Nestled in the beautiful suburbs of Balwyn just minutes outside of the city, you could easily overlook one of the most interesting cafés in Melbourne. Having opened in September 2013, Scarvelli has been serving delicious food to a very health conscious clientele.
Scarvelli use the fascinating concept of farm to plate, something I must admit I was unaware of. You see in this model, most of the food that you eat comes directly from a farm owned by restaurant. In this way, many variables can be tweaked (temperature for food growth etc) and there’s a direct accountability of where the food is coming from with a good contol of the kinds of fertilizers being used. If this means better farming methods for a more sustainable landscape then I’m all for it!
I was invited down to this amazing café to talk about where they intend on going after being open for 2 years. And whilst the food was free, there was no request for reviews or anything. However, eating here was an experience in itself and something to behold.
In this time, I had the pleasure of speaking to the head chef, Josh, Marketing manager, Carlos and my attentive Restaurant Manager, Danielle.
The first impression of the cafe is the amazing artwork on the outside walls. The intricate details in it should have been a clue but it only came to fruition (oh yeah, pun intended) upon writing this review. The concept of farm to plate is encapsulated perfectly in that one image.
For a café, I found Scarvelli to be teeming with life. Ladies in active wear were coming and going. The locals and regulars made great conversations and the air was almost always punctuated with laughter.
Carlos asked me what kind of coffee I’d like and I chose the strong latte. Using the coffee from Industry beans, I found the taste quite beautiful and sweet with the toffee and blackberry really shining through.
The coffee art and presentation when it arrived was impeccable! And I loved their cutlery.
Furthermore, they were using the lights I love. Clearly, I was smitten. They were doing all the right things.
One of the great features of this cafe is the wonderful and quaint backyard space that they have. It has the feel of being in the countryside without leaving the city. On dislay they have the various vegetables and herbs that they grow on their farm, a good reminder of what it is that the restaurant stands for. The rest of the outdoor settings is akin to having a family gathering in your own backyard. A nice touch if I must say so myself. The icing on the cake? The bowl of water for our furry four legged compatriots. Scarvelli had won my heart.
Within the store, you could see many of their own treats which showed amazing foresight on their behalf. They were making their own product lines which included their own pastries and their own line of sauces. I was so in love with their offering that I immediately decided to grab and taste each of their creations once I left.
During this time, I got a chance to chat with Josh the head chef. Hailing from Little Boy Blue, Josh joined Scarvelli when the owner Claire, through mutual friends asked him to join her cafe. The best thing about working in this environment has been the challenge to make the food light, healthy and interesting. Besides, based on the clientele, Josh found it good to have the constraint of working different ways of making eggs stand out. (More on this, but for now, my novice mind could not fathom how many ways you can cook eggs. But hey, I’m not a chef).
His favourite dishes are the chilli eggs and the wild salmon – two of the most popular dishes on the menu. Furthermore, using fresh varied ingredients that Claire would bring him to work with, always fuelled his creativity in delivering high quality, light and healthy meals.
Given that everything is focused on the footprint, the quality of the beef and lamb show an attention to detail that I found present in only one of my other reviews previously.
I was grateful to Josh – the orders were coming thick and fast and he still had time to have a chat. Thanks so much!
And then my brunch arrived: Salmon Breakfast. Torn wood fired wild salmon with a poached egg, salad of crisp polenta gems, avocado, quinoa and cress charred corn and seeded mustard salsa. My gawd it looked amazing. The smell alone was intoxicating and out of nowhere, an insatiable appetite took over. The slow cooked salmon just melted in your mouth whilst the various flavours exploded on your palette. The polenta gems are crispy on the outside but soft and fluffy on the inside. And to top it off, I became a fan of quinoa.
And, egg and salmon? I was a little dubious. Until the bite. The runny egg, mixed with the delectable taste of the wood fire salmon…. is simply irresitible. This would have to be the first time that I have ever stopped my writing of a review whilst eating. I just sat there and savoured all the flavours. Even when I was reaching capacity, I knew I couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t. I can’t. I had to finish every last piece of food on that plate.
During this time, I actually witnessed something phenomenal. This was the first time that any cafe has ever been utterly attentive to their customers. Their average response time was 18 seconds. The longest being 20 seconds. Yes, I counted. And once you were served, if you chose to sit, they came to you to get your order or help you decide within a minute or two. Furthermore, I liked their approach of setting the table once you sit down and having that conversation to see what you’d like or if you had been here before. That conversation. That human connection. I honestly believe that some of the other cafes inside of the city could learn a thing or two.
Carlos did come to check up on me and ensured I was having a good time, and I asked him a few questions too. He has been with Scarvelli for over a year and the thing that he likes most about the restaurant is all the other side things that Claire has got him involved in. There’s the upcoming book launch (December 2015) and the farm to plate concept. In this time, Carlos has become better at Marketing and is looking forward to growing the Scarvelli brand.
Well, you don’t have to worry about that. The food, service and atmosphere speaks for itself. It was an absolute pleasure dining here and I will be encouraging all my readers to come here.