Brother Nancy (182 Essex St)
West 48 (48 Essex St)
First it was Footscray with its myriad Asian eateries. Now the cool crowd has moved further west in search of the latest cafe brunch buzz.
WEFO (West Footscray) real estate is going gangbusters and, not surprisingly, brunch cafes are popping up like meerkats in the West.
In our first Street Showdown Melbourne Brunch Scene pits two new WEFO stars through their paces to find who is Lord of Essex Street when it comes to brunch.
Brother Nancy chef Jordi Boyer may not make the most photogenic food but what it lacks in sex appeal, it oozes in flavour.
As mentioned before, the brekky menu is somewhat slim but that’s ok – just as long as what they do is done well. We went for the Savoury Crepe ($10.50) and Chapin Breakfast ($16) and were not disappointed. Both of these boasted a noticeable Central American twist, a legacy from Boyer’s eight-month stint in Guatemala. Dodging this place based on the modest photography below would be a mistake. Yes, bland would aptly describe both dishes’ appearance but take into account the clandestine maneuvers required in stealth reviewing and our absence of a quality camera. Take our word – the food was scrumptious. A salty nirvana for the tastebuds.
Ok, moving onto West 48, where the bar is set quite high when it comes to food. Well, presentation, at least. We can only assume they were fussing over presentation during the 30 mins we were waiting for it to come. (You need to consider the chefs are working in a shoebox kitchen). I ordered the Fritters with a poached egg ($20), while the others built their own around scrambled eggs and other sides (about $20). Let me say the portion sizes are quite generous and, while on the steep end of price compared to Brother Nancy, it is good value. Everything was spot on but the highlight was the jalepeno-infused salsa-smoked salmon-feta combo that came with the fritters – a combination worth making the trip to Essex St for.
Right, down to business. West 48 probably had the lead until the OJ (below) arrived. I won’t be publishing the price of it here. I’d hate to impact their business like that. The price is just one issue. Let’s deal with the other. This photo was taken seconds after it was placed in front of me. No explanation they were running low leaving me to assume this is how it’s meant to be served. Gobsmacked. Words fail me. Akin to theft. You can see the OJ in question below. Notice its smarmy grin as it sits arrogantly with its ‘I’m so cool’ straw peering out. I’m still thirsty. Do you think I was charged for half (being generous saying it’s half) an OJ? No.
They made up some ground with the Red Rooibos tea. We have Rooibos at home – but not like this! West 48 serve All Press coffee – and do a good job.
Down the street Brother Nancy is also having a go at slippery slope that is the OJ game. Their offering, Parker’s, claims to be the ‘best orange juice you will ever taste’… fighting words. Clearly the folks at Parker’s have never been to Charlton for some of mum’s finest freshly-squeezed OJ circa 1990. At least we didn’t have to re-mortgage the house for a sip and there were more than two mouthfuls. Brother Nancy serves Proud Mary beans. I had a long black and enjoyed it immensely.
This was a contest of light vs dark. The pics (again) don’t do justice to the light in both places. Brother Nancy is a well-lit and bright space characterised by fresh white walls and simple decor whereas West 48 is an edgy-looking space with industrial light fittings and trendy benches. Both places were buzzing – locals come here because they clearly feel comfortable here. It speaks to them.
Brother Nancy wins this category. Maybe it’s because they’ve only been open for five weeks but the staff here were far more attentive, caring and had more personality. The food didn’t even take that long but our lovely waitress was still apologetic, unlike West 48 staff who dumped and ran despite the 30-min wait. West 48 staff certainly weren’t offensive – in fact I think they do remarkably well to maintain such a chipper mood when they have nowhere to hide (three chefs are operating in a 3m x 2m space behind the counter).
Again, if you are a value hunter (aka tight-arse) Brother Nancy takes the prize here with its outstanding value-for-money food menu. We had change from $40 for food and drink. West 48 hit us up for $76 for the three of us, which still isn’t too bad – especially if you’re used to south-side prices.
THE WINNER IS…
Could Brother Nancy be the inaugural winner of 2014 Surprise Packet of the West* ?
Cheap, quality brunch served with a smile. West 48 must consider itself unlucky. It would win most Street Showdowns against weaker opposition.