Cafe Lafayette returns to bring their signature brand of brunch with a side of whimsy back to post-lockdown Melbourne.
In early 2020, Cafe Lafayette threw open the doors of their neon dream of a venue space, ready to wow Melburnians with technicolour brunch faves with a Tokyo twist. The younger sibling of Prahran’s All-You-Can-Eat Japanese fave, Grand Lafayette, Cafe Lafayette was the new kid on the block on Melbourne’s cafe scene, promising a fresh take on all of our brunch favourites.
But, 2020 being 2020, the cafe soon fell dark, having to shut up shop for the majority of the year as Melbourne went into lockdown. We were luck enough to sneak in a visit before the world shut down – and you can check out our visit here – but with whens, maybes, and ifs hovering over the city, it was anybody’s guess as to when we’d get our hands on their famed raindrop cakes or birds nest again.
But 2021 is a new year and a new slate, and Melbourne is back in full dining, drinking, and dancing swing. Once we heard Cafe Lafayette was reopening, we had to head back for some more multicolour magic with our morning coffee.
Cafe Lafayette’s home is nestled down Melbourne’s historic Niagara Lane. Compared to other city laneways, Niagara Lane remains untouched, for the most part, by the city’s ever evolving landscape. For a Melbourne history nerd like me, the laneway’s original warehouse structures and occasional heritage plaque are a delight to peruse as you make your way to Niagara’s hidden secret. Head up the little staircase quietly off to the side, and you’ll find yourself in Cafe Lafayette’s uber cool, hyper colour venue space.
With the black walls and floor offset with the vibrant neon bar area, and futuristic chrome accents, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped into a Shinjuku nightspot. But the calm energy of Cafe Lafayette and inspired menu ensures you’ll have a breakfast or brunch that will start your day with the right vibe, and a very happy belly.
Having sampled the breakfasts on our last visit, this time we decided to try out some other menu items. Taking our lead from the waitstaff, we tried out the Oceanic Tempura and absolutely loved it. Lobster and scallop – perfectly light and crunchy in their gently fried tempura batter – were the star of the show, but the surprise fave was the tempura fried enoki mushrooms that arrived with the marine delights, alongside eggplant and sweet potato. Enoki mushrooms are always a winner, but I admit to only having had them in hot pots, or as side dishes, served simply with a dressing. Once fried, they turn into the most delicious, buttery and crunchy snack, that are dangerously moreish.
As it was an unseasonably warm autumn day, a zingy Yuzu soda was on the agenda. Tarter than your average lemonade, the Yuzu soda is the perfect refreshing pairing for a crunchy fried dish. Never one to turn down a latte, we couldn’t go past Cafe Lafayette’s Betroot Latte. Creamy and comforting, the beetroot latte is a dream in a pink hue that will make your inner Barbie squee. With notes of white chocolate, and a little earthy kick courtesy of the beetroot, this is definitely one to check out for those who don’t fancy a coffee, but love a warm drink in the morning.
And, it wouldn’t be a visit to Cafe Lafayette without a raindrop cake or two. For those who haven’t tried a raindrop cake, you are in for a treat. The “raindrop” itself is an Agar based jelly dome, crafted to resemble a raindrop. Perfectly clear and mostly flavourless, it’s the perfect base for the rich syrup and crunchy crumble that comes in a variety of flavours. We couldn’t go past the Tokyo Express (a traditional brown sugar flavour) and the Angel Kiss (rose flavour – think a light version of Turkish Delight). When you head to Cafe Lafayette, the raindrop cakes are a must-try.
Next time you hit the city for brunch, head to Cafe Lafayette and you’ll be guaranteed a feast for the senses.