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Friday, 20 February 2015

Fifty Acres

On my walk to work each morning, I often used to pop into Fifty Acres (65 Bridge Road, Richmond). Not only was it in a prime position for a coffee pit-stop en route to my work, but the coffee was actually good. If I sound surprised, it's because I'd never had good coffee anywhere along Bridge Road prior to finding this place.

Bircher muesli

Bridge Road is long, but seems to be a cup-half-empty sort of place: several abandoned shop sites, some big names sticking it out with determination, a sprinkling of not-very-impressive pubs/bars, and the occasional restaurant. Recently, it has picked up a bit with the addition of restaurants like Ladyboy Thai and Mister Jennings, and my personal favourites: a Gorman store and the Mt View rooftop (not new, but worth a mention!). But a decent cafe was certainly missing from the area, and Fifty Acres has stepped up to the mark, neatly positioned near the Punt Road end of Bridge so you can fuel up before your shopping spree.

Raisin toast

The name is a reference to the area's history, which I thought was a nice touch. The cafe itself is not huge, despite its spacious feel. Along most of one side of the interior runs the counter, which houses a pastry display, the till, and an impressive custom-branded La Marzocco coffee machine, and also offers seating along the bar. There are several tables down the other length of the venue and a couple more by the front window, bathed in pleasant natural light. At the back you'll find the always-gleaming kitchen, framed by a lovely pastel mint wall with rectangular patterning. Different types of wood feature in the venue's flooring, furniture and other fittings, while red brick on one wall provides visual warmth, and metal sheeting and lighting add a touch of industrial cool. The combined effect is something like "schmick country house meets art nouveau-industrial" (how's that for a descriptor?!).

Interior design was by Georgia Nowak and Dhiren Das of Abbotsford's Tone and Co, and graphic design by Sue Palmer of branding agency Liquid Creativity. It's not all interior though - Fifty Acres boasts some footpath seating - not the most comfortable furniture, however it is accompanied by thoughtful amenities such as umbrellas and heaters to cope with Melbourne's climatic fickleness.

Crumpets with preserves

Most of my impressions of Fifty Acres centre around the coffee, which is carefully prepared by owner and barista, Nick Gaoutsos. The business is his first solo cafe venture, although he had amassed years of experience working in multiple others. Originally it was to be an espresso-focused cafe with afternoon tea options available, but Gaoutsos decided to enlist Andrew Smith as chef and hence there are now quite fancy seasonal breakfast and lunch options on offer. While there is not an extensive menu, the food has flair and the presentation is sweet and clean. The house blend of coffee is by Dukes - always smooth and inoffensive, and nicely made - and additional guest roasts are regularly rotated.

Dad with his brekkie :)

When my family visited in late November, we stopped for a quick breakfast at Fifty Acres. It was a chilly morning and there were no free tables inside when we arrived. Despite the heaters outside, we requested to be moved in when one became available. Staff were as accommodating as possible, and before our food arrived, our request was granted (keeping my parents happy!). We didn't opt for a fancy or huge breakfast, but enjoyed our respective crumpets, raisin toast and Bircher muesli. So pretty!

Seasonal Bircher muesli

Fifty Acres is a welcome addition to Bridge Road. Open seven days.

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