I noticed Cafe Giraffe while flicking through the Cheap Eats guide a few weeks ago and was surprised that I'd never heard of it before. It seems I have been willfully ignoring it, as I've walked past its sign several times before and there is no shortage of blog reviews online (see link list below). Unlike many of the city's lunchtime options, it's open until 11pm and on Saturdays which makes it pleasingly accessible to us employees of the northern 'burbs.
Cafe Giraffe feels almost like a nursery with adult-sized furniture - the white walls and wooden shelves hold pastel ornaments and curiosities, books and board games. G-I-R-A-F-F-E is spelled instructively across the wall, and the menus match loopy printing with colour pictures for many dishes.
The options are unchallenging and inexpensive - nachos and dumplings, lasagne, meatballs, pasta and risotto at $8-12 per plate. There are no special markings for veg*ns and coeliacs but it's pretty easy to spot the vegetarian and gluten-free items from their descriptions; vegans might need to quiz the staff. Michael's chilli spinach risotto ($12) was simple and nothing special.
I chose the boldest and priciest meal, a cheese fondue ($8) with grilled mushrooms ($3.50) and pretzels ($3) and had a lot of fun with it. It's creamy and savoury without excessive richness... that is, until you (OK, I) dip a soup spoon in and take it all too far. Best stick with the regulation dippers.
I lacked the childish audacity to follow up with a chocolate fondue (into which you can dip fruit, cake and marshmallows) but did find room for a sticky date pudding with honey walnuts ($8.50). It was passable at best.
Many of the customers around us seemed more interested in a cup of tea and a catch-up with friends. Some extended their visits with dessert or a card game; few ordered a meal. Cafe Giraffe's primary appeal is that it's a calm and relatively spacious refuge in a gobble-it-down-and-get-out city. The staff we encountered were very sweet. Most of the menu is pretty unmemorable, but I'd go back for fondue with a friend.
Cafe Giraffe scores positive reviews on Heartshapesandcrosses, String of Events, new international students, A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words, food.loves.my.mouth., Dessert 4 U, EAT AND BE MERRY, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE(T), Drew's Travel Foodprints, VCLUXE, Flagrant Food Fawning, Mel's Food Journey, eatsaralee, Cakey Crumbles, much love, Hello Mr Postman, That Beanie Kid, The Zest of Life: Food, Love, Travels and I Heart Food; mixed thoughts on Peach Water, The Snail Inn, A Miniature Take On Food, flower in the wilderness, Aveline Gunawan, Prililicious and Beansprout's Cafe; then negative judgements on Gluttony Gluttony and tirache. There are photos without critique on Hey Sunflowers, Floating Thoughts, curing cravings and Open.
302 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne
Accessibility: There are a few steps up on entry, from memory the interior is relatively flat and tables are generously spaced. Orders and payment are made at a low-ish counter. We didn't visit the toilets.