Glass Merchants, Balaclava

12/23/2015 , 0 Comments

Glass Merchants is an all day eatery/cafe in Balaclava, located on Nelson Street just off Carlisle Street. It's a five minute walk from Balaclava Station on the Sandringham line, and also easily accessible by tram 16. The cafe is best known for its use of local produce, and for its speciality coffees.

The cafe itself has a really chic interior, having been transformed into a cafe from a warehouse. There are colourful decorations all around, with a bunch of umbrellas to one side, plants hanging from the ceilings and music playing in the background. The cafe is brightly lit, and has a relaxed yet lively atmosphere. We went around 1045am on a Sunday and didn't have to wait for a table, being seated at the long communal table near the entrance.

The menu at Glass Merchants is quite extensive and there's a good range of both breakfast and lunch dishes, as well as coffee, tea, juice and alcoholic drinks. Breakfast is served until 3pm, and the lunch menu begins at 11am. As we were a little early for lunch, my friends and I all went with dishes from the breakfast menu. We decided on the Smashed Avo ($16), the Macho Breakfast ($19) and the Lady Merchant ($17.50), and also ordered the Pear, Apple, Mint and Lemon juice and the Pineapple, passionfruit and orange juice (both $8). The pear and apple juice was really freshing, and the mint and lemon flavours were present but not overpowering at all. The pineapple, passionfruit and orange juice felt a bit like drinking a Frosty Fruit icypole, and was also really refreshing. You could really taste both the pineapple and passionfruit flavours, and there was also passionfruit seeds down the bottom.

The Smashed Avo dish came with whipped feta, char-grilled baby corn and sirracha oil, and my friend also ordered a side of mushrooms to go with it. The crunch of the baby corn added texture to the dish and the natural flavours came through but wasn't too strong, and it was good that the feta was on the side, so you could choose how much of it you wanted to have with the rest of your dish. However, the toast was cold and not crunchy at all, and actually become soggy under all the avo. The avocado itself was good; not too smashed that it was mushy, and had a generous serving. The mushrooms were served in a separate bowl to the actual dish, and were only warm - you could tell it hadn't come out of the pan directly and by the end of the meal, they had all gone completely cold. They did have really good flavour though, and the portion decent for the extra $3.50 it cost.

The Macho Breakfast consisted of marinated steak, panko crumbed eggs, spinach and spicy pumpkin jam. The pumpkin jam wasn't so much a jam as it was just mash, and initially was really delicious as it was nice and sweet with a good pumpkin flavour. By the end though, it got too sweet and was just too much, and it wasn't actually spicy at all. Only one of the eggs was runny when cut open, but it wasn't overcooked and tasted great. The steak was quite well done (but not to the point of being tough), and went well with the crunchy toast. The spinach and tomatoes helped balance out the dish, so it didn't feel too heavy.

The Lady Merchant dish was made up of hash browns, smoked ocean trout, confit tomatoes, fennel puree, house made cashew hummus and lemon oil. The hash browns were really enjoyable with the crispy outer layer constrasting with the soft potato and it was interesting because they came in small balls instead of the typical flat style. The trout was cooked perfectly and quite fresh, though I couldn't tell at all that it was smoked. The fennel puree had a smooth texture but didn't have much flavour (I actually thought it was avo at first), but the cashew hummus was really delicious, with its slightly sweet flavour balancing out the other saltier elements of the dish. There was also what appeared to be a beetroot relish on the side which was a little salty, and the dish was also served with kale and watercress, which added texture.

For the most part it was quite an enjoyable experience at Glass Merchants, though service really needs improvement. Our dishes came surprisingly fast, though the people at our communal table had to ask for their food as they had been waiting quite long. Also another thing that could really be worked on; I noticed that at least 80% of orders were going to the wrong people while we were there. The tables don't have numbers on them and the staff weren't sure who ordered what, so took the drinks/food to the wrong people. Luckily it didn't happen to us, but as it happen to multiple people I thought it should definitely be mentioned. There's a good range of food and I'd like to come back to try some of the other things, but there are also areas that could be improved.

Ambience: 8/10
Service: 6/10
Food: 7.5/10
Price: 7.5/10

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