86 Station Street
Mon – Sun: 7am – 5pm
Coffee: Small Batch
“Charles Henry James – or better known as CH James – is a father figure and a true champion to the northern suburbs. He played a big role in the development of Melbourne in the 1870s and 1880s, with community and hospitality at heart. One of his major legacies is the develop of greater Fairfield, investing heavily into its industrial and hospitality sectors.
It’s very fitting then that the present raises its glasses – or should that be coffee cups? – to the past. CH James is a newly opened cafe in Fairfield, with owner Theo Krambias wanting to create an attractive space for locals and visitors to enjoy a well-crafted brunch. Coffee is sourced from Small Batch and the kitchen sources local produce. With Brunch Addict’s first visit to Fairfield – yes, that’s slightly embarrassing to admit – we were excited to experience the latest offerings from this peaceful and leafy suburb.
On the barista station is Yuta (ex Auction Rooms) with beverages including Mork hot chocolate, tea by Chamellia and a strong wine list for those long lunches. Once arriving inside and appreciating the decor of development tools – including a scary looking pitch fork – mounted to the wall, I ordered a long black [$3.50]. My long black was smooth with strong crisp notes. Just like Auction Rooms, the release of flavour is controlled by the diner, with additional water provided so that you can tweak the strength of your morning brew.
The menu is designed by French born Frank Verschaeve (ex Pope Joan) who brings his fine dinning experience to the cafe domain. Verschaeve provides strong attention to detail to the entire process with a particular eye for plating; from home made jams and relishes, house-made cured salmon and producing fresh pasta for his dishes. Expect fresh and wholesome dishes.
Ordering the House cured ocean trout, salted zucchini and fennel & dill salad [$17] add poached egg [$2], it was refreshing to see a different style of plating. The unstructured plate had distinctively separated the fennel and zucchini from the strips of cured salmon. The light creamy garnish laid the foundation for the well-cured trout that matched well with the fennel and zucchini salad. The fennel has a pronounced flavour that was well matched with the dill, creating a freshness in this dish. Overall the plating was stunning and the meal satisfied the taste-buds and my hunger.
If you live around the area then CH James is a welcome addition to the cafe scene of Fairfield. Its clean and modern look makes for an attractive space to spend the weekend brunch. With good coffee and strong dishes coming out of the kitchen removes the need to visit an inner-city cafe. For the rest who want to discover new brunch locations, CH James is a reliable brunch option.
“On a warm Sunday morning we arrived early at CH James, a surprisingly open and spacious venue near Fairfield station. Arriving to marble countertops, modern French windows and clean white walls the venue felt fresh, modern and exciting. Peeping through the doors, I spied a gorgeous outdoor dining area to the side of the venue, surrounded by red brick walls with beautiful black and white umbrellas contrasting the backdrop.
Welcoming us for brunch was David (The World Loves Melbourne), Rukmal and Theresa (The Plus Ones) at an indoor table near the kitchen, which was framed with lightly coloured wood. Theo Krambias (the owner) came by and personally introduced himself, giving us a generous little goodie bag of home made / sourced goods and produce, including house made marmalade, celery salt used in the venues Virgin Maria, bread from Ed’s Breads, locally sourced eggplant and bay leaves sourced from Theo’s grandfather! I’d noticed while we were there that he knew a number of the diners and was checking in to see if they were enjoying their meals, which I thought was really great and showed how much Krambias was managing his brand.
The brunch menu at CH James is relatively healthy and is a combination of different classic meals with a twist. After some deliberation, I opted for the Ricotta and smoked trout, soft scrambles eggs with a chive coriander pesto & toast [$14] along with a small batch double espresso. My coffee was a delicious way to get my brain cells activated and was a powerful fruity combination that was not too bright.
Our dishes were relatively quick to be served and were out within about 20 minutes. My scrambled eggs were moist and rich, with chunks of smooth ricotta throughout it. The pesto definitely took this dish to a much more interesting place, with its beautiful and nutty flavours that had an unexpected twist of heat. Unusually, the toast really added to the final flavours of this dish – a further nutty flavor that added to the depths of the pesto. The trout was chunked, combined within the eggs and was a little lost within the strong flavours of the scrambled eggs.
I must admit I picked a rather tame dish compared to a couple of other dishes on offer, such as Mr LB’s dish and Theresa’s delicious looking Chickpea stew with chard, roasted pumpkin, almonds & cumin labna [$14] add poached egg, smashed broad beans & lemon zest [+$5]. Another popular dish of the day was the Only if you’re hungry: thick cut bacon, roasted potatoes, chorizo, roasted tomato, chickpeas & eggs the way you want [$19].
Overall, CH James was a lovely experience – the venue is spacious with ample seating and a ‘feel good’ vibe. The staff were very accommodating and the food was hearty. It’s a thumbs up from me.”
Final Thought: “Great for a easy, no fuss brunch”