Disclosure: I was invited to dine as a guest of Operator 25
In the two years or so that it has been open, Operator 25 has brought some style and panache to the Flagstaff end of the city, with one of the most interesting brunch menus I’ve come across and also one of the most drool worthy Instagram's!
Recently, with the assistance of the design studio Pop & Pac (who are also responsible for Kettle Black’s branding), Operator 25’s had a little brand refresh, which refocuses on the operator/switchboard history of their heritage-listed building, which was one of Melbourne’s original telephone exchanges. This also meant a little refresh inside the cafe, with new artworks adorning the wall that are fun, with an element of pop-art style.
One thing that hasn’t changed? The full to the brim cafe, and people waiting across the road for their name to be called up to be seated next.
Although it had been a while since my last visit, the menu still does not fail to impress, with classic dishes and multi-cultural flavours intermingling. And when I was invited to have a sample, I was certainly not expecting a full on breakfast degustation!
Instead of the usual chai, I started with Operator 25’s house brewed iced tea, with hibiscus, chamomile and eucalyptus honey, served with mint, orange and data de coco. This, is how I like my iced teas. Not too sweet, and although fruity, the floral aromas makes it just so refreshing. This would be just beautiful on a warmer day.
Although these Balinese pulled pork sliders were mini sized, they were totally punching with flavour, with a lovely curried flavour, a myriad of aromatic spices. Although it looked firm, the bun was airy and light and a touch of Asian slaw balanced it all out. The tastiest Asian flavoured burger I’ve come across yet! Usually, this is served with a fried egg, but I just loved these mini versions without!
Sardines are so underrated, and so delicious, so was thrilled to munch on these meaty, smoked but surprisingly sweet morsels, on a grilled rye that was just lightly crunchy with pickled cucumber, sour cherry, manchego, parsley, rocket and dill. What a texture compilation this was, with the addition of the creamy manchego, adding an element of richness. The sour cherry was, I guess unsurprisingly, the cherry on top, adding that surprise element.
We then had the option of two dishes out of four, so Brad and I went for the spiced chickpea fritters with herb tahini, tomato and cucumber salsa, cottage cheese, chipotle sauce, crisp flatbread and thick cut streaky bacon, as well as the slow cooked lamb with a vegetable medley, parsnip puree, peptise and cranberry gel.
Wow. I forgot how big the portions were here! The spiced chickpeas were a bit milder in flavour than I expected, but still hearty and very wholesome. I really liked that they had whole chickpeas in the fritters still as well. But really, how could not be wooed over with those thick and generous slices of kaiserkleisch?
The lamb dish, which is usually on the menu for around $20, is a steal of meal, with a huge serving of succulent, sweet and tender lamb. The colourful medley of vegetables lightens the meal, and I particularly loved the soft and sweet figs hidden underneath the snow crunchy peas.
You think we would be fit to burst, but nope! Breakfast dessert was on it’s way.
Would you ever have foam and freeze-dried fruit on your breakfast? Maybe not usually, but it’s the norm here at Operator 25, with their famous coconut sago making an appearance with some fresh new flavours. Elderflower sago with chia seeds, rhubarb and strawberry compote, with white chocolate foam and freeze-dried mango. The flavours are gentle and refreshing, the white chocolate foam adding just an extra hint of sweetness and not drowning out the other flavours. The freeze-dried mango added a nice crunch between the teeth.
But if you’re into something a little more old school, Operator 25’s ginger and date bread with caramelised banana mascarpone, pomegranate sauce and salted milk crumb should fit the bill nicely. In the ever chilling weather at the moment? This is just the thing. Warm, moist, I loved the sweetness from the date and the heat from the ginger. Yum.
You might think that eating so much in one meal might put one off from visiting again in a hurry, but it’s quite the opposite at Operator 25. There’s just so many interesting things on the menu, that I simply can’t wait to be back!
25 Mils Street