North Melbourne is an inner city suburb that has proudly stuck to its grass roots. With its close proximity to the CBD, it hasn’t always been the first suburb to be considered when going for brunch. While Auction Rooms has long led the way as the preferred cafe of choice, there is a new and strong contender to the suburb – Code Black.
Code Black first hit the streets of Brunswick – in a very positive way – in early 2013. The slick black-on-black décor has become a mecca for Melbourne coffee and brunch lovers, open every day of the year and offering a high quality experience. Yet, the Howard Street location in North Melbourne was originally their first location of choice. Ambitiously wedging itself between Auction Rooms and Seven Seeds, it was unfortunate that the build process took longer than anticipated. With persistence and patience, Howard Street quietly opened its doors in late December 2014.
The Howard Street Code Black demonstrates its lighter side. The interiors’ brick walls are painted crisp white with pastel coloured features and the furnishings that take a minimalist approach. The natural light is used to its full potential and allows for a calmer environment. It’s spacious and airy with a cleverly designed first floor suspended over the kitchen. The open kitchen and barista station provides a sense of vibrancy and is perfect for those who are seeking some food inspiration before ordering.
As expected, there is a full range of coffee options to choose from – espressos, cold drips and filtered. Ordering a Brazilian single origin long black was delicious; it had a bold coffee head with strong floral notes and a pleasant crisp finish. Accompanying my long black I elected for a sandwich – Howard St Open ham sandwich – Toasted seven seed bread layered with char-grilled pineapple relish, roasted leg ham, aged cheddar and watercress
The sandwich was designed to be served at room temperature – and whilst I was initially surprised at this approach, it had an interesting flavour profile that I took to. The ham had a lovely moist texture that, combined with the Seven Seed bread and aged cheese, made for a classic but elegant sandwich. The grilled pineapple added the necessary sweetness, and the watercress, in a way, brought the dish together. The dish isn’t for everyone, but its classical elements made it refreshing to see on a brunch menu.
Code Black is a welcome addition to North Melbourne. Moving away from the obvious Errol Street location allows for North Melbourne to be seen in a different light – industrial with a sense of mystery. Backed with fantastic coffee and a strong menu, Code Black makes North Melbourne more than just a passing through suburb.
As a brunch blogger, one of the most common questions I get asked is ‘Where is you’re favourite place for brunch?’ For the passed year and a half, it’s consistently been Code Black, Brunswick. With a reminiscent star in my eye, I would describe their take on fritters, their exciting thick cut bacon sandwich and darn good coffee. When I read a recently released article on their second cafe by the same name, I knew that I just simply had to go there.
It was mid-Sunday when I pulled in to their North Melbourne location after doing a few laps trying to find a park. Their address is well marked; clearly printed on the top of the venue.
Inside reveals a very cool, stripped back design, with white brick walls asked marked with barely-there mint green and baby blue print. There is a floating second floor and the entire venue is ‘U’ shaped, drawing the diners eye toward the kitchen which is centrally located and is the focal point.
Surprisingly, we were able to get a table straight away. What’s noticeably different about the vibe here is how family-friendly it is, with a children’s menu available and hipster high chairs to meet your baby’s needs.
Looking at my options, I opted for a Geisha blend cold brew. It had a bitter undertone to it, but had fruity highlights of nectarine running through it. It was different to other Geisha blend that I’ve typically had in espresso brews, which were characterised by their bold, fruity flavour that is complex but sweet.
For mains, I ordered the Salted apple caramel hotcakes – Ricotta and apple hotcakes served with salted apple, caramel sauce, candied pecans and dried apple crisps. Food service was relatively quick, with our mains served within 15 to 20 minutes.
My hotcakes were delicious! They were super fluffy and moist with a hint of grated apple inside! Admittedly, they weren’t consistently cooked all the way through, which was a little disappointing but not immediately obvious. The salted caramel sauce was runny and very intense in flavour when consumed on its own. When it was combined with the pancakes though, it was perfectly balanced. The walnuts were caramelised in an almost cinnamon sugar coating and were so delicious to eat! It was a really great meal and would had been gloat-worthy if they were cooked through.
Overall, I was surprised the venue wasn’t more full. The food was excellent, the surroundings were nice and the service was great. The menu differs to their original cafe but is still full of delicious options for those looking for a nice meal out.
119 Howard Street, North Melbourne
(03) 9381 2330