We've been intending to visit John Gorilla for at least two of the two-and-a-bit years it's been open in West Brunswick. A weekend errand in the neighbourhood finally propelled us through the door last month. Though any number of Melbourne cafes feature kooky light fittings, vintage furniture and cutesy knick knacks, there was something notably sunnier about John Gorilla. It may simply have been the light streaming through the large windows, but the white walls (no exposed brick!) or the splashes of poster-paint yellow and orange might have something to do with it too.
You wouldn't have known it to read the menu. Boasting winter poached fruits, a "seasonal warm winter vegetable salad", cabbage and mushrooms aplenty, it seems the kitchen hadn't quite caught on to daylight savings time. There weren't any hints for special diets either - while there's plenty of promise for vegetarians, options look limited for vegans and the gluten-free.
Michael ordered the oven roasted thyme mushrooms on a cauliflower puree, topped with poached eggs and garlic breadcrumbs ($17). The cauliflower puree reminded him of polenta, a nice alternative to the standard toast, and the garlic breadcrumbs provided some crunch.
With some determination I ignored the Nutella French toast on the specials board and the banoffee French toast in the standard menu in favour of a bagel ($13). Too tall to tackle whole, I enjoyed the beetroot dip-slathered side with rocket and stole occasional bites from the salty slivers of haloumi. The three whole mushrooms held their own and demanded I use cutlery.
In lieu of the French toast, I lingered over the sweets display while Michael settled the bill.
We picked up a berry coconut slice ($6.50) with the odd juicy blueberry in the jam and a chewy toasted top - more than enough for two, and best enjoyed with tea.
Though the menu doesn't quite cater to all needs and seasons, I liked the atmosphere (and yes, the cake display) at John Gorilla. I'll certainly be tempted to pop in next time I've a need to go west.
There are positive accounts of John Gorilla on MELBOURNECHAITIMES, The Tea Diaries, Vetti Live in Northcote, dear melbourne,, grazing panda, A Place A Day and Miss Muesli. Only The Quince Poacher has been notably underwhelmed.
49 Pearson St, West Brunswick
menu: regular, specials
Accessibility: My memory is poor for this one, sorry! I think the entry was flat but there was a step between the two indoor areas. Tables are moderately dense but there's a clear path through the middle of each room. We ordered at our table and paid at a medium-high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.