“We didn’t want ropes hanging on the walls,” says Steve Rowley, co-owner of Plain Sailing, a new bayside cafe free of knotted cords and nautical embellishment. “We wanted beachy vibes without looking beachy.”
Rowley and his partners are veterans of creating cafes to which Melburnians flock. Together he and Matthew Vero, Kerrie Townley and Ryan Lording own Carnegie’s Left Field, but they’re responsible for a host of others, too: Touchwood, Tall Timber and Coin Laundry. Rowley and Vero are also involved in Fitzroy’s Marquis of Lorne and Union House in Richmond.
Plain Sailing is a gleaming corner diner at the base of a new apartment building, just a few hundred metres from Elwood Beach. (The team clearly likes this side of town: in a few months, they will open their second bayside cafe, in Sandringham).
Architect Fiona Drago is behind the elegant fit-out, which has east-facing floor-to-ceiling windows that wrap around the facade, drenching the space in light. The five-metre grey-speckled terrazzo bench is carried through in the terrazzo azure floor tiles, and brass finishings lend a little evening sophistication.
“Our philosophy has always been bringing something back to its former glory. You can see that with Marquis of Lorne, Coin Laundry – and we find that the community supports us really strongly with that,” says Rowley. “This is our first new build. We were very hesitant about coming into a new development, but we’re location-agnostic. It comes down to the site.”
“When the four of us saw this site we were like: ‘You know what? Done’,” adds co-owner Kerrie Townley.
“We’ve always seen a need for something great in the area, and this is the best side of the strip, and it really suits our style,” Rowley says.
Co-owner and chef Ryan Lording is heading the kitchen (also Left Field), offering brunches in his signature Middle Eastern-leaning, health-oriented and generous style.
“It’s about trying to evolve,” he says, “trying to take things up a level without getting to the pretentious level.” A few Tall Timber and Left Field staples, such as the pulled-pork Benedict, have made it onto the menu. A notable newbie is the deep-fried bao bun stuffed with peanut butter; cookies and cream; sitting atop a slice of banana bread.
Lording’s current favourite dish is a beetroot-cured ocean trout – a tumble of smashed peas, edamame, avocado, asparagus, feta and beetroot crisps, with poached eggs, toast, rosy slices of trout and dollops of a caper-and-dill pesto-like dressing. Come hungry.
But it’s a dukkah-roasted cauliflower steak with a herby quinoa salad and tahini yoghurt that has already laid claim to most popular plate.
A dinner menu is coming soon; Lording is excited to move into share-plate territory. He hints at lots of Middle Eastern-inspired slow-cooked meats, and whole fish.
144 Ormond Road, Elwood
(03) 9537 7060
Mon to Thu 7am–4pm
Sat & Sun 7.30am–4pm
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