This Chapel St favourite hasn’t missed a beat since its quiet re-branding from Dukes. Other than a move of the roasting facilities offsite, Journeyman is not much different from its original incarnation. The interior is mostly unchanged – a sleek, warehouse-style design melding rendered walls, bare brick and exposed ducting with warm wood tones, and floorboards transposing floorboards to the ceiling before the Block made it cool – just some more (much needed) seating in the back where the roasting equipment used to stand.
Also unchanged is the amazing coffee delivered with clockwork reliability and efficiency by experienced baristas. Duke’s house blend is full-bodied and chocolate-y smooth, my flat white a textbook rendition with the barest layer of milk foam. Rotating single origins, batch brew filters and pourovers will keep the coffee connoisseurs happy.
An inventive menu will make a visit here a dilemma for the indecisive, tszujed-up classics mixing it up with contemporary food trends. Scrambled eggs meet caprese salad in a chili scramble, smoked tomato, basil and mozzarella number, while pulled pork croquettes and apple cider hollandaise take the humble benedict to another level of indulgence. On the more adventurous side, candied bacon cubes add a sweet twist to dukkah-dusted avocado “hummus”, with muntries (native cranberries) livening a rich dish of sauteed Asian mushrooms, shiraz and garlic cream sauce, with apple-y brightness.
Acknowledging, however, that for every diner tucking into a cornflake fried chicken brioche burger, there’s another looking for a heart-healthy salad, clean-eaters are well catered for; a vegan, almond milk porridge or chia pudding maybe, or gluten-free organic quinoa, avo and kale salad with luxurious, ruby-red, beetroot cured salmon. “Charred greens” is a mountainous dish of grilled broccolini, kale, sugar snap peas and roasted almonds, dusted with chermoula spice for a subtle chili hum. Break apart the poached eggs and you have a sauce of runny yolk, creamy labneh and lemon, punctuated by the salty pop of capers to balance out the bitter greens. It’s a superfood creation that I’d happily swap a burger for. Feeling less guilty about following up with a second coffee is an added bonus, though perhaps that doesn’t quite extend to the banana-cream Doughboy donut to go….
Given that you could probably brunch at a different spot each week in Melbourne and still not run out of new options, a cafe that is frequented by regulars must be doing something right. At first glance, The Dihnersaw and His Fionsay is no different from any other trendy cafe, complete with white tiles and blonde timber, raw jarred juices and sauteed kale to accompany your egg white souffle omelettes. But this is one of those cafes where families come for their weekly treat of hot cakes or french toast, where a solo diner pops in and waves away the menu, knowing exactly what he wants, and another patron only has to raise her hand for the waitress to nod acknowledgement, shortly bringing around a hot, soy latte with chocolate on the top. I struggled to put my finger on what it is exactly that brings people back, but one regular customer summarised it perfectly, so to shamelessly steal his words:
1. Great omelette. This is arguably the best omelette you’ll find in the inner south east (and incidentally, what the aforementioned solo diner ordered). Folded, just set in the middle as a proper omelette should be (none of this open, frittata nonsense), plump with spinach, mushroom and just enough creamy goats cheese to not be overpowering. The rest of the menu is solid too, if you can bring yourself to order anything different. There’s warming five grain porridge for breakfast, ever-popular avocado smash, which you can also have dolloped on top of sweet corn and zucchini fritters, and smoky braised cannellini beans with garlic-y mushrooms, chorizo and crispy grilled polenta for a flavour-packed twist on a breakfast standard.
Daily specials round out the lunch options; hearty soup (maybe chicken and vegetable or a meaty French lentil), spaghetti and meatballs or a burger with the lot, while healthy salads and sandwiches from the counter make for a quick meal. Try the chicken sandwich, generously filled with mayo-dressed, chopped chicken breast and avocado, the thick Woodfrog soy and linseed bread smeared with sweet relish to cut through the richness.
Central/South American flavours add some spice to the menu – think shredded beef tortillas, butter-y empanada pockets filled with olive mince and maybe a Brazilian fish curry on the specials board. Little details like quality French butter for your toast also don’t go unnoticed.
2. Great coffee. With Clement beans in the grinder, the baristas deliver reliably good brews. There’s brewed Calmer Sutra Chai for non-coffee drinkers and Willy Wonka hot chocs for the kids. Dihnersaw and Rawkstar juices will deliver your superfood fix and a froyo machine behind the La Marzocco makes for some pretty tasty smoothies.
3. Friendly staff. Welcoming, attentive and always with a good recommendation. They are interested in your experience as opposed to rushing you out the door, which is probably a result of it being…
4. Not teeming with hipsters. Tucked away in a Toorak Village laneway, these guys have somehow managed to fly under the radar. It’s a cosy venue, the Scandi fit-out doing wonders for maximising space, but getting a table is generally not too much of a chore. A nice change to be able to enjoy breakfast without turning up at some ungodly hour on a weekend to avoid a 45 minute wait, and to have a soundtrack that features more than just noise. It might be too much of a good thing to keep quiet though, so I’d say get in early before the word gets out.