So, you guys already know I’m going to rave about this place right? I mean, you’ve seen their Instagram feed too; I’ve been dreaming about that Nutella Panna cotta for WEEKS! I’m so new to Melbourne I’m not entirely sure where Camberwell is, let alone Legacy, so while I did go to Penta with some preconceived ideas, I certainly wasn’t basing my expectations on past experiences or knowledge.
Penta is on a quiet side street in Elsternwick, opposite a kids play area. It’s on the kind of road you’d walk past 100 times and not even realise there’s anything down there, even if you did walk down the street, there’s nothing about the place that screams “culinary delights”. The glass fronted cafe has an industrial interior, but it’s neither cold, nor unwelcoming and I was left with the overall impression of simple, modern decor. Unassuming is the word I’d settle on.
We went on a weekday morning and although we got seated straight away it was busy – far busier than any of the nearby places we passed (stories of 20-30 minute waits at weekends don’t surprise me). Service was really good, we were greeted as soon as we stepped foot through the door, received menus and water within minutes and our order was taken in a timely fashion. I really couldn’t fault it, the staff were keen, attentive and available without being overbearing – it seems Penta may have taken early comments of disinterested staff and poor service to heart.
Ok, the food. I went for the (above mentioned) Nutella Panna cotta while Mr. Boring went for his usual scrambled eggs on sour dough. Now there is an advantage to him ordering the same thing everywhere we go, it acts as a good baseline test. The eggs were “nice and thick” and when asked how the sour dough was: “Well, I ate it”, with the added bonus of “I like the plates, they are nice and flat”. After a bit of digging, this roughly translated to the eggs were well cooked, not to dry or crumbly, the portion size was generous and then sour dough was crisp without being difficult to cut (hence the “I ate it” comment as he’ll normally just leave it if it’s too hard). One of his favourites, among the many places he’s eaten this exact brunch meal!
Now I had very high hopes for my panna cotta, and I am delighted to say Penta did not disappoint. Aside from it being possibly the most photographic and beautiful looking thing I’ve ever eaten, it tasted amazing. It’s kind of like a solidified chocolate fondue, set out beautifully on a plate. It’s sweet and is definitely just as much a dessert as it is a breakfast food, but for someone who has been advocated chocolate for breakfast for years now, it was a big win! The nut butter banana sushi were the highlight for me as they added both interesting texture and flavour, but every single element on the plate worked well with the panna cotta and provided enough variation that the dish didn’t become boring, or overpowered by the chocolatey nutella. Price wise it came to about $45, which is pushing my limit for brunch (especially when one of the dishes is eggs on sour dough) and it certainly won’t be something I’ll be eating every day but we both agreed the food was high quality and it was one of the nicest brunches we’ve had in Melbourne.
I went in to Penta expecting to love the food, but be underwhelmed by the whole experience. I expected disinterested staff and an overly trendy, stuck up feel of somewhere that knows it’s the place to be. Instead I got the quiet, determination of a place that knows it’s built on strong foundations (the food) and staff who treated an old lady drinking a coffee and reading her morning paper with the same care and grace as the couple who ordered half the menu (NOT ME, before you ask). I feel this says a lot about a restaurant, how they treat those who aren’t spending a lot or who are hogging a table for a long time and Penta got two great big thumbs up for this in my opinion!