325 Johnston Street Abbotsford | 9534 7250
We went: Sun 27th April 2014 | Verdict: 22 / 25
Mon to Fri 7:00 am – 4:00 pm | Sat to Sun 8:00 am – 5:00 pm
In a nutshell: these guys care a lot about flavour combinations and coffee and do a mean vegan brunch. If finesse and skill are two of your brunch criteria then look no further.
– The Admiral
– Umami mushrooms
Food: Those who know Balaclava’s Monk Bodhi Dharma won’t be surprised by Marwin Shaw’s latest venture Admiral Cheng-Ho. The food menu, while not extensive, is thoughtful and tasty. My brother is vegan, which makes ordering sometimes a bit tricky but to look at a menu and not have to alter the choices is a blessing. Nearly all the options here are either vegan, vego or gluten free.
My brother and I had The Admiral (zucchini fritters on sauteed kale with seasonal vegetables and tangy beetroot relish. It’s topped with basil cashew cream and wild fennel) which was admirable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a bland dish (zucchini fritters) dressed up to sing so beautifully. All the flavour combinations of sweet (beetroot relish), sour (sauteed kale), savoury (fritters) and salty (cashew cream) just came together in harmony and worked their magic. By the end of this dish, I was scratching the plate to get all the relish off. Sorry about that!
The wife and friend J had the Umami mushrooms which was described by my wife as being “one of the best mushroom dishes I’ve ever had”. High praise, indeed. (She does need to get out more and we’re working on that). Usually mushrooms are overpowering but because they came with other strong elements like the goat’s cheese and pumpkin bread they all balanced each other out.
One thing to bear in mind when coming here is: THERE ARE NO EGGS! Shock horror, a brunch menu sans eggs. Get over it. This might be a difficult thing to overcome for some people. 4.5/5
Coffee: a “first” occurred for me at Admiral Cheng-Ho. I eat brunch out every week (read: wanker) and have been confronted by some expensive coffee in my time but never has the price been north of $10. Admiral Cheng-Ho, unashamedly, has coffee options that range from $4 for a basic flat white to $12 for a single-origin pour over filter from Panama. “We have the biggest range of single origin coffee in Melbourne,” the waiter says as I pay the bill. I could easily have chickened out and ordered a ‘safe’ latte however, “when in Rome”… So, I took the plunge and ordered the Panama Rojas Geisha. The tasting notes told me to expect “floral, delicate orange blossom and honeydew melon, lemon zest and a soft mouth feel”. It was certainly acidic and citrusy. It arrived in a stemless Reidel glass, the steam fogging up the inside and creating a coffee fog. The taste was complex and changed as it cooled. The aroma and taste told me from the outset it was to be sipped, not gulped. I was still going long after the others had finished their “regular” coffees. If you are tossing up about getting a “fancy” coffee, look at it this way: you go to a winery to try wine, a brewery to try beer, a restaurant to sample the talent of a chef. This place prides itself on coffee and a pour-over filter will best exemplify a bean’s true character. Worth $10? Umm, I know plenty of places that do it for less. 5/5
Vibe: this place is small, seating about 40 people at capacity. Like us, you may have to wait for a seat. To say this place is “cool” would be an understatement. Some may say it is pretentious with walls adorned with vintage clocks and tall vases on oak tables and coffee grinders lined up behind the counter like lolly dispensers at the show. But I like it. Scrap that, love it. Being from Ascot Vale, we seldom get across town to rub shoulders with our grungy cousins east of Brunswick Street. Lucky I had my moustache well groomed that day. 4/5
Price: $105 for four of us (meals and coffees). 4.5/5
Service: Because this place is so cramped, I feel as though the default setting for staff is a bit “on edge”. Could be me, though. after waiting outside for a table, we were politely ushered in and shown a table. Coffee orders were swiftly taken and nearly all of them were delivered pronto. (The chai that my wife ordered did not arrive until after the meals and needed a little prompting. No apology for the delay, either). I had a little chat to the waiter when paying the bill and she seemed nice. I guess one test of how good a place is is is how happy are the staff to work there? I’d say a 7/10 would sum up the feeling of most staff there from what I could see. 4/5
Final word: love trying different types of coffee? Love vegan food done with love? Don’t mind a brunch menu with no eggs? Then look no further than Admiral Cheng-Ho.