It was the first day Jo was free after getting back from a month in Western Australia and a beautiful lukewarm Melbourne day called for some Brunch, some planning and a general 'well, how the hell are you?!'.
LiLi had suffered a menacing illness over the holiday period and there was still a residual bit of that somethin' nasty leftover and so, to brighten her up a little, JoJo suggested a visit to café close to LiLi.
This is a short story of how we ended up at Operator25, scoffing Balinese pork and Matcha crumpets.
Upon arrival, you'll notice that, for quite a darkly painted and bricked interior, Operator25 has some strikingly bright spaces. We were greeted as soon as we walked through the doorway and were promptly found a seat one one of the communal tables, conveniently placed in front of a large window.
You know what that means.
The place was abuzz with trendy patrons, from all day shoppers to the food travelling elite - the lunch time crowd on a lazy Saturday certainly was a pleasant crowd to be amongst.
We started with a round of refreshing drinks, featuring Operator 25's House Brewed Iced Tea (Hibiscus, chamomile, honey, nata de coco and a sprig of mint) and an Iced Matcha.
Our food was plated and set on our table within fifteen minutes, mind you - it took us about twenty to figure out what we wanted.
Sweet or savoury. Breakfast or lunch. Light or, do we waddle out of here.
LiLi opted for the famed Balinese Pork - Pork fillet and belly cooked in traditional balinese spices, morcilla, sambal, matah, lemongrass broth, stir fried corn, green beans and mushrooms.
JoJo went with the Matcha Crumpets - Matcha crumpets with poached pears, macerated berries, kaya cream, mango and lychee pearls.
The best of both worlds.
This was a nice stack of crumpets and it was beautifully presented = although we do have to say that individually, each of the features on this dish were well executed but together, it was a bit much.
Unfortunately, the delicate and subtle flavours of matcha were overshadowed by the bold macerated berries, lychee jelly baubles and poached pears and we felt that it may have been a similar experience, had the crumpets been plain.
The kaya sauce was pretty special. Kaya is a coconut jam popular in South East Asia but, even though we are avid lovers of our Kaya, we couldn't help but feel this compounded an already busy dish.
LiLi's Balinese Pork looked a dream floating atop that comforting looking broth and that, sweet, sweet corn.
This was a perfectly balanced dish of salty, savoury and sweet - that lemongrass broth, cutting through bites of soft, fatty pork and corn. Heaven.
We weren't there all that long and we were fairly tame in comparison to our other ventures, but you know what? We said hello, we caught up and we had a fantastic brunch together planning the next couple of weeks of JoJo and LiLi.
We'll just have to come back, won't we?
Happy 2016, guys.
I was torn by so many great sounding brunch options. Such a tough gig! I ended up choosing Balinese Pork based on the appeal of being cooked in Balinese spices. The lemongrass broth was a perfect accompaniment to this dish. It was almost like a dipping sauce for the pork.
The morcilla aka blood sausage was actually really good with the right amount of saltiness! I don't think I've ever had blood sausage before so another first for me. Bringing everything together in one bite made this an especially fully bodied dish. The pork belly was tender and the crackle was a nice bonus.
I also had the House Brewed Ice Tea. This isn't a typical iced tea which is sweet. The hibiscus and mint are the main stars of this affair. Definitely refreshing and great for summer!
Communal seating is the feature for this restaurant. If this isn't for you, then you might get lucky and get seated outside on your own. The furnishings are modern which is different to it's historical exterior.
The staff are great and friendly. At one point I thought they were all really good looking which might add to the appeal of attending. The only fault I had was that they seemed to be present when I wanted to order dessert so I just skipped that plan altogether. Maybe next time!
The interior of this place was pretty neat. A mix of grey paint, exposed brick work and white tiling and although it was mismatched, it was all tied together by repeating features, like the lighting and chairs. "Controlled Chaos" if you ask me. Loved it!
I hope I don't make a habit out of ordering matcha themed food items at each place I go to; but god damnit - I want to know where the best places are for this green goodness!
In saying that, I was a little underwhelmed by the crumpets and I'm not too sure that this place will find a home in my go-to Matcha list. The often understated matcha was very overpowered by everything else going on in that dish and whilst it was a delicious stack of crumpets, I did feel as if it tried a little hard with all of those extra offerings. Perhaps if they drew it back a notch and dropped the macerated berries and poached pears, I could have concentrated a little more on the matcha flavour.
That aside, I can't fault the presentation of the dishes or the service at Operator 25. The concept of their dishes are interesting and quite attractive - I'd like to try a few more dishes as I was quite impressed with the Balinese pork.
Despite being a little more upscale, Operator 25 is approachable and very accessible - a welcome refuge for shoppers, businessmen, and those wanting to escape the insanity of Melbourne's streets and laneways.
Food and Drink: ★★★★☆
Customer Service: ★★★★☆
General Atmosphere: ★★★★★
Value for Money: ★★★★☆
Food and Drink: ★★★☆☆
Customer Service: ★★★★☆
General Atmosphere: ★★★★★
Value for Money: ★★★☆