Saturday, April 14, 2012

Raw Materials cook up their products at The Foodstore

The Foodstore by Raw Materials

Address: 464 Auburn Road, Hawthorn East, 3122

Phone: (03) 9818 3283

Open: Monday to Friday, 7am until 4pm
Saturday 8am until 4pm

At the start of October last year, The Foodstore by Raw Materials replaced a dingy old milk bar that smelled like mould. The transformation is astounding. People now turn their heads when driving past the modern shop front. The outside tables beneath the brown umbrellas are always crowded, bearing witness to the café's popularity.

The Foodstore is essentially a café that showcases Raw Material’s products, from stocks and sauces to jams and relishes. If anything, it feels more like a providore with seating than a café. Everything inside is charming. On top of the pastel-yellow tiled tables are vintage Spanish food tins posing as cutlery holders. Seventies style cork lights hang from the elongated ceiling, shining a homely glow over the warm, wooden furniture.

A wooden counter runs the length of the café, which has been crafted from an old door. At one end is the silver espresso machine, bags of coffee and Blanxart dark chocolate arranged by percent of cocoa, and up the other end imported Italian sweets sit in front of the cash register, tempting grown ups the same way Cadbury lures children at the supermarket check out. 

The glass chilled cabinet keeps the freshly made rolls and salads cool inside. An impressive spread of dense banana bread, homemade muffins, pastries, cakes and mini lemon meringue tarts on wooden boards crowd the top of the cabinet. 

The street-facing windows are lined with antique glass jars filled with traditional sweets. Shelves display rows of RM’s products. Patrons inspect packets of flavoured sea salt and bottles of boutique olive oil as they wait for their breakfast to arrive. Those interested can also watch their food being prepared in the stainless steel kitchen, where the chefs are just visible above a rainbow of Hansai artisan lemonade bottles.

At the back of the room is a small space where you can purchase RM products and hampers. Salami hangs in the window above wheels of cheese, artisan pasta is suspended from the roof, a sign advertises a knife sharpening service and an adjacent fridge is stocked with tasty take home meals.

Our English waitress was very chatty and engaged with the youngest member of our group, despite his efforts to keep playing his game on his father’s iPhone. The manager, Michelina (apologies if that’s spelled incorrectly), whose partner works in the kitchen, was more than happy to discuss the philosophy behind The Foodstore. She was obviously in charge but simultaneously a great team member, taking out rubbish and clearing plates. The chefs spoke cheerfully about the knives displayed for sale, even while they were cooking. It was clear they were having a ball, spontaneously picking ingredients off the shelf to add to the meals.

On the bean front, you can choose from the house blend or locally roasted fair trade coffee. The homemade chai is served on a wooden board in a teapot and is made with soy milk and unpasteurised honey. A special Blanxart hot chocolate, made from stone ground cocoa and chocolate from Barcelona, is also available. It is garnished with a shaved ‘cudie’, an almond dipped in praline, then chocolate, then cocoa. Deadly.

While there are no trendy pour over coffees to cool you down, the iced Blanxart chocolate, iced coffee or affogato will do the trick. In the juice department, the freshly squeezed orange juice, mandarin juice and blood orange juice come in adorable glasses printed with a colourful ring of dancing Dutch children. At least I think they're Dutch!

Breakfast is served daily until 1pm. I ordered poached eggs with smoked salmon. The white globes were eclipsed in a creamy, zesty hollandaise sauce and scattered with baby spinach. A ring of black and white sea salt encircled the sourdough toast (the bread comes from Thoroughbread Bakers and Bakery Lievito) and a lemon wedge rested on the side of the plate.

Three people ordered a variation of the avocado and feta on rye toast. The first variation was out of necessity since the kitchen had run out of rye bread, so sourdough was substituted. Ironically, our waitress informed us that no one had wanted rye the previous day, and a pile of it had been discarded. The second and third variations involved the addition of an egg, which again was perfectly poached. The quantity of roughly chopped avocado was refreshingly generous. The soft, crumbled feta tumbled from the toast and onto the plate. It too came with a lemon wedge and a sprinkling of black salt.

The egg and bacon toasted roll was more of an egg and bacon panini. Lightly toasted and served on a wooden board, it hid a fried egg, fresh spinach and a sweet tomato relish between two slices. The garden salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumber and onion was wasted on the 11-year-old, but quickly devoured by those seated next to him.

Perhaps the most impressive dish was the Spanish baked beans served with chorizo, peperonata (stewed peppers), goat cheese, eggs and sourdough toast. Originally two dishes, it was combined into one super dish by the kitchen after it was decided that all the ingredients were complementary. It was delivered in a shallow black baking plate with handles. The textures of the peperonata, beans and the thick, tasty chorizo were harmony in the mouth, while heaven materialised in the centre in the form of the baked egg with goat cheese crumbled over it. On top were two slices of slightly charred sourdough toast. It was one of the better baked egg dishes I’ve encountered; hearty and full of flavour. 

The servings at The Foodstore are very generous. While the breakfast menu is definitely egg orientated, other options include homemade muesli with poached rhubarb and yoghurt, fresh fruit salad, and Byron Bay porridge served with poached rhubarb and cinnamon sugar. There’s also an extensive children’s menu including everything from a boiled egg with soldiers and a Vegemite Cheddar toastie, to baby chicken schnitzel and tomato and basil pasta. For $4, you can even order an individually wrapped cow’s ear to occupy your canine while you sip your coffee.

The dish on the lunch menu that jumped out at me was the tasting plate from the deli: a selection of meats, cheeses and olives, served with Turkish bread. There is also a selection of filled bagels, a pasta and gnocchi of the day, pies, toasties, tarts, fritters, an assortment of four gourmet salads and more. Be warned though, lunch is served only until 2.30pm or 3.30pm, depending on what you order.

At The Foodstore, it’s all about the food. You eat it, you’re surrounded by it and everyone who works there is passionate about it. The best part is that if you like what you taste, you can buy most of the ingredients and recreate it at home. Then again, when they do it so well at The Foodstore, why would you bother?


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  1. Replies
    1. I hope you mean today as in yesterday and not as in today... they are closed on Sundays! (They changed their hours recently, I think. They have looked very closed the last few Sundays I have driven past!) Let me know what you think : )

  2. The food looks good (and I love canneles!) but I have to say that I was excited by the idea of mandarin juice which I love! :)

    1. The mandarin juice was really beautiful, none of that fake, bottled rubbish!

      Am yet to try the canneles but I was certainly tempted. Could only manage a mini lemon tart, and that's saying something from me! ; )