Friday, January 14, 2011


Its high time for another review! Yet another lovely, small coffee-focused cafe run by two lovely young boys. I don't know what it is about pair of youngish-boys opening cafes around Melbourne that works so well, but work it does! I'm talking about Collective in Camberwell. Now Camberwell might have a fair few cafes and eateries about the place, but very few that I would call on trend. Instead of catering to soccer-moms and the usual Eastern-suburbs crowd, Collective aims for the youth, and does it well.

A small, unpretentious menu including all day breakfasts, and delicious coffee. What more can someone ask for? Slightly friendlier staff, perhaps, but once you realise they're just hung-over and not actually grumpy at you specifically, things start to improve.

eggs with avo mash. simple and delicious
For the allergy-impaired, they use Sainsbury Gluten-free. Not the best I've come across, but by no means the worst! I highly recommend their smashed avo (with feta and loads of fresh herbs) with eggs as you like them. Simple and filling, at any time. I have it on good authority that their free-range bacon is also delicious, but I'm yet to try it myself.

Their lunch specials are always worth a look as well. You can normally find at least one salad, where the ingredients are allowed to shine. I have fond memories of my chickpea, holoumi and rocket salad. They were lovely about taking out tomato and various other allergens for me.

hot vietnamese coffee

The drinks, however, are where Collective truly shines. They use a lovely 5senses blend, and know what to do with it. I admit to letting loose a few squeals of delight when I noticed 'saigon coffee.' For those of you not aware of the joys of vietnamese coffee, its essentially your basic coffee, hot or cold, served with condensed milk instead of milk. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible to find anywhere with decent coffee. I tried both the hot and cold, and can recommend either.

Their juices also deserve a mention. The BAM (Blueberry, Apple, Mint) has gotten me through many a bleary morning (or afternoon, if we're being more accurate.)

Collective had a lovely, small family feel to it, with its one big community table and variety of magazines. (If you feel the need to catch up on some back issues of Frankie, this is the place to be.)

Get in early on weekends, or else you might miss out, this place operates on the new tiny Melbourne scale.

All in all, I can think of no higher praise than to say simple and delicious! The boys know what they're doing, and do it well in an area that desperately needs them! Check it out if you find yourself at Camberwell station one day in the near future.

Collective Espresso 
1/3 Cookson Street, Camberwell VIC 3124(03) 9882 8995 

Collective Espresso on Urbanspoon

Pet Peeve

I've noticed that a lot of places around Melbourne (Richmond, in particular for some reason) have gotten into a bad habit. They overstate on the menu what the dishes on their menu are. I wouldn't say this is my number one pet peeve when eating out, but it's pretty close. I infinitely prefer to be pleasantly surprised by a bland sounding dish that is more than it sounded, than to be disappointed by one that sounds amazing and just doesn't deliver.

My most recent example of this happened in Richmond a few weeks ago. (I won't name the place unless I get requests for it. I'm not here to disparage the place, I'm just hoping others might learn from their mistakes.) I ordered what sounded like a great gluten-free vegie brekkie. Corn fritters, beetroot relish, poached eggs and herbed wild mushrooms. Simple, but potentially delicious. Now I don't know about you, dear reader, but when I hear 'corn fritters' I expect a corn fritter. something like this.
From Chimmy in Richmond, gluten free and reasonably delicious!

What I don't expect, or want is a square of polenta. Don't get me wrong, I quite like polenta. I think it can make wonderful gluten-free addition to a lot of dishes. But If I'm getting polenta, I would like the menu to say that. Not mislead me with dreams of fritters.

On top of that, the 'beetroot relish' was really beetroot dip, the kind that can be bought at any deli, and the mushrooms were clearly supermarket standard, with no herbs that I could discern. Now by any standards, the breakfast was fine. It just wasn't what it said it was, and that meant that every bite tasted of disappointment, to the extent that I couldn't just enjoy it for what it was.

I love places that deliver exactly what they promise. That's what I look for in my eateries. Understatement can occasionally be a pleasant surprise, but overstatement is always a disappointment. Is that too much to ask for?

Comments: your pet peeves?