Sunday, 23 December 2012

Bendigo Street Milk Bar

37 Bendigo St
Burnley, VIC 3121

Remember the old-fashioned milk bar? They were already a bit of a dying breed when I came to Australia in the late 90s, but having spent the first few years of my life down under in a small country town, I can still remember riding my little pink bike to the milk bar down the road, 70 cents clutched in my fist, ready to turn it into a paper bag full of dangerously pink strawberry clouds.

So a visit to Bendigo Street Milk Bar was one heck of a ride on a little pink bike back into my childhood. There was chunky wooden furniture sitting on faded, threadbare rugs, Fizzer Sticks and Freddo Frogs lined up on the bench, and a decidedly homely quality overall that just screamed (or rather, politely insisted at) nostalgia.

There’s even a courtyard out back, a little dusty and cluttered with fold-out chairs, fenced off with dented corrugated iron. It is absolutely lovely.  

“So why milk bar turned brunch spot?” I asked Di, one of the owners, who was all sorts of welcoming. The answer was a good one.  Di wanted Bendigo Street Milk Bar to be a place for people in the neighbourhood to gather, be it tradies picking up a quick sausage roll, or mothers and children unwinding after school. In short, she wanted to preserve the real community feel, and excellent service, that the milk bars of yore used to offer, but with one key difference – outstanding food.

Iced Coffee/Iced Chocolate

But before we got to the food, we ordered a couple of cold drinks to help us forget the heat. My Iced Coffee was refreshingly robust; God I’ve missed good coffee when I was in Malaysia. Chris’ Iced Chocolate was sweet and creamy, but unfortunately didn’t taste very chocolatey.

Steak Sandwich ($16.5)

Because it’s Chris’ birthday today, I gave him free reign to order whatever he wanted. And predictably enough, he ordered the Steak Sandwich ($16.5) off the specials menu. The bread was pillowy and the steak was tender, and together with the sweetness of the caramelised onions and mayonnaise, it formed a rounded, comforting sandwich that Chris eagerly gobbled down. I adored the crisp side salad, dressed in an ingenious caper (?) dressing that made it the best garden salad I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.

Corn Fritters ($16.5) with Marinated Field Mushrooms ($3.5)

Corn Fritters ($16.5) with Marinated Field Mushrooms ($3.5)

I ordered a serve of the Corn Fritters ($16.9) with an additional Marinated Field Mushroom ($3.5) on the side. The corn fritters were fluffy and the sweet corn kernels practically bursted out of the batter, and who needs meat when you can have a large, juicy mushroom instead? The tangy avocado salsa was a fresh counterpoint to the richness of the fritters and runny eggs, and I had no problems mopping this up, as full as I was by the end.

Did I mention we were both really full by this point? We had unwittingly finished the gargantuan pile of shoestring fries (golden and crispy) that came with the steak sandwich, yet the dessert counter continued to beckon. Muffins, brownies, croissants, banana bread, and lemon cake – how could we say no? And because I was tossing up between two different cakes, I was generously offered a bit of each. A tiny slice of each, I had insisted, and they had nodded understandingly.

Lemon Cake ($5.9)

Orange Blossom and Pistachio Cake with Cream Cheese Icing ($5.9)

They Lied. Out came two plates, each one carrying a hefty slab of cake. The Lemon Cake ($5.9) had a refreshingly sour icing that tingled as it went down with the sweet, moist sponge. But as nice as it was, my heart went to the Orange Blossom and Pistachio Cake with Cream Cheese Icing ($5.9). The dense, nutty cake was lifted beyond the realms of your average dessert by the icing, which on first taste doesn’t seem all that remarkable, until several seconds later, when you get the undeniable floral aroma of orange blossom. The cakes were both so delicious, and despite being as full as we were, we had forkful after forkful until a waitress with a lot more common sense than us confiscated them and bagged them for take away.

Bendigo Street Milk Bar is a humble establishment, but you can really feel the warmth emanating from it. Most who visit are known by name, and those who aren’t regulars are treated like regulars until I imagine, inevitably, they become one. And the food is indeed good, but comes as no surprise – Di conspiratorially informed me that their chef is actually from Punch Lane in the city. So... how about opening a branch down my end of town?

Rating: 15/20 – nostalgia trip.

Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Bendigo Street Milk Bar.

Bendigo Street Milk Bar on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Great post, beautiful photos. I came across your site whilst looking for something else, converted milkbars, and was compelled to read the whole post!