You can tell a lot about a venue from its pedigree. We're not ones to judge, but if a cafe opens with a strong team of prior successes steering the ship, like The Petty Officer did back in 2012, then expectations have been, irrevocably, set high.
The second bearing from the owners of Hawthorn stalwart Axil Coffee Roasters, the Officer shows signs of familial similarity, but is sharper, cleaner and possibly more refined. And so it should be. Sitting on a busy, yet serene Albert Park corner, the refurbished Victorian building — doused in white and minimal black features — reflects the local clientele that pop in for mid-week lunches and leisurely weekend brunches. Usually with their dogs in tow, the outdoor seating area on Victoria Avenue becomes (unregrettably) populated with puppies.
But put the dog down and get stuck into the menu. Surprisingly — or perhaps not so surprisingly if you're familiar with Axil — the brunch offering is anything but standard. The Officer has its own style of dining worthy of merit, which has perhaps been left largely underrated due to its bayside location. The buttermilk waffles come with raspberry compote, caramelised white chocolate, vanilla parfait and maple syrup ($16.50) and the potato croquettes are matched with local chorizo and parsnip relish ($18.50), making for killer combos that almost err to the finer side of dining. Case in point: the neat round of Bircher, layered with fresh peach and apple, surrounded by a tangy passionfruit and lavender custard and topped with a small scoop of yoghurt sorbet ($12.50).
Naturally, coffee is from Axil Coffee Roasters, with both a seasonal blend and single origin to choose from. You can also match your brekky with a mango lassi or Bloody Mary or, as it ticks over past noon, a selection of wine and craft beer goes well with one of the heartier lunch options.
Despite its promising background initiating hype, The Petty Officer has proven itself as an ideal example of inventive brunch and lunch fare. Relatively unrivalled in the Albert Park area, this is one cafe who sets expectations as well as surpasses them.