The Grain Store
Disclaimer: I did not pay for my meal, The Grain Store invited me to dine free at my convenience with a guest. The opinions reported below are based solely on my thoughts at the time of my visit.
Address: 517 Flinders Lane Melbourne
Phone: (03) 9972 6993
Open: weekdays, 7am until 4.30pm
weekends, 8am until 4pm
Let’s start with the worst thing about The Grain Store, one of the few eateries to open at the other end of Flinders Lane. Strategically placed in an office-saturated section of the city, as opposed to being shafted away from the likes of Chin Chin and Meatball and Wine Bar, you’re going to have a tough time finding a park. Thankfully, you can pull into Wilson's car park for $5 on weekends if you’re eating at Grain Store. That’s about as bad as it gets here.
Once you’ve ditched the car, you can concentrate on the space. If you’re after a warm atmosphere with homely food, go elsewhere. The Grain Store is a terrifically polished tribute to when buildings in the area were holding stores for shipments of grain. The room feels like a provincial-inspired trophy kitchen with its polished marble tables and bench tops framed by flawless timber. The design is undoubtedly slick, but it’s a touch too shiny to fit the ‘rustic’ mould.
Service was spot on, with waitstaff well informed about the locally grown and harvested food. The Grain Store just gets away with being one of the last cafés to use ‘seasonal’ and ‘honest food’ as selling points. These days, those elements are more or less expected. But these guys practise what they preach; The Grain Store is the only CBD location that doubles as a designated CERES Fair Food Organic Food Delivery Service pick up point.
Coffee is by ST. ALi or Axil Coffee Roasters depending on your preference, or for an extra 50 cents you can sip single origin or clasp coffee of the day between your wintery hands. My cold drip – which was poured at the table – was refreshing, but if you’re willing to spend $8 on juice, the house-made spirulina with pineapple, pear and mint is the way to go.
The breakfast and lunch menu is a little bit posh, probably because Head Chef Ingo Meissner (ex Fitzrovia and ST. ALi) has a preference for modern techniques and a background in fine dining. It’s perfect for the corporate crowd, but might throw you if you’re craving classic poached eggs and bacon, or for that matter smashed avocado.
Breakfast runs until midday during the week and until 3pm on weekends. You won’t find muesli, but you will encounter toast müsli parfait with chia seed yoghurt, quince and quinoa milk. Porridge is organic with pumpkin, pistachio, kum quat syrup and fennel flower seeds. Brioche comes toasted with spiced nashi pear, buffalo mozzarella candied walnuts and basil. Eggs are poached then fried, served with orange cured salmon, truffle crème fraiche, smoked eggplant and crostini, or poached and served with chilli and fennel sausage on winter vegetable hash.
We visited for a late lunch during the week. The countertop of fresh sandwiches, rolls and tarts was looking a little lacklustre following the lunch rush, and although dishes such as vegan cauliflower, quinoa and goji berry sounded so healthy they could bring you back from the dead, we opted for a more substantial affair. The saltbush lamb confit with sweet potato, bok choy, long pepper and violet mustard was a beautifully balanced dish, the rich meat offset by pings of pepper and hits of herb.
But the smooth Nicola potato gnocchi swimming in luscious mushroom taleggio cream, studded with broccoli and parsnip crisps and sprinkled with Tomme cheese was unbeatable. That’s until we feasted our eyes, stomachs and tastebuds on dessert.
Lemon meringue pie was prettily deconstructed on the plate with tamarillo quarters, quenelles of lemon curd, daubs of basil gel, a smear of marshmallow and tiles of pastry. The tamarillo ‘salsa’ was overpoweringly tart – we couldn’t finish the dish.
If you’re willing to allow a very reasonable 10 minutes for baking, four discs of delight will arrive on a wooden board, still hot from the oven, with a glass of full cream milk for dipping. It was the highlight of our meal.
If there’s one thing we took away from our dining experience, it wasn’t that the food was fancy but wholesome or that the décor screamed designer, it was that The Grain Store should make ordering their chocolate chip cookies compulsory.