Tuesday, February 23, 2010

February 20, 2010: Cafe Vue@401

With a friend visiting from Brisbane and our only vacant weekend slot on Saturday morning, Cindy and I plotted a breakfast outing. There's been a bit of buzz around Shannon Bennett's new venture, 401. This mines the same territory as the Cafe Vue in the city - affordable breakfast and lunch food from the man behind Melbourne's finest dining.

It's a slightly wacky fit-out, with a weird mix of casual and trendy. We nabbed a spot outside in the sunshine and perused the breakfast offerings. For all its pedigree the prices here are very reasonable, with vegie options starting at $4 and working up to $14. Cindy's attention was quickly taken by the corn fritters with avocado and tomato ($12).

These were, frankly, weird. They're an ultra-crisp fritter, fried to within an inch of their lives. Cindy spent most of her meal picking bits of corn out of her teeth and expressing disappointment. It's interesting to see how different these look to the slightly undercooked ones served up to Ponikuta, perhaps they're still working this dish out. Similarly strange was the avocado, which had been turned into an odd curl of smooth avocado paste - it was flavoursome, but the texture didn't really work for me. Cindy's tomatoes were yet another oddity. With the seeds and liquid scooped out, they'd clearly been sitting around for a while and were drying out.

I ordered the 62 degree eggs ($9.50 + $3 for the avo), which are cooked for a long time at (you guessed it) 62 degrees. This results in super soft eggs, with everything runny and delicious. Smush them across the crispy toast and you end up with a soggy pile of goodness. As discussed, the avocado wasn't really what I was looking for, so I ended up a little disappointed in my meal - I probably should have gone with a grilled mushroom or something instead.

The fresh orange juice came out in cute little bottles and hit the spot nicely, while my coffee was adequate without being exceptional. A highlight worth mentioning: the little tray of cutlery, salt and pepper comes out with a bottle of house-made tomato sauce in it - this was probably the best tasting thing that we ate and should be smothered over everything they serve. It's divine.

The service was pretty mixed - friendly, but a bit haphazard. We ended up with a spare juice, my coffee took ages to come (and was then followed straight away by an unordered 2nd one), and everything just felt a little disorganised. Possibly it was my high expectations (this is part of the famous Vue empire after all), but I found the whole experience very disappointing. Possibly it's just that fancy cheffing and breakfast aren't my ideal combo - the oddness of the fritters and avocado may be cutting edge cookery, but give me the more straightforward delights of Mitte, Min Lokal or Court Jester any day.

I seem to be in a minority though, there are positive reviews of Cafe Vue at Foodlicious and Fenciana, Sarah Cooks, Hot Chocolates and Lattes, Second Helping, Bright Copper Kettle, Food Rehab, Breakfast Out and Eat Almost Anything. A few others have noted some teething problems at 401: Ponikuta and 1001 Dinners, 1001 Nights.

Address: 401 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Ph: 9691 3899
Price: $4 - $14
Website: http://www.vuedemonde.com.au/cafe-vue.aspx


  1. hmmm I love very crispy fritter but the idea of picking them out of my teeth doesn't appeal and I would prefer a more vegie packed side dish as you say - or even so nice sauce - but sounds an interesting place

  2. Interesting - though I'm not surprised. I went to Cafe Vue at Heide last year and had a similar experience (http://itpleasesus.com/2009/11/30/cafe-vue-at-heide/). The corn fritters were teeny tiny and very crispy fried, though the tomato and avo sounds better than yours. We also had haphazard service. I totally agree that you can get a better breakfast in a lot of places.


  3. I keep cracking up at the avocado 'mound' - it looks like it should have little stink lines coming out of it!!!! :)

  4. Oh my god, that avocado is just wrong! It looks like the food service "avocado" at sandwich bars, that comes out of a big tub. Blecch!

  5. Johanna, it was quite surprising - I LOVE fried food so when it's too crunchy and oily and stick-in-the-teeth for me, it's definitely a problem!

    Emily, I think most of the ideas here are quite good but perhaps Shannon Bennett is spreading himself too thin amongst all these new enterprises? The attention to detail is really lacking.

    Ha, Andrea, this thought did cross my mind when the plates first came out. :-D

    Ms Baklover, it's not a good association is it? I didn't mind using it as a spread over my fritters, but it certainly wasn't what Michael was after.

  6. I wish I had read this before going today - I ordered the corn fritters too and absolutely HATED them - horrible plastic-y things. And why do that to an avocado? I'm going to give it another shot, this time for lunch, hopefully it can be redeemed.

  7. Chanel11, I'm sad to discover that the fritters are consistently served in this way! I thought it might have just been an off morning in the kitchen. :-(