In Melbourne, brunch certainly isn't hard to find. No matter where you are — from Thornbury to Windsor to Kensington — a cafe serving up poached eggs, smashed avocado or a bowl of superfood granola probably isn't too far away. But, what's rare, is for a cafe to look beyond noon and have a lunch menu that's more than just an afterthought. Tucked down a CBD lane, Operator25 ensures that, no matter how you operate, you'll be completely satisfied — and will probably be left coming back for more.
Opening quietly earlier this year, Operator25 has been slowly building an inner city following on, quite simply, really good food. In a stunning heritage-listed building on Wills Street (just off LaTrobe) in a pocket of the city that's usually reserved for business only, everything about Operator is unassuming. Yet, from the crisp design to the polished menu, it fits right into its environment and surpasses the likes of other so-so CBD cafes.
What's apparent from first glance is that the menu has a real culinary feel — it could almost be restaurant dining if it wasn't for the price bracket. Created by chefs Valerie Fong and Felipe Pereira Guedes, the menu treats both pre and post noon options with equal amounts of creativity and flair. For the 'Early Operator', breakfast — which is served all day — includes the sweet corn fritters (with avocado mousse, an egg sunny side up and tomato and coriander salsa; $16) are some of the best around, and the ricotta pancakes ($15) are light and not overly sweet.
For those who operate from noon, or just like to skip straight to the good stuff, the lunch menu is substantial and goes beyond the confines of typical cafe lunch fare. Excellently presented, the pan-fried potato gnocchi with heirloom tomatoes, black olive tapenade, goats curd and parmesan crisps ($16) triumphs on the gnocchi's lightness and golden consistency. However, a range of other options, from the braised lamb shoulder to the open steak sandwich, make choosing perhaps the biggest task.
Sealing the deal is the coffee is from Brunswick's superb Code Black roastery, and a dessert that is worth the visit in itself: the parfait-like tonka bean and coconut sago with a tangy citrus curd, mango and pistachio salted caramel crumbs ($9).
So, whether you're an early riser — someone who fits in a run, a latte and a bowl of Bircher before 9am — a late bruncher or someone who skips breakfast altogether, Operator25 can help. With an exceptional all-round menu, they make good use of heritage building with a sleek interior and, with some of the best coffee south of Queen Street, it's sure to be a CBD go-to.
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