A small, classically suburban shopping strip in northern Hadfield is home to an accounting firm, a takeaway pizza joint, and two (and there’s a third around the corner) hair salons.
But in the middle of this otherwise regular strip is a cafe that is anything but. In fact, even in a city known for the quality of its food and coffee, it could be argued that Middle Street is serving some of Melbourne’s best.
It’s not surprising when you consider owner and chef Simon Polkinghorne’s impressive background. He was apprenticed to Teage Ezard, before moving on to cook for Jacques Reymond, then St Jude’s Cellars in Fitzroy (now closed) and stints at George Calombaris’ restaurants.
It’s surprising Middle Street Food & Coffee has flew under the radar for so long. Simon and his wife Kirsty bought the site four years ago as a premises for their catering business, BBQ Bloke, but decided 18 months ago to turn the front part into a cafe.
Since then, while BBQ Bloke is churning out canapés in the back, the cafe out front is serving Allpress coffee, Dench pastries and a variety of beautifully plated breakfast items, salads, sandwiches, pastas, soups and so on, to some very happy locals.
It also functions as a food store, selling fresh Green eggs, Jonai Farms pork, Warialda beef and a beautiful selection of teas, drinking chocolates and the like.
Until now, the Middle Street menu has changed daily, but it’s moving towards more of a fixed menu in the next few weeks. It will be the same sort of exceptional fare (think mac’n’cheese with blue swimmer crab, truffles and fresh chives), but it will expand its offering. It’ll also continue to cater to any dietary requirements – particularly halal, in consideration of the local Middle Eastern community.
It will also keep its $25 Sunday special, which has quite a following. It’s a roast of some sort in winter or a barbeque in summer. It changes weekly, but a recent example consisted of rosemary and garlic marinated lamb loin chops, free-range chicken and Moroccan-spiced burgers, plus a range of salads and condiments.
“What we’re trying to reflect in our business, from the food to the service, is generosity,” says Simon. “The number one thing for me is flavour, but beyond that, our food has to be beautiful and it has to be generous. People need nourishment, and they want value.”
The Polkinghornes have plans for the place, too. At the moment, it might seat 30 at a squeeze – and that’s including pavement seating – so they want to add a communal table inside, and fix up the courtyard (it’s currently being used for storage). They also plan to move towards more of a wine-bar vibe in the evenings, serving liquor, cheese, charcuterie and eventually shared plates.
“Hadfield has that Yarraville potential,” says Simon. “It’s a quiet pocket in a semi-industrial area, there’s a lot of diversity and there are a lot of young families and young people. It has all the ingredients for a trendy little hub.”
Middle Street Food & Coffee
142 Middle Street, Hadfield
(03) 9304 2049