Meet Larry the Walrus. He adorns the courtyard wall of The Bell Jar, an excellent new Smith St cafe. (wall - walrus. Get it? I didn't until I just typed that previous sentence.) Hidden in the little spit of smith st between Alexandra and Queens Pde, this is the perfect example of a melbourne cafe done right. Unpretentious but well designed, run by two lovely boys, Stu and Ian, you can tell a lot of thought and love has gone into every aspect of this place.
I've been there 3 times in the past month, so you know it's something special. A great simple menu, heaps of gluten free and vego/vegan options, excellent 5 senses coffee blends, a courtyard draped in honeysuckle and a giant communal table, these all add up to make a great experience.
Firstly, the hotcakes. Oh, the hotcakes! Gluten free pancakes/fritters/hotcakes are always a treat, and these are exceptional! Made with tapioca flour, they are gooey and tasty and wonderful. The Ricotta Hotcakes came with apricot with orange blossom and marscapone.
|Black rice pudding with mango, papaya and coconut.|
These hotcakes have an exceptional backstory. My dining companion had been craving these since our first visit. On this visit, we were told they were out of ricotta. You've never seen a sadder face than the look on hers at that moment. But wait! The boys asked if he had some time to spare, and as it was a beautiful spring day and we were in the courtyard and sleepy in the sunshine, we said we did. They sent as out a taster of their black rice pudding to keep us from eating our own arms, and then an hour later, viola! Ricotta Hotcakes! But how, you ask? Ian, the lovely chef, had made some ricotta from scratch! Boiled the milk, collected the curds, etc. Just so we could have these. That sort of service above and beyond the call or duty was incredible and firmly cemented them on my favourite list. They get to stuff up at least 4 times now before I even consider thinking negatively about them.
Savoury Spicy Corn Hotcakes. Sadly, I couldn't have the offered Chipolate due to my Nightshade allergy. The hotcakes themselves were great, but I have a feeling that the original topping would have bumped them over the edge into the 'Exceptional' category. The eggs were absolutely perfect.
Coffee - up to any Melbourne standard. A lovely, smooth 5Senses blend, well prepared.
All in all, exceptional. Go there and give these guys your support. Delicious food for anyone to enjoy. Say Hi to Ian and Stu for me!