Northern Perk is situated near the top end of Brunswick’s Sydney Road shopping precinct. Tucked away in a row of shops and cafes it almost appears as a tiny little venue with a few tables, until you realise it opens out further back and also has both a cute upstairs and outdoor courtyard seating area. It has the feel of your typical Melbourne cafe. Internally there’s nothing much to make it stand out from the many other cafes, it’s busy but not overly so, and most people seemed to be able to get a table without much of a wait, even on a Sunday morning.
Service was pleasant enough. Front of house staff were prompt and quite friendly, but a little unaware and we had to flag them down to order additional drinks as they did not notice we had finished. The wait for our food was also quite long, over 30 minutes. I think this was due to what we had ordered, and as we weren’t in a rush it was fine, but a warning when we ordered that this dish would take 30 minutes would have been helpful, as I can imagine some people would find this quite annoying.
We ordered the trademark tower for 2 – as did almost everyone in the restaurant. There is a good variety of food, mixing you traditional breakfast items: bacon, eggs your way, avocado, hash browns, with some middle eastern inspired flavours, such as the flatbread, hummus and grilled tomato with halloumi – and obviously for your sweet tooth there is the pancakes on top. For $24 per person, the amount of food you get is very good value. Unfortunately, the quality of the food is quite average. It’s very much a quantity over quality kind of dish. The poached eggs on sourdough were the highlight, and the eggs were lifted with a little spice on top. The bacon and mushrooms were fine, as were the spinach, flatbread and dips – the hummus was a particular highlight. I quite enjoyed the grilled tomato and halloumi too. Chorizo was a little overcooked and was slightly dry, and the hashbrowns were cheap (they tasted like Macca’s) and again were overdone. The pancakes themselves were enjoyable, but ruined by the frozen fruit topping and sweet sticky glaze. Some fresh fruit and a scoop of mascapone, or icecream would have been much better (I should have tipped the ice cream cone over on to the pancakes, but didn’t think of this until later).
Overall, I liked the look of it and the idea, but I feel Northern Perk have almost shot themselves in the foot, as it practically impossible to get so many elements of a dish great – particularly when you are making it for an entire cafe. I would happily return to the cafe, there were elements of the tower that were enjoyable, however, I’d opt for something smaller off the menu, in the hopes it would be a little higher quality and better prepared. Great parlour trick, but not the dish to go for if you’re a true foodie!