Pope Joan, a historical female figure who supposedly reigned as leader of the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, is still shrouded by mystery, legend and a good dose of Catholic guilt.

Pope Joan the cafe, that opened last Friday in East Brunswick, is far from a mystery but could well become legendary. Its owners - outgoing head chef of St Kilda’s Circa, Matt Wilkinson, and Carlton’s Kent Hotel general manager, Ben Foster - have put their seal of experience on an unassuming strip on Nicholson Street.

The cafe was most recently a private residence and when the boys found it they also took the laneway and the building next door. Keep an eye out for the bar, The Bishop of Ostia (Pope Joan’s illegitimate son), to open later in the year.

Foster designed the room - there’s lots of wood, retro cooking equipment on high shelves and a back wall of stunning black-and-white Moroccan tiles - all creating an immediate sense of comfort and style.

Wilkinson’s ethos, built around creating seasonal dishes with skill and respect for the product, will be carried over to Pope Joan, “I’ll do what I’ve always done,” says Wilkinson. “Everything we do is seasonal, if tomatoes aren’t in season they’re not going on the menu, same with avocado...everything.”

What you can expect is a way-above-average breakfast menu: poached egg, smoked fish roesti and herb salad; a crumbed coddled egg, anchovy and black pudding salad, and a constantly changing list of blackboard specials for lunch of sandwiches and seasonal salads. Welcome the new Pope Joan, no mystery and certainly no guilt.

Pope Joan
77-79 Nicholson Street, East Brunswick
(03) 9388 8858

Daily 7.30am-late afternoon