Cafe Gaia, South Yarra

12/23/2015 , 0 Comments

Cafe Gaia is a small cafe in South Yarra, about a five minute walk from South Yarra Station and tram 8, in the third side street on the right if you're walking away from Toorak Road. I decided to visit this cafe as I was visiting Adriano Zumbo's Patisserie (again!), and my friend saw that this was the second most popular cafe in the area. For the most part I was happy with my experience here, though there could be some improvements to service.

We went on a Saturday around 11:30am, and waited about ten minutes for a table. The cafe has seating both inside and out, and the outside seating is in a deck like area, all covered so it wouldn't matter if it rained. Service was not the best; a couple came after us and were told to wait, but were asked if they wanted to order coffee while they waited. It was only after the couple made their order that a member of staff asked if we too wanted to order something until a table was ready for us. Also, when we were seated, it took awhile to get the attention of the staff members to take our orders; they seemed to keep walking around but not doing too much.

We were seated at the outside tables, and there was a good atmosphere with the chatter from all the customers, and the occasional car going past in the street. The interior of the cafe looked bright and comfortable, and quite spacious with tables not being too squashed together.

Both the breakfast and lunch menus are served all day on weekends, and on weekdays the cutoff time is 12pm. Both of my friends decided on the pork belly sandwich ($17.50), as it is one of the most popular menu items at Cafe Gaia, and I went with the Ace's Big Breakfast ($21). My friend also ordered a flat white ($3.70), and I got a fresh orange juice ($6). The drinks came out really quickly, and with the orange juice, you could tell it had been freshly squeezed because of the lovely orange flavour and the pulp, though it would've been nice to have a bit more ice in the drink, as I find that it helps to bring out the orange flavour even more.

The pork belly sandwich came with coleslaw and a beetroot relish, and was quite a big portion for the price. The brioche bread used in the sandwich was really delicious, toasted slightly for a crisp texture and with a subtle sweet taste that balanced out the savoury pork flavours really well. The sandwich was cut in half so it would be easier to eat, however by the time you got to the second half of the sandwich, the bread had become slightly soggy from all the ingredients. The pork was infused with the coleslaw really well; you couldn't see it distinctively just by looking, but there was a great combination of flavours and textures from the crunch of the coleslaw and mustard seeds to the pork cuts and the soft fluffy bread. Despite mustard seed not being listed as one of the elements of the dish, you could taste its flavour quite distinctively. Because all the elements of the sandwich were combined really well, each bite was a bit different in taste, and even within each bite, the more you chewed, the more the different flavours and textures came out. The amount of coleslaw did get a bit much by the end however, as it was quite creamy and made both my friends feel a bit sick. The salad that came with the sandwich was average, though it did help to complement the heavier flavours of the dish.

The big breakfast came with bacon, chorizo, mushrooms, slow-roasted tomatoes, avocado and poached eggs, and was served on toast. I felt there was a really generous portion for the price of the big breakfast, and there was a good ratio of all the elements. The poached eggs weren't as runny as what I am usually used to at cafes, but it still went well with the bread. The bacon wasn't too salty or fatty and went well with the sweetness of the mushrooms and the slight acidity of the tomatoes, so that every bite had a good balance of flavours to it. The chorizo wasn't spicy but had good strong flavours, though it was a little on the salty side, and the bread had quite a hard crust that was difficult to cut into, so I ended up using my hands to eat it.

Despite the slight downsides in terms of service, the food in general was enjoyable, and I'd like to visit this cafe again to try some of the other items on the menu. Worth visiting if you're in the South Yarra area!

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