You know those stories about women who go turn up at the doctor's with a touch of heartburn, and the doc tells them they're nine months pregnant? Who the bloody hell are they, I want to know. How can you withstand forty (plus) gruelling weeks of cankles, mood swings and twelve wee breaks a night without noticing that something was cooking in the oven? (Obviously I do not adore being pregnant!) But I kind of feel like one of those completely oblivious (and perhaps lucky) chicks when I was told there was a new cafe opening on Essex Street. The Essex Street I drive or walk down at least once per day. How could I have not known?!
Of course, if you have a bath and a baby pops out, that would be somewhat of a shock. Realising there is somewhere with a classically trained French chef and Proud Mary coffee just a hop, skip and a jump away was equally a shock - and just as equally a delightful one. WeFolk, meet your new family member, Brother Nancy.
Firstly, I LOVE the name. So fresh and cute! Although there are a few Melbourne cafe tropes like succulents in jars and a communal table, the interior doesn't have a cookie-cutter Melbourne cafe feel. There's a real freshness in the slightly unusual wooden chairs, the interesting parquet-style woodwork on the bench, and the little pops of green on the clock, the stools or the espresso cups.
Now, Melbourne. I know you probably want to see some #yolkporn. You probably want to see some smashed avo. (Maybe you don't. I know I couldn't care less if I ever ate another serve of sodding smashed avocado with effing Meredith feta.) But - Brother Nancy have BEEF TARTARE. That is crazy impressive for a cafe in the deep heart of West Footscray.
It is also one of my favourite things in the entire world, and this one was incredible. It's 100% raw beef, and here it's given a little bit of an Asian spin by being ever so gently spiked with sesame and Thai basil. I know people like to go on about food being sexy, which normally I absolutely cannot stand - what is sexy about a cake? A bowl of pasta? - but this beef tartare was so silky, so smooth and supple, it was a seriously sexy meal. My only complaint is such a studly dish deserves a plate mate with a bit more personality than mesclun mix (I told this to the owner - in between swoons).
The rest of the menu is really interesting. There are some potential crowd-pleasers (like the "fish and chip burger - brioche bun, cos, aioli") but there's also a watermelon and tomato gazpacho, and the "Chapin breakfast" with fried plantains, scrambled eggs and black beans. The chef, Jordi, is French, "has travelled the world" and has previously worked at Philippe Mouchel's PM24. His specialty is desserts. Ooh la la!
Coffee is Proud Mary and quite good - maybe could have been a touch less hot, just to let the sweet milk really mingle with the evidently quality coffee. But this will still be the first of many.
Leigh, Jordi and team are open tomorrow prior to their official opening day, this Saturday at 7am. Go easy on 'em, WeFo!
Brother Nancy (Facebook page)
182 Essex Street, West Footscray
Hours: Wed-Mon 7am-4.30pm (closed Tues, but check this with them!)