In the great gentrification of Melbourne's west, Brother Nancy of West Footscray leads the way. On any given day, the few tables outside are occupied by young couples, toddlers and tail-wagging dogs, signalling the hallmarks of urban change in this up-and-coming area. The owner of this delightful cafe, Leigh McCrabb, talks passionately about his babies: his first child, the imminent arrival of a new addition to the McCrabb family, and the cafe itself. Living locally with his young family, he understands what the community needs — a reasonably priced local cafe with a twist.
In the era of exposed brick and sterile white, the cafe itself is refreshingly warm, with licks of zingy green paint, a thoughtful design and zero pretension. The welcoming family atmosphere is carried through into this space, with ample room for prams and a 'little people' section on the menu. Eggs and soldiers ($4) or Vegemite toast ($4) enables the little ones to participate in the ritual of weekend brunch in Melbourne. But the rest of the menu is a more grown-up affair, with French Chef Jordi Boyer providing the inspiration.
Upon opening last year, Boyer and McCrabb drummed up interest by offering a punchy beef tartare on the menu. And while it has since been replaced with other delights, I'm reliably informed that this dish may make a comeback on the specials board due to popular demand. Classic Melbourne smashed avocado and poached eggs joint this is not; interesting and boundary-pushing it is.
A couple of Proud Mary long blacks in, I peruse the lunch menu and settle on the polenta and vegetable stack ($13), which was beautifully plated and exceedingly well-balanced in terms of flavour and texture. We also order the pork belly with figs ($16.50) which had a sharp and contrasting daikon mustard sauce, and the Brother Nancy version of a fry-up with eggs, tomato and bacon ($14.50), and the inclusion of some oozing stuffed mushrooms. But if you want to be wowed, I suggest stickingto the slightly more unusual and French-inspired dishes. The portions are on the small side, but excellent value with every dish under $18.
The real joy of this establishment is the community vibe and friendly service. A great weekend brunch spot to idly pass the time people-watching with a newspaper in hand. Changes are afoot in the 'Scray, and we look forward to seeing what McCrabb and his French chef come up with next.