There is something quite so comforting about the certainty of cultural rituals, the knowledge that time after time the event in question will involve a predictable set of variables with only slight variations in nature or presentation. It’s this consistency and predictability that makes us all love Christmas, going to the movies, birthday parties, even post-work drinks (although admittedly they can turn unpredictable at times). I feel this same way about our Sydney ritual of Sunday brunch. Invariably, it involves some equation of: coffee + (eggs + sourdough ± mushrooms ± pork) OR (muesli + yoghurt + fruit ± milk) + juice + sunday paper ± hangover nursing. Fortunately, according to all accounts this appears to be a ritual that is shared in Melbourne (possibly because we took it from them). The issue is always deciding where to partake of the sacred Sunday brunch, which is made all the more difficult when one isn’t in ones own city.
Being the sensible individuals we are, we decided to follow our noses right to a cafe with a strong review pedigree. The Seven Seeds flagship cafe definitely fits the bill – rave reviews, three cups in the Good Cafe Guide, and internet publicity galore. The space impresses us as we enter, being a converted warehouse that now houses numerous hanging bicycles, long wooden tables, a roastery, some gorgeous indoor plants, and plenty of hip young things getting their caffeine fix. For such a large industrial space, it has a surprisingly comfortable and warm atmosphere and is already busy upon our mid-morning arrival. Being close to the university and a bit out of the city, the crowd is a pleasant mix of families, younger groups gossiping about Saturday evening revelry, and solo brunchers reading the paper.
We quickly set about ordering coffees, two of which come promptly whilst the last latte lingers somewhere in the netherworld before finally finding its way over to us. The coffee is decent but uninspiring, and certainly less than I would have expected from somewhere of this pedigree and the $4 price point. It’s a little too mild, and although it is made well and its the perfect temperature it’s not something I would come back to drink again. The others agree.
Being an egg lover, my sister opts for the sous-vide free-range eggs with spinach, pomegranate and hollandaise ($17), whilst my mother plays it safe with a ciabatta ham, vintage cheese, and tomato relish toastie ($14.5). I am, as always at Sunday brunch, unable to stray from the classic combination of avocado, tomatoes (heirloom), fresh herbs and soft white cheese (fior de latte, in this case) on toasted sourdough ($15). As predicted, we all play it safe with our usual Sunday brunch equations.
But unfortunately this time the variables aren’t quite right. My tomato and fior de latte ensemble is fresh and light, just what the doctor ordered for a Sunday morning amidst a weekend of eating. The heirloom tomatoes are a delight and the serve is extremely generous for the price. But it lacks flavour and would have benefited from another drizzle of olive oil, some fresh lemon, and a few more sea salt flakes, particularly given the characteristic mildness of the fior de latte. Finally, the soy linseed sourdough toast is a little dry and crumbly and I find myself longing for Sonoma or Infinity Sourdough.
Meanwhile, the toastie is pleasant enough but again uninspiring. A standout of the dish is the thick-cut “grandmother ham”, which is salty, delicious and reminiscent of Christmas ham leftovers and Australian summers. However, it is difficult to taste beneath the oily richness of the vintage cheese, which has seeped out to permeate the entirety of the toastie.
There are elements of the eggs sous-vide dish that are technically stunning – the hint of lemon that lifts the hollandaise from its proneness towards depths of rich sluggishness, the bursts of freshness from the pomegranate seed garnish, the seasoning on the sauteed spinach. But although the elements taste good when put together it is almost too simple, and mostly let down by its presentation and their separation on the plate- the dish comes out looking unappealingly like two undercooked eggs sitting atop two pieces of toast with a few sides scattered around the plate.
Seven Seeds is a cafe with a great fitout, strong service, and strong potential. But it certainly isn’t going to be first on my to-do list the next time I venture to Melbourne. Neither the food nor the coffee particularly stands out, and they aren’t doing things differently enough or doing the classics well enough on the food menu to bring us back. Having said that, I’m told the menu changes seasonally (see the website below), so you never know your luck in the big city.
114 Berkeley Street
ph: 9347 8664
Best bits: Heirloom tomatoes, avocado and fior de latte on toasted sourdough, warm and welcoming warehouse fitout.
Worst bits: pretty heavy/rich breakfast options for the most part, on over-cheesy over-oily toastie.
Price point: $$
Good for: a warm warehouse space to linger over the paper with a coffee.
What you should know: it’s not the best coffee in Melbourne.