Sat to Sun 8:00 am – 4:00 pm
My home ground never used to be so cool. Its claim to fame was the most densely private-school-packed area in the Southern Hemisphere, where by 3pm, every main road corner was spewing over with blue shirts, red blazers, giggling girls in ridiculous hats and four-wheel drives packed with milfs, dilfs and children. Kew wasn’t very cool, too many schools.
But all of a sudden it’s the super fertile field in which to plant your hospitality digs. St Katherine’s opened a few months ago and I’m not sure if any other restaurant in Kew has had a booking since. Other than maybe Mister Bianco, which set up shop recently on the suburbâ€™s main drag of High Street. And The Quartermaster’s Store down the road from MLC and Ruyton Girls’ School is another indication of where things are heading.
But let’s talk about Ora, tucked down the end of a residential street that offers little else. You have to admire the balls it takes for business owners to do that – banking on their ability to draw you in from where ever you are with the quality of their offerings, hardly relying on the lure of their surroundings. It tells me they must have their sh*t together. They must.
It’s rather wee, but I love the way no one’s tried too hard to be loud and clever with the space. Plain white walls, simple chairs, wooden tables and a dark tiled floor tie the room together with a warm and welcoming simplicity. Understatement is what sets Ora apart.
And the menu validated my belief that the line that once separated cafes from restaurants is so faded today in Melbourne today that it barely exists.
Pea and bacon hash with manchego, chive and bitter leaves ($16) sounds pretty spectacular. Or pancake with roast hazelnuts, pear, blueberries and milk ice ($15). Maybe both.
On the lunchier side, prawn and scallop ravioli with zucchini and tomato vinaigrette ($22) represents that blurring line I mentioned, and sandwiches from $8 tether Ora to the old concept of what café menus were once about.
Woodbridge smoked trout, torn soft-boiled egg, avocado and herb salad is what I decide on, and when it arrives in all its bright, spring-colour glory, Iâ€™m a teeny bit disappointed in its size; it’s not likely to touch the sides of my hunger for $18. Perhaps I should have opted for a couple of the daily â€˜miniâ€™ instead; a sourdough bun with Woodbridge smoked trout, chive and crème cheese for $5. Oh well, next time.
I can bank on there being a next time not only because the service was great and the salad (albeit little) was beautiful-tasting, but of course, I’ll be back for the coffee.
Using Proud Mary blends and super qualified barsitas (part-owner John Vroom was the runner-up in the 2011 Australian Siphon Championship and is a familiar face to many from his time at Proud Mary), Ora has the coffee base well and truly covered. I want to say it’s the best in Boroondaraâ€¦ yep, I’ll say it; it is. Go for the coffee, stay for the siphon.
So it would appear that when I flew the coop from Kew and followed the gentrification trail to Northcote, I really blew it. Kew is seemingly now as cool – if not cooler – than it once was to be a private schoolgirl wearing Scotch tracksuit pants. And if anyone remembers Kew in the 90s, as far as coolness went, that was it.