650 Little Bourke St
Mon – Fri 7am – 4pm
Sat – Sun 8am – 4pm
Mon – Wed & Sun No trading
Thurs – Sat 5:30pm – 11pm,
Coffee: Square One
“Enough time has passed for the initial hype of Higher Ground launch to Melbourne’s brunch scene to be slightly forgotten. The new ‘shine’ is no more. And this follows with the cast of food bloggers who wants to get in first for the sake of Google ranking has come and gone – and most-likely, never to return. It’s at this point of a young cafes life that it begins to develop its true routine and vibe. After the excitement of building, developing menus, picking decor themes and staff, Higher Ground has got one essential job to do – to be the best cafe/evening restaurant that it can be.
There is no doubt Nathan Toleman and his team can build stunning cafes with a build budget that most cafe owners would only dream of obtaining. And yes, they are the best in the business in running a successfully cafe like clockwork. They are masters of executing the right processes and creating the right team to manage a large seated cafe like Top Paddock, to entertaining long waiting queues at The Kettle Black. The quality of the food and coffee is exceptional and the experience is memorable, but what about Higher Ground?
The first thing to notice about Higher Ground is its location. The corner of Spencer and Little Bourke is often considered the ‘shitty’ part of town. Yet, there is something special when you first enter Higher Ground – the space is literately breath taking. The exceptional high ceilings, the indoor plants, the contrast of the strong/sheek black furniture fixtures versus distress brickwall all work together in a way that make this space work. The key factor is that at no point do you feel squashed or lost; rather there is a calm aesthetic that allows people to enjoy their mid-week breakfast.
While being exceptionally late to my brunch meeting with Miss SL, I managed to order the Spiced Cauliflower Scrambled eggs, curry leaf, roasted chilli w housemade flat bread [$19.50] with a single long black [$4] from their own roasting company – Square One. Not knowing it was it’s own brand, the coffee had key citrus and plum flavours.
What I loved about the Higher Ground scrambled eggs dish is the use of the cauliflower. On its own, I find cauliflower to be bitter and very ‘vanilla’ in taste. And yet, sourcing micro cauliflower florets inspired by Indian seasoning married well with the creamy and soft scrambled eggs. Adding a subtle touch of fresh chilli and with the housemade flat bread as the companion, this wasn’t ordinary scrambled eggs.
With a ton of apartments that surround the block and a swarm of travellers and commuters from Southern Cross Station, Higher Ground is the diamond in the rough for brunch and dinner. While it’s too early to say that they have closed the gap between breakfast and dinner, what they have achieved is creating a first class brunch experience that mirrors a fine dining experience.”
“Some people just don’t get why brunch is a big deal in Melbourne. Overseas, brunch is an afterthought – some scraggy bacon bits mixed with seafood (?) and alcohol, usually to get over a hangover. In Melbourne, it’s a fine dining scene on its own; not just amazing food, coffee and service, but also venue design. Why, recently in early October 2016 infamous Kitty Burns won the UK and International cafe category at the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards in London. The subject of today’s blog, Higher Ground, is instantly recognisable and – I’m going say it – iconic. Not only that – it has already won cafe of the year for 2016 by The Age Good Food Guide despite only opening in June!
It was early morning on a weekday and I was surprised at how calm and quiet the venue was. With a coffee cart outside taking care of takeaway orders, inside had a relaxing and spacious vibe. Service was excellent and attentive from the moment I sat down on the grey bench across from the formal barista station. Having a quick walk around the space after ordering my morning coffee revealed the true extent of the magnificent interior design of the space – of what used to be an old power plant – perfectly suited to the platforms formed into the venue. There were couches, low tables and great spaces to sink in and enjoy the atmosphere.
Mr LB arrived about 10 minutes late, but the kitchen and barista stations were running very efficiently. I’d ordered the Quinoa and seed bircher fresh and dried apple, house made almond yoghurt, rosella hibiscus [$16.50] to start my day. It arrived promptly within the 10 minute mark and looked very appetising. The dried apple was the star of this dish – it was crunchy, melted in my mouth and was sweet. The quinoa and seed Bircher was also quite tasty. The seeds were really fresh and crunchy.
Overall I enjoyed Higher Ground. While some of their basics seemed on the very expensive side (~$16 for fancy porridge / Bircher / chia pudding), the rest of the menu seemed on par with other cafes and had enough interesting items on it to keep a variety of tastes satisfied.
This is a beautiful venue suitable for a lazy brunch, business coffee or lunch, after work drinks or even an event. It goes to show that being on Higher Ground can give you endless possibilities.”
Final Thought: “An unforgettable ‘fine dining’ brunch experience”