Red Door Corner Store
70 Mitchell Street Northcote
Our fair yet weather-unpredictable city allowed Autumn to put on its finest show as I ventured along to the tucked away Northcote café, off the busy High street one Saturday in late May.
The weather was mild as it had uncharacteristically been the last few weeks, yet the season was evident, in the picturesque leaves lying scattered around each tree lined up on all sides of the street surrounding the corner café, with hues of green, yellow and orange colouring the ground.
Although not far from the busy High street, there was a strong neighbourhood and tucked-away vibe as I happily discovered parking not too far from the corner store, and realised with even more relief that there were no parking meters. What? I had even bought my stash of loose change just for the occasion. That would go back into my coffee change tin thanks.
The woman passing me with her milk as I set off with baby girl in pram, saying a friendly “hello,” only added to the lovely everybody-knows-your-name feel. And how true it is, don’t you wanna go. Tick and tick.
Arriving as I do everywhere with pram, I was happy to see there was only the slightest step leading into the café where my friend was waiting for me. However backing into the busy and crowded place was another story, and it was only after a polite woman waiting for her coffee held the door open for me that I was able to actually get both me and my girl in.
I’d happily read a review before going there that seating and parking were plentiful. Parking, yes. Seating? Not with pram. Maybe the reviewer meant the amount of seating, rather than the space surrounding the seating. I’d wondered if perhaps, on a lovely Saturday Autumnal morning, we should have phoned ahead. Inside it was tight with my pram, and only after shifting spots after a more abundant amount of space became available, did I become more at ease. There was seating out the front of the cafe, which would have been good, and my friend visited the loo which was out the back, where there was also more seating – apparently that was packed.
Get to the damn food, you say! Well I had the lovely
Brioche French toast, baked quince, rosewater custard, pistachio praline.
To no fault of their own, I ate my meal lukewarm because I tended to baby girl’s own food of apple and pear puree for a good while, after she stopped with her “mmm!”s. (Means more). Even so, it was slightly warm, the custard rosewater with quince, all melting together in the middle of the brioche. Not too sweet for brekkie, so it didn’t leave me with that sick feeling making me feel like I should have gone the savoury brunch route. It had praline that almost immediately reminded me of the praline atop the never-forget blueberry pancakes I had at Dukes sometime in the year 2012. Yes, I still remember. And the pistachio was sharp and crunchy, sweet, candied even? Yummo indeed.
My cappuccino was ok, it was only warm once I got to it (again, no fault of theirs) and as any Mum would attest to, the experience of drinking a fresh hot coffee while in a busy café entertaining your little one is akin to keeping your brand spankin’ new white heels clean on a rainy day. However my friend did tell me her first coffee before my arrival was cold, so her second was ordered ‘extra hot,’ and was happily, so she reported. I’ll forgive them for the lukewarm coffee, if only for the fact that the beans are Proud Mary’s.
I did love how virtually everything on the menu was using ingredients sourced from around our beautiful state. Massive bonus points in my book. Little pegs held descriptions of sandwiches and tarts in one display case, while another row of cute peg-descriptors (we’ll go with that) were in a cute row in front of the cash register, tempting you to cheekily go “oh, I’ll have one of those too please!” regarding the delicious cupcakes on offer. I resisted, my brekkie was sweet. And they were presented in a lovely looks-like-it-came-from-a-second-hand-shop chic jewellery display case. Kewl.
The only slightly annoying thing was when it came time to pay up front, the guy putting through our order took just a tad long, especially when he went away and came back with a whole bag of cash to put into his till. Fair enough mate, busy Saturday and all. However he took sooo long doing it, almost like there wasn’t a 6 person line behind me (and that took up half the space in the café). Maybe they’re going for the ‘look how busy we are look’ and want a line like that… but it was like that pretty much the whole time we were there.
Coffee: 7/10 (Points removed because food/coffee was lukewarm – not their fault I know – but it did remove from the experience, and I can’t give points for what could have been).
Ambience: Noisy, which suited me just fine with my girl doing a few rounds of vocal acrobatics.
Staff: Friendly and accommodating, especially with helping us move seats, answering our ingredient queries politely and offering ‘side’ options (when I wasn’t sure on going the ‘savoury’ route and was considering removing avocado from a meal – I like it, it just doesn’t like me), and of course anyone who comments on how cute my girl is gets extra ticks.
People: Mix of uni students, lovely people who moved out of my way with my pram (it’s all about the pram don’t you know), couples, and quite a few with little-ies, but those that were already walking. There was an older couple there, who fortunately left and gave us the fantastic seating when we moved. Cyclists came in too, and went straight for the paper hanging over the ladder near me. Checking if Autumn will keep up? Who knows.
Price: All up my meal was $19.60. Under 20 and it’s a great feed especially with the quality of the food on offer.
Advice: If going at a busy time of day (or just a busy day, like a weekend) maybe phone ahead. I saw a table with a reserved sign, so fairly sure that means they take bookings. Also, if you have a pram (or a posse, you may be P. Diddy) it’d be good for them to give you a spacious spot. We got lucky. If you’re a coffee snob (and let’s face it all the best people are) order your coffee extra hot. And lastly, ask for them to bring the bill to the table, and then let them pick up your tab so you don’t have to wait in a line up the front – unless you want to be tempted by the cupcakes. You do, don’t you?
In a nutshell, will I go back?: The café has character, sources local ingredients, has great parking close by, and I wouldn’t mind relocating to one of the many beautiful Edwardian houses nearby. Looking forward to going back with Hubbie.