Things change very quickly in the Melbourne cafe scene. Thanks to The Fair in Richmond continuing to remind me of Wide Open Road through its use of its on site roasted Bathysphere coffee, it was when, not if, we would be back again.
What I didn’t realise is that after the first few months of operation in Brunswick, Wide Open Road had doubled in size. Several years later it is a very good looking cafe on the inside. In particular an eye-catching dark wood covers much of the roof, and has different feeling spaces through use of levels. This all supports an attractive front for the roasting equipment further out the back.
We have entered at the crossover between breakfast and lunch which is a good time as the crowds subside a touch. After a short wait we are seated and opt for the lunchier side of the menu. While we wait to order I try the Bathysphere coffee which I rate highly, and is well made here.
Catherine’s fish finger sandwich is in a brioche bun with smashed peas, seaweed tartare and pickled cucumber. The white fish is cooked nicely in a tasty crumb and the accompaniments are a good match. My slow roasted lamb with fattoush salad is well presented, but quite different to what I expected. The crispy brioche used as one of the central ingredients in the fattoush is terrific, and the other ingredients such as cherry tomatoes and radish is fresh, injecting great flavour. While the lamb is perfectly cooked, it lacks some of its punch by being spread through the salad and being dulled a touch by the vinegar in the dressing.
While there is a very brief drinks list, it is good to be able to have an entry level red wine with the lamb. With a single origin available from Kenya, it is a must to finish with espresso. Something that I really like that is increasing as a trend is being provided with details about the coffee you are drinking. It might seem obnoxious depending on the way it is done, but to me it is a quick way to educate myself about an area that is difficult to keep up with.
The depth of the cafe scene in Melbourne is astonishing. The imagination and diversity seem to multiply each year. It certainly is far more evident when you have several years between visits to one of the trend setters.