Address: 156 Pakington Street, Kew
Phone: (03) 9855 2002
Open: Weekdays, 7am until 4pm
Weekends, 8am until 4pm
It’s generally a battle to get a seat at Ora Café, a favourite local brunch spot in Kew. This is most likely because it’s a damn fine example of an eatery. Their spring menu was introduced a couple of weeks back and it’s the most original brunch offering I’ve encountered this year, other than Bayte in Collingwood. I’ve been meaning to write about Ora for a while now, but it’s always so busy on the weekend that it puts me off visiting.
On Sunday, I decided enough was enough. We called before we left and one of the staff members (all of them were lovely, but a lady called Alice was especially darling) said a group of five was about to leave. We waited for about 10 minutes when we arrived, and sure enough, a table of five cleared the way soon after. It’s worth noting that an hour later at about 12.15pm, it would have been easy to snag a seat. Thank the food gods we went; we had a wonderful experience.
Ora offers almost every form of coffee you can think of – filter, siphon, pour over, french press, aeropress, cold drip, split shot – but it was the Proud Mary piccolo latte that won me over. The miniature glass was the best coffee I’ve had all year. I was so impressed I had to order a second to check it wasn’t all a dream, like the time I was eating at Noma and then woke up to that horrid iPhone alarm. Thankfully, I was wide awake and both coffees displayed hints of chocolate and a distinctive walnut aftertaste.
Our food was beautifully presented. Each dish was quite rich, but the serving sizes ensured that we didn’t feel sickly. I ordered the haddock fritters. Three chunky fritters rested on a creamy egg gribiche with capers, decorated with vibrant green herbs and punctuated with a sprinkling of Yarra Valley salmon roe.
To my left were three broadbean falafels on a homemade smoked eggplant dip, served with a colourful grapefruit and quinoa salad. A poached egg was added to the order, and the whole thing was mixed together until it roughly resembled compost before being devoured.
The pork and beans was a modest serving of pressed pork belly and pickled hock on a mound of beans in a tomato base, topped with a couple of fried quail eggs and fresh herbs. It was tasty enough to impress the 12-year-old, who was quick to do a meal trade so he could have it all to himself.
He traded his blackboard special, a floury beef brisket roll with mild mustard and bright pink pickled cabbage, for the pork and beans. There was nothing wrong with the roll - which was stuffed with sticky meat and balanced by the cabbage - the youngen simply had a serious case of food envy.
I too suffered from food envy when I saw the ‘walnut eggs’. Two soft(ish) boiled eggs were blanketed in a walnut crumb and presented in a bird’s nest crafted from kafiti pastry, which also held an Asian herb salad. It arrived with an Italian tomato kasoundi and a couple of toasted 'soldiers'. Even though the eggs were a touch overdone and a piece of toast was ordered after the light dish was polished off, the flavours and presentation made the walnut eggs a favourite.
The best thing about light meals is that there’s room for dessert. Ora have a selection of cakes and slices in a small glass display, all perfectly matched to that second or third coffee you’re almost guaranteed to order. We shared a sweet potato cupcake with cranberries throughout its yellow base and a zesty cake with green pistachio cream and a sugary pistachio brittle. Both were enjoyed, but the latter was superb.
If you time it right or if you don’t mind the wait, Ora is the perfect neighborhood café. It ticks all the boxes: simple and cozy décor, helpful staff, a delicious and captivating menu, and killer coffee (or Mork hot chocolate, chai, fresh OJ or specialty tea for those who don’t ‘do’ coffee). Sure, it’s a little bit trendy, but it manages to be hip without the side of snobbery. Think of Ora as the lovable nerd at school, with a caffeine fixation.