought sauces, dressings, chutneys; avoiding packets because they want to be able to tell people exactly what's in their food. And when I say team, I really mean that. The staff are chatty, chic and there for all the right reasons. They’re genuinely pumped about working together to serve you delicious food and beverage, walking the talk of their mantra emblazoned on the wall: "Fast, Fresh and Friendly".
So let's talk about the food then. I love it. To keep the regulars entertained they change up the salads, sammies and more exotic cabinet treats at an impressive rate, and offer a daily soup during winter. Those with the luxury of time should sit down, relax and enjoy something from the à la carte menu, which is streamlined but packs a punch. Nothing is put there just for the sake of it, it’s all pretty well thought-out. The warm pork salad with edamame is gorgeous and light with the right blend of zingy flavour and crunch you want in an Asian slaw, while the griddled polenta with butter bean ragout and whipped goats cheese is soul-warming on a wintery day. Welcome’s bag of tricks include “Rawtella”, their delicious house-made cocoa and hazelnut blend (sugar free) is delivered to you in either delicious smoothie form or slathered on a Best Ugly Bagel with fresh banana. Then there’s the delicious soda bread, on the menu served under salmon and egg salad and with a recent cameo appearance as bruschetta with grilled eggplant, zucchini and mozzarella. You never really know what you’re going to find. If you pop in post-lunch time you risk finding the cabinet empty, but your sweet tooth might just be in luck. French coconut flan and chocolate chip cookies are a few of the pleasant surprises that emerge from the Welcome kitchen on random days, and get quickly snapped up.
Welcome like being seasonal. Ralph says it's not just because it's cheaper (for both Welcome and their customers), but because it means they're using produce at its peak time for optimal flavour and freshness. It's true, tomatoes have no taste in the middle of winter. This also means they have to be creative and you can't fall back on the same recipes.
I could talk about the food for this entire article but that would leave no space for the coffee. Welcome have a strong relationship with Supreme, and master both espresso and batch-brewed single origin filter-style. They don't want to promote themselves as 'coffee geeks'; they just want to do it right. And do. Aside from coffee the berry beet smoothie with chia and coco yoghurt or the vibrant kale, kiwi and banana version are revitalizing meals in themselves.
The only thing wrong with this place is that it's not open on the weekend.
Image credit: Arie Eats