Rat the Cafe
Rat is an acronym for “root and tip”: a closed-loop operation where the whole vegetable is used and ingredient provenance rules supreme. They’re the creative parameters that owner and chef Callum MacBain set for himself when he opened this neighbourhood coffee shop and eatery in Thornbury.
Their menu changes daily based on leftover ingredients. The cafe sources the bulk of their produce from Days Walk Farm in Keilor and favours minimal-intervention processes.
Yesterday’s unused bread becomes tomorrow’s French toast served with poached rhubarb, whipped labneh made using milk left over from coffee-making, and pistachio croccante (brittle). Poached eggs come served with creamed beetroot tops, zesty radicchio and a crunchy pumpkin seed pangrattato. The beetroot leaves are then used in salads while the taproot (the main, red part of the beetroot plant) is pickled for garnishes, roasted for other dishes and even used in brownies. Sandwiches made with Wild Life naturally leavened bread are filled with roast pumpkin, sunflower cream, chilli oil and pomegranate; cheddar, apple and Dijon mustard; or Meatsmith smoked brisket and salad greens.
At the humble café, diners listen to an old record player spinning vinyl while eating from plates found in local op-shops, perched on bench seating crafted from recycled plywood by the owner himself. A blank canvas found in the building was painted by MacBain’s mother and now hangs in the hallway, depicting a rat dining at a family table.