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FOOD & DRINK

Code Black Howard Street

Code Black starts a spin-off on Howard Street, and it's not just the same shtick.
By Lauren Vadnjal
January 29, 2015
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Code Black Howard Street

Code Black starts a spin-off on Howard Street, and it's not just the same shtick.
By Lauren Vadnjal
January 29, 2015
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A recent episode of This American Life told the story of Ralph, an earnest Texan with a pet Brahman bull. When the bull (named Chance) died, he had him 'brought back from the dead' with the help of science — they cloned him. Ralph goes on for years believing that the clone is his bull reincarnated, but it becomes clear that the new one (named Second Chance) is not the same as the other when it attacks him quite violently. It's surprisingly touching stuff. The episode was initially aired in 2007, but the sentiment remains the same: although they might have some of the same DNA, clones are not one and the same. They're totally different.

And that's what should be kept in mind when visiting Code Black Howard Street, the new North Melbourne sister cafe to Brunswick favourite, Code Black Coffee. It's a smaller space (no attached coffee roastery here), and it's light, airy — less Sydney Road, more Copenhagen — and immaculately designed. There's an explosion of blonde wood in the tables, the front door and up above, detailing the small mezzanine dining level; the whitewashed walls are a nice change to the black of Brunswick, as is the sunny disposition of it all.

The appearance of the new outpost — which appears to be the yin to Brunswick's yang — is not the only thing that's different here. The menu doesn't seem to borrow much from the existing kitchen, with breakfast dishes like the acai bowl ($14.50) and salted apple caramel hotcakes being thrown into the mix. The apple wood hot-smoked salmon on a citrus and herb potato cake ($18) seemed to be getting quite a fanfare on our visit, but we'd suggest the black beans with jalapeno cornbread ($12). The beans make an extra comforting bed for the fried egg and lime, and the cornbread is a nice alternative to regular sourdough. It's a relatively small dish, so add the pork belly — you won't regret it.

And while it's good to see Code Black departing from a menu they already know works, it didn't seem to match the offering in Brunswick. There just seemed to be less choice in comparison to the great menu a few suburbs north. There are less gluten free options, too.

Their signature coffee is a constant, with the same smooth Code Black beans making an excellent cup. And in its own right, Code Black Howard Street is a great cafe serving good coffee and a solid all-day breakfast and lunch menu. It isn't just Code Black #2, this is a whole new cafe.

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