keeping up with the fast-moving melbourne café scene is no easy feat. so when one of the long-standing top 10 cafes (as rated on urbanspoon/zomato) does a complete rebrand and renovation after only 2 years in the game, you know they are serious! the iconic operator/switchboard building was recently transformed by the same design studio that brought us kettle black, adding pops of bright and zesty colours. along with the revamped look is a revamped taste, and i was honoured to have been recently invited along to try the new autumn menu.
first is the coffee, which has always been exceptional at operator25… today is no different! head barista mikael jasin, recently a runner up in the australian coffee in good spirits, adds his flourishing and experimental touch, none more so than his #noyouhangup – a honey + fruit infused coffee with grand marnier, amaro montenegro, orange bitters, tonic water, mint + orange peel.
filter coffee: columbia finca las nubes gesha (code black coffee)
with syrupy notes of orange blossom, crisp, sugar cane + wild honey this was a perfect way to kickstart our meal. i love the story behind this coffee, showcasing extreme examples of innovation at the farm level in columbia.
spritzer: cold brew coffee, maple syrup, lemon, lychee, micro lemon balm + tonic water
a light + refreshing cold brew, the fizziness makes this a great savoury or lunch accompaniment.
and now, onto the food…
balinese pulled pork slider with chilli mayo, coriander, cabbage + carrot slaw
keep these coming! bite-sized serves of omg yum! this is a magical combination – pulled pork, crispy slaw, creamy mayo + soft sweet brioche. even more exciting, the full menu comes in a bigger bun + served with a fried egg + sweet potato fries… i’m coming back to try this asap!
slow cooked lamb with a vegetable medley, parsnip purée, pepitas + canberry gel
beautifully plated, this dish could belong on any restaurant dinner menu. the lamb “steak” was perfectly pink, the puree was silky smooth + the vegetable medley was delicate, crispy, crunchy. autumn on a plate.
spiced chickpea fritters, herb tahini, tomato + cucumber salsa, cottage cheese, chipotle sauce, crisp flatbread + thick cut streaky bacon
fritters definitely seem to have made a resurgence on melbourne menus of late + i appear to be on a mission to try them all! these were a bit more crumbly than your traditional zucchini fritters, but the chickpeas combined well with the cottage cheese + salsa. the star of this dish is the bacon: triple smoked, glossy + crispy! and again, the plating was so elegant.
ginger + date bread with caramelised banana mascarpone, pomegranate sauce + salted milk crumb
moorish chunks of actual ginger + date, this could be my new favourite d4b (dessert for breakfast!). the mascarpone was absolutely divine, a pepe saya dairy product + i could’ve eaten my way through a whole bowl of the salted milk crumb. the absence of butterscotch sauce (as would be in a traditional date pudding) meant this dish was not overly sweet. if i’m coming back to try the pork sliders, i’m moving in for the ginger + date bread!
elderflower sago with chia seeds, rhubarb and strawberry compote, white chocolate foam and freeze-dried mango.
and now onto probably one of my favourite dishes of all time! regardless of the season (last autumn + summer) or flavour combination, operator25’s sago dish is delightful. this autumn’s elderflower, rhuburb + strawberry offering is a sophisticated reminder of the coming winter, invigorated by the freeze-dried mango + softened by the white chocolate foam. i knew why i’d waited until last to try this one, and wasn’t disappointed!
as with all of the previous times i’ve visited the atmosphere is alive and invigorating + the service is genuine, efficient + friendly. no wonder the lines keep queuing out of the door!
verdict: hit the redial… i’ll be back again!
(note: inlovewithbrunch was invited by the cafe to dine here, however all remarks and reviews are honest and genuine)