Address: 229 Johnston Street, Abbotsford, VIC 3067
Phone: (03) 9486 0699
Open: Daily, 7am until 3.30pm
I’m utterly torn. You see, I’ve found this endearing café and I don’t particularly want to share it with you. I want it to remain under the radar, to forever be a place where I can go to escape hipster staff so high on double espressos — no sugar — that they seem to forget you exist. On the other hand, it’s so charming that the owners deserve to be flooded with business and quite possibly a hug or two. All right, you’ve convinced me: it’s called Bomb Café… but don’t go telling everyone.
You’ll find the inconspicuous painted red front door wedged into the grungy Johnson Street strip in Abbostford — you know, that section of dusty shops that verges on creepy, just before you hit Hoddle Street. It’s easy to miss, so keep an eye out for the pixelated logo on the window. Locals will tell you with pride that it’s nothing less than an oasis.
Upon first glance the space is miniscule: a few wooden tables, some bench seating in the front window, a coffee machine, a small display cabinet featuring baguettes and sweets (think homemade gingerbread men, hummingbird cupcakes, brownies and pastries), and a kitchen the size of my palm jammed in the corner. Not even the mirror on the wall gives an illusion of space.
“There’s a garden out the back,” the waitress smiles knowingly.
We make our way down the corridor, feeling like intruders in a private home. On the way through we pass a square room with an unused fireplace, framed by block seats with dark purple cushions. A child’s bike is propped up next to the pine wood cubes that pose as a table in the centre of the arrangement. They’re decorated with pink flowers from out the back. A window filters natural light, which competes with the warm glow from a cylindrical lamp in the corner.
The polished concrete floor lead us past a young girl washing dishes, the door through to the toilet and finally, to the back door. To call the outdoor area a ‘courtyard’ is insufficient. Like the waitress said, it’s a garden. Overflowing with ferns, flowers, trees, wooden Thai sculptures and even two fat gold fish in a ceramic water feature, it made me want to play ‘fairies’ all over again.
Seating is limited: there’s a picnic bench, some plastic green stools for the kiddies, a rickety wooden table for two or a sturdier outdoor set for larger groups. It’s sheltered and shady, with shards of light piercing through the trees. A woman was cutting blooms and brushes to display in a vase inside. Another bike with training wheels leaned against the bench. Children tottered around in bare feet, gurgling absurdly cute conversations through two-toothed smiles. You won’t find a lovelier spot to sip coffee al fresco in Melbourne.
And what coffee! Everyone who eats at Bomb Café is informed there are two varieties: Genovese’s rich Italian beans, recommended for black coffee, or fair trade Gravity organic coffee. We sampled the latter, a bright, creamy blend with a hint of brown sugar and a lingering, fruity aftertaste. Not quite as fruity as the small OJ though (large also available), freshly squeezed and refreshing. Try the blood orange juice when it’s seasonal. Bomb also offers LSD. But before you get excited about a magical trip in the garden, it stands for ‘Latte Soy Dandelion’, an earthy coffee alternative made with soy milk and complete with a bunch of cleansing health benefits. I’d recommend trying it, although it’s an acquired taste. Alternatively, go for an iced chocolate or coffee, a frappé or a thickshake.
The breakfast menu is equal parts affordable and delicious. While health nuts will be tempted by the pear and cranberry toasted muesli with fruit and yoghurt, those on their day off are likely to order the ricotta pancakes with double cream and citrus coulis or homemade strawberry jam (the latter of which you can purchase by the jar). Then there are thick slices of fruit toast, banana bread and five breakfast baguettes. But if you really want a taste explosion, order the eggs.
It was difficult to fault the Eggs Benedict, and the same can most probably be said about the Florentine alternative. Two slices of perfectly cooked, buttered sourdough exhibited an external crunch and soft middle. Large slices of lean, grilled ham blanketed the toast and made a mockery out of ever ordering bacon. The yolks of the poached eggs gushed out when pierced with the knife and the whites were cooked through. The light and zesty homemade hollandaise sauce was creamy without being overly rich.
Yet despite praise for the Eggs Benedict, it paled in comparison to my open omelette. Again, it came served on two slices of toast — not that you could see them beneath the mammoth covering. More accurately described as a delectable slab, it was flavoured with cheese and a small handful of parsley. Heaving with chunks of flavoursome chorizo, wedges of fresh tomato, spinach, mild red onion and baby chat potatoes, those with a hangover should form a cult and worship this dish. There is also a vegetarian option available, with tomato, spinach, red onion, garlic, basil, pesto and mayo.
Don’t do eggs? Bomb café is vegan friendly, although seriously people, you don’t know what you’re missing. There’s scrambled tofu or the vegan fry up, a mixed bag of tomato, spinach, red onion, mushroom and avocado on toast. When we stumbled across the Bomb, herbed mushrooms and Meredith goats cheese on toast was the daily special. For lunch, there are plenty of baguettes and bruschetta options, as well as rumours of ravishing risottos.
So there you have it, my new favourite café. It may not boast industrial-chic décor, coffee from a bat’s arse or staff uniforms of buttoned-to-the-top shirts and statement specs, but it’s nostalgic, full of character and pours a mean bean. When you top it all off with hearty eggs, fresh produce and a secret garden, it’s fair to say that Bomb Café is, well, a blast! But let’s keep it quiet, okay?