Since we've moved into Brunswick we've been talking big about hitting up its many cafes. Sure, we've made trips to Code Black and Maddox, but far more often we've found ourselves lured back into Wide Open Road for another go 'round. This weekend Cindy put a stop to things, making me pick somewhere else for our pre-shopping lunch. I decided (partly out of laziness) that we should finally revisit Green Refectory. It's been a Brunswick stalwart for about a decade, serving up some of the cheapest brekkies in town. Our last blogged visit was way back in 2008 but things haven't really changed much - it's still busy, cheap and hip with a cabinet loaded with an impressive array of sweets, salads and muffins.
It also still has incredibly frustrating counter service - there's no menus to hand out, so everyone mills around the counter trying to peer at the blackboards and decide what they want. It's right by the front door so there's a perpetual bottleneck of people leaving, entering, browsing, ordering and paying. I'm kind of surprised they haven't come up with a better system in ten years. Still, it keeps the prices low - we're talking $7 for baked beans on toast with a side of mushrooms, $8 French toast, and $10 baked eggs.
Their muffins are justifiably famous - massive, cheap and hugely varied. Cindy ordered a pumpkin, feta and pine-nut muffin ($3, hilariously, the same thing she ordered five years ago and somehow 50 cents cheaper!), figuring it would be a good lunch and would leave enough room for a potential dessert order.
It was rich with eggs and cheese, almost a floury frittata. If you turn up late in the day you can get one of these bad boys for $2 (presuming there's any left) - possibly the best value-for-money snack in town.
I ordered the vegan special, scrambled tofu with mountain bread and pickled veggies ($10).
The scrambled tofu was exceptional - even better than the version I enjoyed recently at Cafe Azul. The tofu was shredded and fried up with caramelised onion, shallots and a great spice mix, featuring at least turmeric and cumin. I wasn't entirely sure about the accompaniments - I'd have been just as happy with a couple of slices of toast. Still, the olives and pickled cabbage bits provided a bit of contrast.
Cindy's plan paid off - she had enough room to sample something from the cake cabinet. Look at all those options!
She chose a slice of the Mars Bar cheesecake ($4.95).
The picture doesn't quite capture the sheer magnitude of this piece of cake. It was actually kind of ridiculous. Still, the two of us pushed on and somehow forced our way through - a heroic effort I'm sure you'll agree.
Green Refectory is like a little time capsule of Brunswick in 2006 - no cold drip, single origin coffees, no complicated $20 brunch dishes and no chia seeds or quinoa - just simple, cheap food served up by slightly distracted hipsters in a crowded environment. It's not somewhere you'd linger over a long lunch, but in value for money terms, it's hard to beat it.
Since our earlier blog post only Nouveau Potato have reviewed Green from a vego point of view.
There are plenty of other reviews though - melbourne's guinea pig, I talk too much my mouth hurts, Dammit Janet I Love Food, Doughnut forget about me, Plent(y)full (twice), The Owl's Nest, amy kath, Dozka, Diary of Yenn, Miss Muesli, heartshapesandcrosses,Yosie's Journey of Food, My Secret Garden, Eesh, juganaut's foodie thoughts, Ichigo Shortcake, EAT AND BE MERRY FOR TOMORROW WE DIE(T), my diet starts tomorrow, Melbourne Din(n)ing Blog, Let's Get Fat Together, Little Bits, Skinny Glutton, A Miniature Take on Food, Gastronomeal, CHOMP and SLURP, Dave Plus Food, The World Loves Melbourne, Clare's cafe chronicles, days are like scrolls, melbourne cafes photo blog, MEL: HOT OR NOT, Melbourne Coffee Review, odd sundays, Breakfasty Goodness, Words and Flavours, in da food, Rumbly in my Tumbly (twice), kat chew(s) and chomp(s), Travel Foodprints and Cheap Food Slut were all impressed.
A few people have been disappointed by either the food or the service - see Sweet and Sour Fork, Judging Your Breakfast, Yellow Eggs, new international students, I'm so hungree and Dresses and Snacks for more negative experiences.
115 Sydney Road, Brunswick
veggie breakfasts $6.50 - $10, muffins $3
Accessibility: Green Refectory has a strange little ramp-step on entry, but the doorway is always jammed with people and there's very little space between the counter and the tables. You order and pay at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.