At its core, Caffe La Via hasn't changed much at all. Sure, it's had a sleek renovation, but Caffe La Via — which has been open since 1999 — remains hospitably unpretentious and pleasingly family-friendly, cementing its position as a local Malvern favourite.
Owners Anil and Sulekha Chawla moved from their successful jobs in America to take some time out Down Under. It appears the plan to relax didn’t last very long. The couple took over the venue in 2012 and, three years on, have decided to give the space a pretty massive overhaul. They've taken design advice from Richie Brownfield and added Sensory Lab coffee into the mix.
An all-day diner, La Via toes the line between a chic, lazy afternoon brunch spot and an elegant dining destination. Patrons don't seem to mind the extensive menu, with tables mixing plates of 2pm buttermilk pancakes ($14.50) and late-night chilli prawn pizzas ($20).
Roman-style thin crust pizzas and perfectly seared, punchy entrees are highlights of the menu. Featuring share-style modern Australian dishes with a Mediterranean influence — although Asian spices do have a tendency to make surprise appearances — Caffe La Via's dishes are satisfyingly appetising and visually delightful without being overly extraordinary.
A good pick for Melburnians needing to placate picky eaters (i.e. the perfect spot for the extended family), La Via offers some king-hit drinks. Colourful, freshly squeezed cold pressed juices ($7.50), diabetes-inducing JumboShakes ($11) and protein-packed smoothies ($8) refuse to sit on the sidelines during your lazy Sunday brunch. Needless to say, there won't be any orders for water.
Minimalist banquettes and dark, inky black colours complete Brownfield's pared-back design. The featured rough-cut stone wall and handcrafted pendant lights create a cosy, elegant atmosphere ideal for a low-key catch-up or quaint romantic dinner. A strong choice within Glenferrie Road's wealth of cafe choices, there's plenty to sway diners towards Caffe La Via.
Images: Simon Shiff