Standing out amongst a sleepy selection of shopfronts just below Auburn station, The Counter's blue and white facade glistens with a regal gold lettering that begs for your attention. The latest project of Michelle Blyth, formerly of the venerable Replete Providore, sees her teamed with sister Justine Curtis in their new space just around the corner. Suddenly the gold makes sense, and somehow glistens to hint at the magic inside. A tiny space, the eye-catching interior has made the most of every surface, including the expansive marble front bar. It's no less replete than Blyth's last venture.
Inside you'll find everyday fare at its agreeable best. With a menu that covers all the basics, flavours are layered, fresh and considered. It's a welcome destination for families without any hint of blandness. The spicy beans, poached eggs, shaved parmesan and toasted focaccia ($15.50) hits the sides, while The Counter's take on universally loved smashed avocado (this time as a bruschetta with feta and chilli cakes; $14.50) is pleasing without unnecessary flourish. Little ones are also well catered for, and the classics are rounded out with a homely selection of smoothies including the perfect combination of date, banana and almond ($8).
The Counter's food offering is solid, however it's not the main game. It's cake. Visit this cafe without even admiring the goods in the front window — its namesake — and you're doing it all wrong. Blyth's cake-making roots are on show here, and shine they do; take your pick from a very expansive, colourful selection of teacakes, cupcakes, meringues and savoury tarts (from $4.50). Even better is the option to take home a whole cake (or even order one for your next occasion; from $25). Choose from a mouth-watering selection including the likes of chocolate raspberry mud cake or carrot, walnut and orange with cream cheese icing. Hungry yet?
Peering upwards along the shelves of other packaged take-home goods, you can't help but feel the genuine warmth of produce in this corner of Hawthorn. The Counter is about the magic and enjoyment of making things with your hands. Devour, enjoy and watch that gold sparkle as you do.