Although new cafe Nelson is Julien Moussi and Tony Pantano’s first eatery in Box Hill, the pair are no strangers to the area. They grew up playing football at the local sports field.
“I’ve spent my life mostly on this side of the Yarra,” Moussi says. “We’re here because of our knowledge of the area. I’m so comfortable in Box Hill, and we like sticking with what we know.”
Nelson is the seventh cafe for Moussi, joining Bentwood in Fitzroy, My Other Brother in Camberwell, Clubhouse and Winter in Malvern, Stanley in Mount Waverley and Crew in Burleigh, on Queensland’s Gold Coast, as part of the Only Hospitality Group.
Executive chef Nicky Campbell is also part-owner here, and her menu is filled with reimagined brunch classics and a few favourites from Nelson’s sibling cafes.
Nutella oozes out of the crispy Hong Kong-style egg waffle – a hawker-style dish with two conjoined, half-spheres of cooked batter stuck together to make an egg-like form – and it’s topped with a tart raspberry puree, brûléed banana slices, fresh strawberries and chopped pistachios. Another sweet dish is toasted Noisette sourdough with fresh mascarpone, maple syrup, and grilled figs and peaches.
“I love simplicity. It’s all about the freshness of the produce, and figs are fantastic right now because they’re in season,” Moussi says.
On the savoury side, salmon is pan-fried until the skin is crisp, then brushed with sriracha and finished off in the oven. It’s served on a bed of raw zoodles (zucchini noodles), edamame and avocado with a honey-mustard and herb dressing. There’s also chilli scrambled eggs with bacon, fried shallots, Vietnamese mint and coriander; and fried chicken on cheddar waffles slathered with spicy honey butter.
At the front counter there are gluten-free brownies, croissants, baguettes (caprese, salami and tomato, or poached chicken and herb mayo), egg and bacon muffins and toasties (try the Reuben or the cheesy chipotle chicken) for an easy grab-and-go option.
The Hong Kong-style egg waffle is the only item that hits the $20 mark. The cafe is a stone’s throw away from the local hospital and TAFE, so the team wants to keep prices accessible to the nurses, ambos and students nearby. Takeaway coffee is $3, and Spritzes, Espresso Martinis and Bellinis are $10 each during happy hour on Friday afternoons.
Interior design studio Zunica designed the 60-seater space. There’s a slight brutalist feel, with concrete flooring and cinderblock walls, but ample sunlight, white tiling and white tube lighting overhead brightens the space.
Take a seat on one of the dark-leather banquettes that run along one wall, or on one of the handcrafted forest green stools at the terrazzo tables. Walls and shelving come in the same muted green.
“This is the first time we’ve used this shade of green, and it’s got a calming effect to it,” Pantano says. “We want people to come here and feel like they can escape from their busy lives.”
12–14 Nelson Road, Box Hill
03 9898 2078
Sat to Thu 6.30am–4pm