Breakfast, brunch and microroasteries are to Melburnians what brown sauce is to the Brits. But it's a ritual that often requires heading toward, rather than away from, the city. Paul Vernuccio is trying to turn that notion around with his new all-day eatery in Pascoe Vale, George Jones.
The name, George Jones, belonged to the first business owner to open a general store in the area in 1841. And with Pascoe Vale being sparse in venues of this kind and calibre, the name is a fitting tribute. George Jones the eatery, then, has been 174 years in the making.
The northern suburbs cafe is a familiar concept, yet not one seen in these parts before. Polished concrete, painted grey steel and soft blonde timbers are all incredibly warm when paired with the mid-tone lighting and gradient of tri-colour tiles. Eon Design, the team responsible for the interior, have produced a gem capable of standing alongside the best of the leafy inner east — and the menu doesn't skimp out either.
A well-rounded day menu features a variety of the light, sweet and substantial with no shortage of gluten-free or vegetarian options. Green eggs and 'ham' ($19.90) are more than a fictional favourite: poached eggs are plated with a pea puree, crispy chunks of pork and a potato hash before being dusted in dry and crispy kale. On the flip side, the buttermilk hotcake stack ($18.90) offers a sweet-toothed alternative. Dinner here is the domain of burgers ($17.90), pasta (from $17.90) and a parmigiana ($23), along with a host of other crowd-pleasing favourites.
Another neat addition is the on-site coffee roaster. Here, George Jones produce their house blend as well as a rotating list of single origins. It's specialty coffee without the fluff or feather puffing, served as you like from one of their four grinders. They also have a small but growing retail trade.
George Jones is slick, and you can tell this isn't Vernuccio's first rodeo. He's opened up a polished venue in an area where nothing like this has really ever existed, and it's already proving popular with an intergenerational cross-section of locals. George Jones shows that with great risk does come reward. And that there may be more reward for locals around the corner with an adjacent gelato shop in the works. Stay tuned on that one.
Images: Thanh Do.