19 Jun Aucuba Coffee Roasters, South Melbourne
Your typical brunch fare won’t be found here. Aucuba offers a menu that is mainly plant-based, noticeably Japanese-influenced, and shies away from same-same dishes like smashed avocado and pulled pork everything (though I do have to say I love a good pulled pork dish). As its name might suggest, Aucuba also roasts its own specialty coffee in-house and boasts its own dedicated brew and espresso bar, which takes up nearly a quarter of the floor space in the front section of the cafe.
My choice of lunch is the green tea soba noodles, a dish that leaves me feeling healthy with its nutty, savoury soba, subtlely sweet beetroot gazpachio, zingy ponzu and saliva-inducing nori chips. It’s a good option that’s gentle on the stomach.
My healthiness is undone by our next item. It’s truffle season and we’re sorely tempted by the truffled umami mac and cheese toastie. The crunchy buttered bread sandwiches the cheesy tubes of pasta. There are visible flecks of truffle encased within, but its taste is somewhat lost amongst the mac and cheese.
Sounding interesting on paper and full of umami ingredients like mushrooms and miso, the teff dish that’s delivered is not quite what we had in mind. I do love injera, but teff is perhaps an acquired taste in this grainy porridge form. Thankfully the kale chips and onsen egg are executed well.
The golden child of the outing is the sweet potato waffle. which manages to be simultaneously sweet and savoury. Saltier flavours come in from the parmesan ice cream, sweet from the caramel popcorn, and both, thanks to the maple miso sauce. They don’t taste a whole lot like sweet potato, but the waffles are nice and fluffy, and the dish as a whole is a unique and intriguing assembly of ingredients that works much better than it may sound.
The simplicity and peacefulness of Aucuba’s Japanese influence is reflected by its minimalistic Nordic interior, and its quiet location away from the bustling activity of Clarendon St. Melbourne’s cafe scene is chock-full of places that serve menus that sound largely identical, leaving some desparate for something refreshing. Aucuba may provide just that.
Aucuba Coffee Roasters
108 Bank St
South Melbourne, VIC, 3205
(03) 9041 3904