Mon – Fri: 7am – 4pm
Sat – Sun: 9am – 4pm
Coffee: Code Black Coffee, Tea Drop, Stolen Recipe Iced Tea
“Job titles. Like it or not, mentioning what you do for a living defines us and is judged by others – at least in the first instance. While job association is a strong one, there are some damn cool job titles out there. One of my favorite as a youngster was the operator. I had only encountered this person on the silver screen, but they were the modern day Google. The main actor would called the operator to find the closest florist to amend his wrongs and sweep the leading lady off her feet. Dramatic, yes! But the offering of the operator reached far and wide. In today’s smart phone era, everyone has an operator in their pocket to ask their million and one questions. But there is one operator who is ready to serve brunch in West Melbourne – Operator 25.
We were kindly invited by the team running Operator 25 to suss out what they had to offer. I have to admit, prior to reaching out to us, I wasn’t aware of this cafe. Like most things, it’s extremely difficult to keep up with the brunch scene. The location of Operator 25 is very Melbourne, being tucked away from the main street. Its location is not synonymous with brunch, however. Being wedged in between apartment buildings and hotels near Flagstaff Gardens, makes exposure and discovery by pass-byers limited. However, it’s a find like this that makes it all the more pleased with ourselves.
The space itself is special and unique with the prominent heritage listed brick work accentuating the exterior and interior designs. It provides a great sense of new vs old, as you make your way through the cafe. The decor takes a ‘less is more’ approach, but is accentuated with soft tan woods and dark metals furniture pieces. The concrete floors are polished and the lighting fixtures and lovely flower arrangements add the necessary warmness to the dominant industrial look. There is plenty of communal tables to cater for a one-on-one or group brunch.
Coffee is by Code Black Coffee and my long black was delightfully delicious. There was an exceptional smooth and crisp taste to my coffee. As
it settled, I picked up soft and pleasant acidity to the back of my palate. The quality was exceptional and it was good to see another cafe (other than Code Black Coffee themselves) using their beans to its full potential.
The hardest aspect of the menu atOperator 25 is choosing. It’s not simply a case of eliminating the average options, it requires careful consideration! With Miss SL getting on board with the brunch menu, Randy Dhamanhuri (one of the owners) had persuaded me
into having a lunch dish – Heirloom Tomatoes, Pan Fried Potato Gnocchi, Black Olive Tapenade, Goats Curd and Parmesan Crisps [$16].
Ever since I mastered the art of gnocchi making I have become very fond of this dish. The quality of this pan fried gnocchi was exceptional – each piece was of the same size and perfectly light and fluffy. There was no need for a sauce-base as the roasted and raw heirloom tomatoes provided the necessary zing. The goats curd was a fantastic inclusion, providing a creamy element that worked perfectly with the fresh basil. The final, magical touch of Parmesan crisps not only elevated the presentation of the dish, but also increased flavour profile of my meal. It’s not a dish if you are famished, however if you are looking for a spring dish full of fresh flavours, this is it.
Whilst we had failed to discover Operator 25 of our own accord, you shouldn’t make the same mistake. This cafe is aiming to reach to higher heights to deliver a special and novel brunch. In terms of food, it certainly doesn’t miss a beat and coffee is very close behind. With the spring weather getting warmer, take on your own little adventure to discover Operator 25 and then get in some rays at Flagstaff Gardens. Or alternatively, grab their cute takeaway box to maximise sun time. A full proof plan!”
“Reputations. They’re hard to build and maintain. At the start of 2012 I changed jobs from a company where I was well known with a strong reputation and presence, to a place where few people knew me and I had everything to prove. Hard work, time and word of mouth helped me slowly rebuild my reputation from scratch. Operator 25 is a relatively new cafe that also has everything to prove. Sitting on the CBD outskirts, newcomers to the cafe ownership scene Kiet Diep, Randy Dhamanhuri and Valerie Fong have everything to prove.
Fong and Felipe Guedes take the helm as head chefs, with both chefs utilising their past experience at one hat restaurant Bacash to tailor a well-detailed brunch menu. Both Dhamanhuri and Diep use their PR and hospitality skills to keep the venue operating like a well-oiled machine.
The heritage-front building of Operator 25 is located just off La Trobe street, barely in West Melbourne. Finding a park was relatively easy in comparison to other inner-city cafés, which made me quite happy on a Saturday afternoon.
Chatting to Dhamanhuri and Fong, it was obvious how passionate they were about brunch. “Researching” the competition and seeing what it takes to cut the mustard against Melbourne’s well-equipped brunch scene, they felt that Valerie’s fine-dining experience and creative twists on the menu could equate or exceed the competition, when balanced with their delicious Code Black coffee. We were there to put them to the test.
The menu at Operator 25 was interesting no doubt, with options like Smashed peas on toast, poached eggs, lemon ricotta, dukkah and white truffle oil [$15] and Ricotta pancakes with with seasonal fruits, maple syrup, pecan crumbs and vanilla ice cream [$15], I was feeling good about my options. In mood for something light, I took Dhamanhuri’s suggestion of the Sweet Corn Fritters, Avocado mousse, Sunny Side Up, Tomato and Coriander Salsa [$16] with a Stolen Recipe Iced Tea – Peppermint Lemon Lime [$4].
The tea was lovely with beautiful flavours of peppermint that were sweetened by sugar. The bitterness of the tea was achieved through the inclusion of lemon and lime.
When my main came out I was feeling quite pleased – the corn fritters were ball-shaped and doughy, crisply cooked out the outside and resting atop a bed of well-whipped avocado.
The avocado was incredibly smooth and creamy in texture, with just the right amount of lemon. It was a lovely combination with the perfectly cooked corn-fritters, that had a beautiful crunch and was full of juicy corn. The salsa was fresh with a balsamic vinegar dressing that seemed to rise to the front of my palate.
Mr LB seemed to be enjoying his coffees but my mind was focused on dessert – an incredible sounding Tonka Bean and Coconut Sago, Citrus Curd, Mango and Pistachio Salted Caramel Crumbs [$9]. I had first seen this on Peach-Water and was very keen to try it out.
This dessert did not disappoint! The citrus curd was incredibly light and fluffy, moussed into a beautiful topping that packed a lemon-like punch of flavour. The pistachio salted caramel crumbs tasted almost like a bread-based crumble mix – buttery and nutty. The best way to experience this dish, I quickly learnt, was to reach my spoon way down into the depths of the cup and experienced the combination of all its different elements. The result? An explosion of fresh flavours that provides the palate-cleansing effects of mango that is replaced by the flavours of tonka beans and coconut sago. The creaminess is balanced by the citrus curd, and the dish just screams YUM! Despite its size and vast number of components, this dish left me feeling light.
Operator 25 has only been around for six months but has a good menu and strong customer services focus. The venue is quiet and relaxing and their coconut sago leaves you dying to come back. I can’t wait to go back.”
Final thought “Incredibly light Australian-Asian fusion dessert – a must have Spring delight!”