"Hi, it's your dad."
"Oh hi Dad. How are you? Just a minute, I have to order my coffee. Yes, I'll have a latte with caramel syrup, please.
"Are you there?"
"...after all the places I've taken you...all I've tried to teach you...this is how you repay me. CARAMEL SYRUP! WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!!?!"
True story. It wasn't my fault, though. My university cafe made what I am sure was certifiably the world's worst coffee - pallid, stinking of wet, burnt grinds, its insipid foam deteriorating with the first desperate blow across its surface as one tried to cool the magma-like liquid beneath. Syrup was the only thing that made it drinkable.
Well, I obviously didn't go to Vic Uni, the students at which are absolutely spoilt rotton with the Reading Room cafe who do fabulous specialty coffee. They use a Synesso and have three separate grinders buzzing madly all day long. Even a bog-standard latte gets the choice of Candyman by Small Batch, Chompy by Sensory Lab and a regularly-changing single origin. Best of all, it's open to the public!
The weekday spread
I have gone down in the week when it is abuzz with students but I feel a bit left out without my yellow highlighter and giant brick of readings. On weekdays there's a huge spread of ready-to-go quality sangers plus a full a la carte menu. The hot tip is it's now open on weekends with a totally different, chilled-out atmosphere and special breakfast, lunch and high tea menu. Reading Room invited me to check it out as their guest.
Oh, such consistently great coffee. I love the Chompy in particular. The single origins are always nice to have as an espresso so you can really taste the varietals. I know that sounds wanky but honestly, if you give it a try - especially with two different blends next to each other - you'll really notice the difference.
Reading Room have espresso and cold drip available in the week, while on weekends they also offer siphon and pourover. Melbourne, I know it's hard to wrench ourselves away from the espresso machine teat, but the new brewing methods of coffee are really worth trying. When done right, the coffee is so flavoursome you honestly can't bear to add milk or sugar.
This siphon method is like a science experiment - the water is sucked first up and then down due to changes in pressure, mingling with the coffee in the top bulb before being forced down to the lower and leaving the grounds behind.
Somewhat similar to filter but with an even more crisp finish, it had such a clean taste with pleasant red berry acidity.
Fritter's Lane, $14.50
The food is really nice. It doesn't break through the sound barrier, but it's well made, generous in serves and tasty. My fritters were fresh and super crispy, quite lovely with the avo smash. The sunny spill of egg yolk was so pretty against the matt black plate.
Eggs Hemingway, $9.50
DIY brekkie was an easy choice with roasted tommies and avocado and ricotta mash. Loved the dry-cured bacon (out of shot is my greedy side order to go with my virtuous-looking vego fritters, heh heh).
The BFG, $14.50
"The BFG" looked super indulgent with more of that fabulous bacon curling around big slabs of brioche French toast and covered in maple syrup and crushed candied walnuts. J remarked that with her Filipino heritage, it was quite familiar to her to combine sweets with savouries.
Great Expectations, $13.50
This breakfast piadina was filled with scrambled eggs, gruyere and shaved ham. The eggs did look a bit watery but S loved the bread which was satisfyingly toothsome.
Cakes were really fabulous - the scones were proper scones. One of the things I find most exciting is that the Reading Room is open until 6pm on a Saturday or Sunday. After 3pm it can get hard to find a cafe that will be open for much longer or where the kitchen's not closed. I look forward to dropping by in the late arvo for a coffee or a spot of high tea, which involves a three-tiered stand with sweets and savouries, like chicken and tarragon sandwiches. Ooh la la.
Check out the website for details of The Reading Room's charity giving initiative over the next eight weeks. There's heaps of room on the forecourt outside for kids to go mental. Footscray Park is right next door too which is a delight to meander through with a takeaway coffee, down to the river with that gorgeous view of the city which always makes me think how lucky I am to live here.
Disclosure: The above meal at The Reading Room was provided free of charge by the owners to me and three guests as part of their weekend trading launch campaign. The offer was not conditional on me subsequently writing a post. The Reading Room has not been given any editorial control of this post.
The Reading Room
Building P, Victoria University, Footscray Park Campus (easy entry off Hoadley Court, Gate 2)
Phone: 0413 842 690
Hours: Mon-Fri 7.30am-7pm, Sat-Sun 8am-6pm (open Easter Saturday, Sunday and Monday - bookings via the website)
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