Thursday, 4 July 2013

Stokers Coffee Lounge, South Melbourne

Stokers Coffee Lounge is a new cafe that has opened in South Melbourne on Clarendon St, relatively close to a number of other well known cafes such as St Ali's and Dead Man Espresso. It's right near the tram stop for the 112 tram towards St Kilda, about ten to fifteen minutes from the CBD. This is actually the second Stokers Coffee Lounge in Melbourne- there's also a store in Ivanhoe, though this one serves a range of savoury foods as well as desserts and coffee.

The atmosphere of the cafe is warm and inviting, with simple decorations hung up. The service was great, with friendly staff who were happy to recommend a range of dishes for us to try. The breakfast menu is available all day, and the lunch menu begins at 11am. The interesting thing about this menu is that crepes are used as a substitution to bread for most main meals, apart from the specialty french toast.




We decided on sharing to try a range of dishes, and went with the Chef's Special French Toast ($16) and the Trio Lamb ($19), as these were the top two recommended by the staff, and for dessert, the Creme Brulee ($8) and the Chocolate Fondant ($9). The french toast is made in house, and came with a range of seasonal fruits. It was a great dish that wasn't overly sweet, so you didn't get sick of it quickly. The toast seemed to be made from banana bread as opposed to normal bread, and was very moist, but not to the point of being soggy. There's also a slight crunchy texture to the french toast, and there was a good range of fruits, including strawberries, blueberries, kiwi and banana. The caramel drizzles accompanying the dish added extra flavour, but again, wasn't sickly sweet which was really good. 



The trio lamb consisted of pulled lamb, pureed kalamanta olive, eggplants with pumpkin puree and prosciutto on potato crepes. The olive and prosciutto one was probably my favourite out of the three, as it wasn't overly salty despite the amount of prosciutto on it, and there was a good strong olive flavour that combined really well with the lamb. My friend also liked this one, as well as the one on the potato crepe, though the crepe itself was quite chewy, and the lamb tended to be a bit dry at times. The eggplant and pumpkin puree one was quite sweet, and there was strong flavours of pumpkin, which in our opinion overpowered the subtle taste of the eggplant. It probably wasn't the best combination of flavours, but the puree had good texture and was very smooth, which was good. The dish also came with red cabbage on the side, which added extra crunch. It wasn't bitter at all, which was a nice surprise as I often assumed it to be so. 
    

Presentation is a big plus for the dishes of Stokers, with each dish looking immaculate,  and great attention to detail. However, the portions themselves weren't very filling, which is why we also went for dessert as well. The creme brulee, which consisted of vanilla custard with a crusty caramel top, was smooth, with a good vanilla flavour, though it could have been a bit stronger. The layer of hard caramel up the top was great; it wasn't too thick, and broke easily when tapped with a spoon. The creme brulee also came with fruit on the side as well as cream, though we weren't sure if that was just for decoration purposes. It did go well with the fruit, and was very light. Overall, this was an okay dish; nothing really stood out or gave it a wow factor. 



The chocolate fondant is a french style hot chocolate pudding with a molten middle, again, recommended by the staff to try. I loved seeing the chocolate ooze out from the pudding as soon as you cut it open, and it was of a nice smooth texture. Upon first taste, the fondant does not seem very sweet, though I do have quite a sweet tooth. It wasn't too dry, but I would've like it to be a little more moist. The fondant became quite heavy after a few bites, but this was balanced out somewhat with the fruits, almond crunch and praline on the side. I really liked the praline, it was thin and crispy, with a slight hint of an orange flavour. The strawberry coulis was also a nice touch, and wasn't too sweet, with strong fruity flavours. 



My friend also ordered a hot chocolate, which she thought was very good, especially for a cold winter's day. The milk was smooth, and the ratio of milk to chocolate was good. It went well with our meal in that it wasn't overly sweet, though if you were just having it by itself as a drink, it might not be sweet enough. 


    
This is a great little place that is definitely worth checking out if you're in the South Melbourne area. As we were there, quite a few people came by just to grab a coffee. Stokers is actually quite well known for its coffee, and emphasises on the different types they serve, such as cold drip, cold brew, and aeropress just to name a few. There is also a wide range of different seasonal teas, with an intricate method used to best extract the flavours from the tea leaves. 

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