One thing I love about Melbourne is if you wait long enough to go to a restaurant, the restaurant will eventually come to you – or it’s little sister will! Glass Den in Coburg has been on my to-visit list for months, so imagine my delight when they decided to put their new addition to the family, Butler’s Den, a 15 minute walk from my house.
Taking over the old La Porchetta unit (thank God!) they were already on to a winner with the great beach-side location and sea views. There’s a real lack of anywhere to get a good coffee near Elwood beach without venturing into the village, so it’s a bit like all my dreams have come true! The refit is simple – they’ve painted a couple of walls, and generally prettied up the place a little but I doubt anyone would notice the decor with the beautiful ocean just outside.
It’s a good sized unit and boasts a reasonable outside seating area. Internally the endless windows keep it bright and vibrant. The atmosphere was buzzing with a mix of locals stopping by after a walk along the beach and foodie tourists clearly desperate to try out this new spot. People tended to flood over to the tables offering the sea views, so choose the opposite side of the cafe if you want a quieter atmosphere.
Service still had a little bit of a stilted feel that you get with a new place and you saw occasional flashes of panic across the staffs faces when they nearly took food to the wrong table, but all that’s forgivable, everyone has to learn. We received a prompt, bright and vibrant welcome, and despite their obvious inexperience staff were attentive, knowledgeable and eager to please. It will be lovely to watch the staff fall into their stride over the coming weeks as their confidence grows. I feel Butler’s Den could potentially become a force to be reckoned with.
The food: Well Mr. Boring ordered his usual. Although after forcing him to spend some time around foodies this week, he did manage to make several offerings about the quality of his food:
- He liked how his sourdough came separate to his scrambled eggs.
- The scrambled eggs were good as they had a subtle cheese flavour.
- The bacon was very flavourful.
- The plates are the same as Penta (and we all know he loved Penta’s plates!)
I ordered the Sweet Garden Board and it did not disappoint. The French toast churros were crisp and light and offered something different from the typical French toast/hot cakes sweet breakfast option. The simple accompaniments worked well, and by having it on a sweet tooth section of the menu it allowed them to make it unreservedly sweet and dessert like without having to try and shoehorn in those “breakfasty” elements that some places do (and that so often ruin an otherwise good dish).
The presentation was exquisite, and the raspberry coulis filtered through so all my french toast churros were nicely covered, not just the top one! The meringues were a little chewy and I would like to have seen these a little more crisp but they added a pretty element to the dish and I’m glad they were there. The green stuff (not sure what it was, I didn’t really pay attention) was a bit excessive and didn’t really bring anything to this dish – although I do see how it fitted in with the “garden” theme one or two pieces would have been fine. The Artisan ice-cream was top notch, and was the highlight of the dish for me. Overall, it was one of the more enjoyable sweet breakfasts I have enjoyed lately and despite having a lot of sweet elements it didn’t tip that balance into sickly or over-complicated, and felt like a decadent treat.
The menu is fresh and creative. It includes those breakfast standards like eggs your way, but throws in a few creative dishes such as the Crab Benny Crumpet. Both breakfast and lunch are served all day and the eclectic menu offers something for everyone. At $23 for my Sweet Garden Board it is a little pricey – but then it’s Elwood and it’s a prime location so I suppose this is to be expected – however, it may stutter its success among locals with so many excellent and more affordable options nearby.
To be honest, they could have replaced La Porchetta with Starbucks and it would have been an improvement, however Butler’s Den is a great fit with the location and the area. What would bring me back: the friendly service, the gorgeous location and the choice of good food available. What would stop me returning: the price – while the food is undoubtedly very good, the price is also undoubtedly over-inflated (Hardware Societe’s fried brioche is $18, Penta’s Panna Cotta is $18.50, I could go on…). Overall, Butler’s Den will be a hit for those looking for a treat, an instagrammable dish and a lovely view (or for those not concerned with their bank balance), but I fear without a few changes, it could ultimately lose out to the other big dogs in the Melbourne brunch world who do better for less. The food was pretty good – Butler’s Den more than holds its own, but if you’re charging me $5 more than the best I’m expecting better than the best!