325 Johnston Street
Mon – Fri: 6am – 4pm
Sat – Sun: 8am – 5pm
Kitchen closes 3pm on weekdays and 3.30pm on weekends
*No meat menu
Coffee: Monk Bodhi Dharma
“Cutting through Carlton, Fitzroy, Collingwood and Abbotsford, Johnston Street is the key gateway into the hipster mecca of Melbourne’s north-side. The street is a cosmopolitan in its own right; following no individual trend or influence, the street is a collective and eclectic vision shaped by many passionate business owners. From mismatched bars and pubs in Fitzroy, to a prominent furniture hub in Collingwood and cafes and restaurants scattered far and wide – the urban diversity flows freely on Johnston Street.
Finding myself on Johnston Street in Collingwood, I unintentionally discovered a little gem – Admiral Cheng-Ho. The second café project from Marwin Shaw (Monk Bodhi Dharma), Admiral Cheng-Ho offers an entire vegetarian/wholefood brunch menu with dairy-free options – whilst also being a coffee specialty house. The corner store layout is small, but offers the comforts of a homely and carefree experience. Locals come and go as the team make genuine effort to make everyone welcome.
The large street-facing windows maximises the natural sunlight shining through. The inside of the cafe is decorated around the theme of a sea voyage including an anchor, with fish baskets used as lighting fixtures and a sea riddle above the entrance. The distressed brick feature ties the decor together and brings it back to the grungy feel that Collingwood is known for.
Coffee plays a major role at Admiral Cheng-Ho which offers six single origin varieties! The impressive selection represents different regions of the coffee belt and encourages patrons to expand their horizons beyond their regular house blend. Unfortunately I didn’t realise this until after I had ordered. The house blend long black with sparkling water [$3.70] had a lovely syrupy aroma with a sweet and citrus flavour profile.
A refreshing element to the non-dairy option, Admiral Cheng-Ho offers hazelnut milk as a novel alternative to soy and almond. JoJo has increasingly become a big fan of non-milk products, ordering a hazelnut latte [$4.50] with little hesitation. She described the flavour as having a dominant sweet texture. While being unique and pleasant at the beginning, she quickly found the milk flavours to be too intense for her liking and thus wasn’t able to finish it.
A no meat menu might seem daunting at first, but Admiral Cheng-Ho offers some fantastic the delicious brunch dishes. Electing the African Baked Beans – North African styled beans served with almond feta & avocado on toast [$16.50] (GF option / vegan / dairy option available), I was really impressed with the presentation and authentic flavours. The bean stew was gorgeous, thick and hearty. The combination of the feta created a creamy texture in the dish. Applying the avocado to the pumpkin loaf and combining the beans made for a ‘brunchie’ meal that was delectable and hearty – without any meat!
JoJo elected a mushroom on mushroom dish – Umami Mushrooms – Slow roasted king oysters, shitake, oyster & swiss brown mushrooms on a house made pumpkin, spinach & sub dried tomato polenta bread served with almond feta cheese, thyme & red chilli oil [$18.50] (GF/vegan). She quite enjoyed the complex nature of this dish, particular the combination of the different mushrooms and the heat of the thyme & red chilli oil.
Admiral Cheng-Ho is a cafe that pushes boundaries to create, demonstrating a different way of seeing brunching without meat. The drive to offer a no meat/dairy free menu that looks alluring and tastes delicious can’t be achieved overnight. Yet with persistence, Admiral Cheng-Ho has cemented its foothold in Johnston Street as a unique cafe offering damn right delicious dishes.
Final Thought: “A no meat menu that will impress even the biggest meat lovers”