Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Diner-style café found in Coburg arcade.

Sunday, midday. The café was long, like a bus, with a row of tables down one side and the servery on the other. A mirror ran along the wall and wrapped around the back, giving air to an otherwise claustrophobic space.

Some tables spilled out on to the arcade, and there was an old coin-in-the-slot tractor for toddlers to sit on while their mother calms her nerves with a coffee. It's like something out of the 1970s; the very concept of a café in an arcade is dated. But there are no hipsters, and that is a huge advantage. Hipsters want a street frontage and a view while they yap into their devices and eat buffalo cheese and sweet tomato compote out of ramekin-like vessels.

Eddie was on his own. Staff are expensive when there are no customers. So far, we were the only customers. That is; me, Tracy, William, Thomas, Alexandra, and Erin. It was father’s day. I was being taken out for lunch on the cheap.

We ordered. Eddie got busy. An old, short Greek man and his wife drifted in, like two tired pigeons. They had come from the Orthodox church in Victoria Street. Eddie is Greek, so they have an affinity. They perched on a bench at the front. Another customer arrived with a child, who climbed onto the tractor.

Eddie buttered rolls, turned on burners, frothed milk. He was calm. But his customers are patient. They are old Coburg, some literally and some figuratively. The elderly, the tradesmen in fluoro vests, the checkout ladies from the supermarkets on their break. Also, the special needs people from the assisted accommodation on the other side of the railway line. There will never be a place like this again. I can’t see special needs people eating smoked salmon and blue cheese panini.

Eddie brought out the salad rolls. These were old-school, meaning they contained one of everything that could potentially be in a salad roll. A major feature: they contained beetroot. Eddie loves onions, so his salad rolls also encompass about half an onion each. This may be excessive for some tastes. But I gave the rolls five out of five. (Compare with bad salad roll experience.)

Old-school food is always accompanied by chips. Here they are fat, and of an appetizing pale yellow colour, crisping to nut brown at the edges. An initial crunch yields to a soft, steaming interior enhanced by liberal application of vinegar and salt. Pointedly, the chips arrived on an oval diner-style plate, courtesy Bristile super vitrified hotel china, made in Australia, with date-stamp underneath. You can’t kill these plates; and they don’t look ludicrous, like ramekins.

The elderly couple were pecking at their toasted sandwiches. Some takeaway customers came in and stood at the bar waiting. Eddie juggled brown paper bags, pans, knife and coffee machine.

Newspapers are supplied free for customers. I flicked quickly through the colour supplements. That weekend the supplements were fathers’ day special editions, because it ... editor briefs reporters ... was fathers’ day and you can generate four, six, eight, twenty pages, if you want, out of vapid interviews with fathers. Compulsorily, in today’s clichéd-journalism content, one page portrayed a small boy with two daddies. His eyes were bright, and he smiled for the camera with his two daddies. What kind of extraordinary contemporary self-regard can consign a child to motherlessness? Motherless children have a hard time, according to Blind Willie Johnson, when mother is dead, Lord. But this child’s mother wasn’t dead. I presume.

I threw the magazine back on its rack. Having seen off the takeaway customers, Eddie tipped pancake batter onto the flat grill. The pancakes arrived in two minutes, on invisible plates, because each pancake overlapped its edges, and was topped with twin mountains of plain white vanilla ice cream rising sheer out of a lake of maple syrup. Providentially, the boys were hungry, having spent the morning practising goal-keeping on the soccer pitch at the bottom of St Bernard’s valley, adjacent to the second football ground (in which has just been laid and sowed the new cricket pitch), while I walked laps. They could have eaten the vinyl of the seats. (Thomas, in fact, had already eaten his mother’s salad roll, minus onion.) The picture below is indicative, with Thomas in the shot for purposes of comparison, like a foot rule against a just-caught fish, as I don’t usually post pictures of food, especially in cafes. (Photographic credit: Erin.) The degree of difficulty in eating the whole pancake was judged: almost impossible. The boys proved the judges wrong. Alex helped with the ice-cream.

Size here is important, as reported by a commenter on a popular online restaurant t review site: "Swear to God, they (Twins Famous Burger) were as big as the MCG." The same reviewer estimated that Eddie was on first name terms with 90% of his customers.

Summary: Three adults, three children: forty bucks.

Twins Café. Foley’s Mall, 441 Sydney Road, Coburg. Experience it while you still can. Recommended: burgers the size of the MCG, chicken schnitzel sandwich, pancakes.


Melbourne Girl said...

HOLY MOLY. That pancake could feed the crowd at the MCG this Friday night
Go Cats

Dr. Alice said...

I may have to come back to Melbourne simply to eat there. That's my kind of place.

Martin Kennedy said...

Brilliant. I love your old school reviews. More of them please!