Cafe Lafayette, Niagara Lane, Melbourne

Eat, Melbourne / 18 February 2020

It’s a technicolour neon dream at this Japanese brunch spot.

Walking down Niagara Lane is like taking a step back in time to Melbourne’s early days. Fenced in by towering, heritage listed warehouses – all bi-chromatic brickwork and high arches – it’d be easy to slot another very Melbourne cafe into this very Melbourne laneway. But Niagara Lane’s newest brunch spot, Cafe Lafayette, is a breath of fresh, sweet, and very neon air on the cafe scene.

From the team behind Prahran’s all-you-can-eat Japanese fave, Grand Lafayette, Cafe Lafayette is the chill, casual little sibling for the cool kids in the know. And, like all little siblings, Cafe Lafayette loves a little drama.

The muted brick exterior belies the vibrance going on inside at Cafe Lafayette. When you step through the neon illuminated doorway, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped inside a night club. The black interior and neutral tone lighting works two fold: giving the venue an ultra modern, neo-noir vibe, whilst also providing the ideal surrounds for Instagrammable pics – once you see Cafe Lafayette’s picture perfect creations, you’ll want to get snapping!

Dishes at Cafe Lafayette

So, what can you expect from a Japanese inspired brunch spot with a French name? The unexpected. Even a quick glance at the menu lets you know you’re in for something a little bit out of the ordinary. Though the brunch dishes seem familiar initially – French toast, benedict, chicken and waffles et al – the point of difference is in the use of traditional Japanese ingredients like matcha, yuzu, mentaiko, and tamagoyaki among others.

Traditional ingredients? Yes. But traditional Japanese dining this is not. Dining at Cafe Lafayette is like riding Space Mountain with Hello Kitty and Willy Wonka sitting beside you. The Japanese twist on Western brunch faves is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dining experience. Masterfully created and plated, the dishes at Cafe Lafayette are unique, inspired, and deliciously fun.

Ordering the chicken and waffles anywhere else will get you some good fried chicken and a nice waffle. But Cafe Lafayette kicks it up a notch of whimsy and delight, with deep and dark squid ink infused savoury waffles topped with crisp fried chicken, served with maple syrup, almonds, and crunchy wild honeycomb for a gravity defying tower of salty and sweet.

Chicken and Waffles at Cafe Lafayette

Looking for something a little more lunchy? Hit up the hot dog. Think a charcoal grilled unagi hot dog, smokey and rich, served with creamy tamagoyaki, and kale, with a zingy punch of pickled onion and yuzu mayonnaise.

If you want full gastronomic drama, you cannot go past the Bird’s Nest. Ostensibly, a serving of okonomiyaki, the Bird’s Nest does deliver on that front with the tummy cuddling comfort of a perfectly prepared okonomiyaki pancake crossed with a tangy tonkatsu sauce and a fresh and sweet yuzu mayonnaise. But the addition of an enormous tumble of shredded and fried leek slices to mimic a bird’s nest, and an egg slowly soft boiled at 62.5° resting atop the nest ready for you to crack, making this a bizarre and wonderful dish to eat and experience.

Birds Nest at Cafe Lafayette

We can’t forget the sweet treats! Embracing all the quirky Harajuku dreams, the virally famous Raindrop Cakes from Grand Lafayette have made their way across too. A crystal clear agar jelly ball, the Raindrop Cakes come served with a sweet and sticky sauce in four flavours, as well as a complementarily paired crumble. With your choice of Matcha Lover (matcha), Tiffany Blue (mint), Angel Kiss (rose), or Tokyo Express (brown sugar) toppings, the Raindrop Cakes are always a fave, and fly out of the kitchen for their destinations: happy diner’s tummies and our instagram feeds.

If a Raindrop Cake is a little too out there for you, try out one of Cafe Lafayette’s Super Freaky Shakes. We could not resist trying out the Very Berry after seeing it’s multicolour pastel magnificence grace our feeds. A mixed berry smoothie, it also comes with a deep, red velvet hued waffle cone filled to the brim with cream, all topped with rainbow cereal (we got Froot Loops) and princess pink sprinkles. This is the kidult dream: it tastes great and it’s just a hell of a lot of fun!

If you want to embrace some pure imagination, head down to Cafe Lafayette and take a tumble down the delicious, technicolour rabbit hole.

Looking for traditional Japanese cuisine in your lunch hour? Check out Kisume’s luxury bento boxes!

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