There are a few indications to suggest Melbourne is going through a café renaissance. The first is the possibility of having a successful career as a barista. The days when a barista was just a ‘uni’ or ‘temporary’ job are long gone. Baristas at good cafes need to have exceptional knowledge about different roasting techniques and adopt efficient processes to ensure each coffee is exquisite. In addition, Melbourne cafes are leaning towards a restaurant experience. It’s no longer acceptable to have typical furniture with no appeal to the space. Melbourne cafes are popping up in various locations that constantly surprise and shape the urban spaces that we work and live. All this is matched with attentive floor staff and impressive dishes.
The opening of The Kettle Black in South Melbourne proves to be in a league of its own. It draws on the talents of a tight partnership rather than just a one person show, with the likes of café guru Nathan Toleman (Top Paddock), Jesse McTavish (Top Paddock chef), Ben Clark and Diamond Rozakeas (also Top Paddock), Tim Jones (former Two Birds One Stone manager) and Sam King (Seven Seeds and Patricia). The Kettle Black fit out was designed by Studio You Me, and effortlessly incorporated the last Victorian terrace on Albert Street with the ground floor of the new apartment building – Fifty Albert.
Once seated and provided with the rundown of the menu, I ordered a filter coffee – Guatemala La Soledad from the Antigue Region; Bourbon and Caturra varieties are washed processed and roasted by Market Lane Coffee. The presentation was beautiful, served on a gold hexagon plate with a ceramic jug and clear glass. The flavours were exceptional with a subtle bourbon and apple flavour. The filter was at just the right temperature and left a clean taste on the palate.
Intrigued by the tataki on the menu, my decision was made – tataki ocean trout with a raw kale and pickled seaweed salad, nuts and poached egg. The half-cooked half-raw trout was soft and delicious. The tataki process brought out the natural flavours of the fish that was further highlighted by the sparing use of vinegar. The raw kale and seaweed salad married well with the fish, and not only brought the seafood theme together but complemented (instead of dominated) with hits of almonds. Adding the poached egg and house bread helped push the meal further and find its identity as a brunch dish. It was not the most filling or biggest meal, but it was sustaining.
I could go on all day about The Kettle Black, but a few things need to be said. The menu is designed with attention to detail and a true consideration to taste. From plating to preparation, there has been some considerable skill and this is reflected by the price point. The menu currently has a lot of fish and encourages patrons away from the ‘usual’ items. The staff are attentive and accommodating, but patience is a must as waits during peak brunch times can be for an hour or so. I would recommend ordering a takeaway coffee and while waiting for a table, just observe the stunning masterpiece that is The Kettle Black – a café has never looked this good.
It’s probably the earliest brunch we’ve been to in the last two years, but when we heard that Top Paddock had opened their new cafe The Kettle Black, we knew there’d be a long wait to get in… And there was.
A beautiful outdoor eatery area in front of a Victorian terrace reveals a picturesque scene that is only part of the charm of The Kettle Black. Indoors, the cafe welcomes you with a hotel-like reception/cashier desk full of sweet treats. The interior is then split into two halves – one half sits in a Victorian house and the other half appears to be a converted apartment block lobby.
The Victorian terrace side is adorned with botanic flowers, white walls and stone-like tables with gold trimmings, whilst the lobby side is clean, sophisticated and intricate. A soft green tiled barista station quietly champions the venue and it’s hard to miss the ceiling which utilises an interesting interior methods of layered white tiles to create vertical space within the venue.
I think what’s interesting about this venue is it that it is immediately aesthetically different to every other cafe I’ve ever been to. It feels like a posh cafe without the pretence.
I ordered a double espresso to officially start the meal, and began to peruse the menu. I wasn’t in the mood to be too exploratory with my food and was looking for something with meat, opting for the chilli-scrambled eggs with air-dried Flinders Island wallaby, fetta and leaves.
The wallaby was cooked beautifully – lightly seared, it was chewy and almost like eating sashimi. The sourdough was delicious and held its form nicely under the eggs and did not get soggy. The sausage was a beautiful pork and fennel sausage. It was oily, but meaty and packed with the right amount of flavour to cut through the richness of the eggs.
Overall I really loved my experience at The Kettle Black. Yes there was a crazy long wait, but the atmosphere and the food made it worth it. I’m dying to go back already and eat as much of the sweets as possible: the brownie and the mille feuille look scrumptious!
The Kettle Black is a must try for any brunch lover. We promise that you won’t be disappointed.