Lunch and coffee with an old friend. Coincidentally we met some of my classmates, who were dining there at the same time. Popular place, even when it was well past normal lunch time (we only got seats inside at about 2pm)!
Location: 417 Sturt St (the main street in CBD of Ballarat!) - see map
Website: official website - not particularly informative as it was last updated in 2001! Read urbanspoon reviews, food blog entry with lots of good pictures and a review of the coffee at L'espresso.
Price: ~$5 for drinks, $15-$20 for mains at lunch. Below is the full menu for lunch:
Caffee latte - my friend ordered this, and says the coffee was good and not burnt. I'm not going to pretend to know the subtle differences between what makes a "good" and "bad" coffee haha.
Vanilla milkshake - one of the better quality ones I've had recently. Good balance of milk and ice cream, not too sweet, not too much vanilla flavour. Served in a metal cup like everywhere else.
Soup of the day - ham hock and vegetable minestrone was the soup of the day. Generous sized bowl served with delicious slices of homemade garlic bread - wow the garlic bread was good, with just the right amount of flavour. The texture of the bread was crunchy and fresh at the same time. The soup was tasty and warm, which was nice because it was a cold day! There was a healthy mix of vegetables including celery, carrots; also, there were strands of noodles within the soup, which I felt was strange but I guess it helps you feel full after the meal.
Scrambled free range eggs with smoked salmon - "served on Irrewarra sourdough". A simple but delightful dish. Fluffy eggs, and it worked well with the smoked salmon. Only concern was that the egg had a strange smell - like the burnt plastic smell you get sometimes while cooking... mmm.
Other: the cafe is cosy, with indoor and outdoor seating. But very dark even when the sun was at its brightest - I suppose it could set the mood, but I felt it was so dark that I had trouble appreciating the visual appeal of the food. Would sit near the window if I had a choice (outside is too coooold). Also note that L'espresso seems very popular! and you may need to wait for awhile to get seats. I would suggest not going during peak times (eg. 12:30 to 1:30). Not sure how the food is for breakfasts and dinners, but from word of mouth - they have "amazing" eggs at breakfast, and not so good pancakes.
Rating: 4.5/5 really enjoyed my experience at the cafe. Liked the food, although my friend complained the lack of solid meat dishes at lunch (great variety of salads though haha). The seating would have been more pleasant if it was a tad less crowded, and dark.