Friends of Mine was the first sibling of Hawthorn’s Porgie + Mrs Jones. The formula at Porgie was so successful they needed to expand next door. And so it seemed the formula had been tested enough to expand to a reasonably quiet part of South-East Richmond.
At one stage, Catherine had been to Friends for both breakfast and lunch on the same day in the week we moved close by. It seems I had forgotten to organise the electricity in our new place, and equally the landlord had disconnected it the day prior to our moving in! Like all good locals we’ve seen the best and the worst of what Friends of Mine dishes up.
The best is excellent, and the worst is infrequent enough to overlook. Helpfully, it has been years since our group has been left to contemplate food for an hour while waiting. That may be because we don’t organise group visits on the weekend here anymore. Luckily we don’t have to because it is easy to have breakfast around the corner during the week and it also happens to be walking distance from my work.
The longer term staff are very good. They know the café inside out and seem to get to know the customers over time too. The simple stuff like not being left without water, explaining likely timing on busy days, and having tables cleared quickly, are all followed to the letter.
In the beginning, even following the formula of Porgie, Friends’ food had a contemporary edge and set the scene. These days the experimentation has stalled but the formula still works. Breakfast classics are all done well and often with some pizzazz. The mushrooms in particular are memorable, and the avocados seem to be fresh and high quality through the year. The ham and cheese croissant is delicious and a breakfast I keep going back for.
Lunch consists of piadinas, baguettes, po boys, salads and some more hearty options. Everything is good or better. The po boys (you need two) is probably the tastiest, but most indulgent option. The salads are sizeable and use quality ingredients. Keeping with the theme, the baguettes are large and use more interesting fillings than the usual, but as a result are more expensive than many in the area.
One particular advantage over other cafes, especially on the weekend and for Friday lunch is the ability to order from a good selection of wines by the glass, or have a beer. Non-alcoholic options include freshly squeezed juices and good coffee. My only personal critique of the coffee is my long black is often too full and therefore too hot. I normally ask for only the extraction and not too much hot water.
Finally, the sweet pastry options, and macarons by Josephine, are forever tempting after lunch or for afternoon tea. I haven’t been yet, but high tea is offered on Sunday afternoons.
Friends of Mine has been a popular café from day one. It pulls in a crowd from well beyond the local area and uses a tried and tested formula. In an area that is only becoming busier, its success is assured for a long time to come.