Brother Nancy

A welcoming French-inspired cafe in the west.
Jane Pendry
Published on April 01, 2015
Updated on April 02, 2015


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.


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