Opening late last year, Union St Brewers is the first concept store of sorts for Rosso Roasting Co. And as you would expect of a cafe born of a boutique coffee roaster, there is definitely pride of good coffee here. But with ex-Auction Rooms chef Boris Portnoy at the helm, Union St is equally food-centric as it is caffeine obsessed.
When I visited I opted for filter coffee by way of pour over ($4.50) and — as promised by the resident coffee expert — I did indeed get notes of blueberry. If pour over isn't your preferred method, fear not. All of your trusty friends in the espresso family such as flat white, latte and long black are available too. There is of course also a range of beverages for non-coffee drinkers.
Now, let's talk food. Do not be deceived by the seemingly small kitchen. This place is like a Mary Poppin's bag of house-made goods, from the sourdough, pastries and preserves to the yoghurt, beef jerky and even some of the finer details, like the marshmallows. They also make their own bagels, the kind that are deliciously chewy — not the delusional bread rolls with holes in their middles posing as bagels. They're legit. All of these house-made goods, while impressive as stand alone items, support a well balanced and concise yet exciting breakfast and lunch menu.
My personal struggle when it comes to ordering breakfast is that it brings me face to face with one of life's greatest conundrums: savoury or sweet? Luckily, Union St Brewers' shrimp and corn grits ($16.50) solved the problem for me by offering both at the same time, and with the added bonus of a bit of spice. This dish — comforting corn grits and shrimp paste topped with beef jerky and generously drizzled with maple syrup — is definitely one of the more inspiring breakfasts I've had in a while (sorry Mum). I also added a poached egg ($3) and did not regret it.
As for the cafe itself, the space is light, airy and delightfully unfussy. During my visit the wall of glass doors at the front were folded back giving the whole place a relaxed indoors-out, outdoors-in kind of feel.
Union St Brewers' offering to the Brunswick cafe scene is great coffee, creative (though not intimidating) brunch options and some distinctive flair. While food and coffee are taken seriously here, the atmosphere is not so serious at all — rather it's friendly and completely unpretentious.