A former medical centre is the site for Richmond's latest cafe, Jethro Canteen. Sitting on Burnley Street near the Swan Street intersection, owners Billy and Sarah Zarbos have transformed the clinical space with ample use of exposed brick, beautiful hardwood tables softened with cushioned chairs, retro green tiles and lush plants.
The pair were keen to create a progressive, yet nostalgic "extension of everyday life and family" in the old, raw, industrial building. This is especially fitting once you know the story behind Jethro Canteen's name. When Sarah was pregnant with their first child, the couple settled on the names Jethro for a boy and Gwenyth for a girl. When Gwenyth arrived the cafe naturally became Jethro — and both keep them equally busy. The whole thing is finished off with some great beats and welcoming waitstaff.
Coffee is often the entry point to a café experience and Jethro is (thankfully) a rainbow latte-free zone. It's back to excellent basics here with the Shady Lane house blend and rotating single origin options provided by Wide Open Road. There's also a batch brew, cold drip, a range of specialty teas, and Prana Chai.
Also on the menu — without any real fanfare, mind you — is the option of camel's milk in your latte and a roasted cricket Vietnamese salad. Entomophagy, or insect eating, isn't a new trend. It has been a 'thing' in high-end restaurants in North America and grocery stores in the Netherlands for quite some time. Hell, they even grind them up and put them in smoothies just to get that extra kick — we've just taken a little longer to embrace these protein-filled treats here in Australia. Vague recollections of reading a book in primary school called How to Eat Fried Worms abound, but food writers need to be brave — especially as they say bugs are a food of the future. So let's just say the salad is delicious. And the crickets? Well, they give an extra crunch.
Head chef Paul Davies is no newcomer to the world of cooking with sustainable and ethical produce. Former co-owner and head chef at Bentleigh East's The Merchant's Guild, Paul was one of only two chefs venues in Australia to work with an urban cultivator and grow and harvest his own micro-greens. Now he's incorporating his penchant for the healthy and the good into his menu at Jethro.
But it's not all lean and green — Paul also appreciates treats. There might be a super green salad, a purple kale tossed with pearl barley, roasted pumpkin and cauliflower on hummus toast, and a coconut and almond milk chia pudding, but you can also wrap your chops around dishes like the Louisiana plate with its bacon steak, chilli prawns, guacamole, poached eggs and corn remoulade on toast, and the waffles with burnt cream, roasted pear, Honey Joy crumble and cereal milk panna cotta and sigh in decadent delight at the deliciousness of it all.
So whether you're feeling experimental or just want some damn fine food, Jethro Canteen will bring it.
Images: Jethro Canteen and Jo Rittey.