25 Wills Street Melbourne, VIC 3000
I’d recently made two separate trips to Operator 25 in the last couple of weeks, and thoroughly enjoyed the food on both occasions. This trendy café is a relatively new addition to the Melbourne brunch scene, but already it’s been welcomed with open arms. I personally discovered this gem on Instagram, where @operator25cafe regularly posts beautiful pictures of their menu items. The dish that originally caught my attention was the ‘Matcha and White Chocolate Hotcakes’, but unfortunately they had already transitioned to their new Autumn menu by the time I got around to making a visit. Luckily, my disappointment was short-lived as I discovered that the new menu was also full of potential deliciousness.
On my first visit, my dish of choice was the ‘Braised Eggs in Tomato Sauce’. Unfortunately, K’s pick of ‘Eggs Benedict’ was unavailable that day, but the waiter helpfully suggested that he order the ‘Eggs Your Way on Toast’ with grandmother lamb ham and mushrooms on the side.
I rarely ever pick any sort of iced coffee/chocolate when I eat out, as I find that they are usually too sweet and too sickening in large quantities, especially given my (slight) lactose intolerance. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by the iced latte at Operator 25. First and foremost, it was beautiful to look at, with two distinct layers of coffee and milk. It also tasted amazing and not sweetened at all, which is just the way I like my coffee. As for K’s cold brew, he described it as clean, subtle and refreshing, but without any stand-out features.
When my braised eggs was placed in front of me, I was wowed by its vibrancy. Just from looking at it, I could tell that the sauce was going to be beautifully rich and full of flavour, and the generous dollop of sour cream on top was an added bonus. Upon tasting, the eggs were cooked perfectly, and there was an excellent balance of flavours between the sweetness of the corn and tomato, the tang of the sour cream, and the punchiness of the jalapenos. As for the ox-tongue, which was delicate and tender – I only wished that there had been more of it. I was intrigued by the corn bread, which looked buttery and crispy on the outside. Its texture surprised me – it was less like bread and more like cake – but it was nonetheless delicious and worked very well with the rest of the dish.
K’s dish was not as spectacular as mine, but was still quite impressive. The highlight was definitely the roasted mixed mushrooms, which were very well cooked and added a lovely umami flavour. As someone who doesn’t often enjoy ham, I thought that the grandmother lamb ham was actually quite nice. The eggs were, of course, poached very well, and the hollandaise sauce was tasty but not amazingly so. For me the letdown was actually the bread, which was a bit tough and didn’t seem to be super fresh. However, given the high quality of the rest of the meal, I was definitely willing to let that slide. My first visit to Operator 25 left me with a really great impression. Their braised eggs was one of the best that I’d ever tasted, and I just loved the feel and décor of the place. That was why it wasn’t long before I ventured back for a taste of their sweet treats.
K and I decided to split the ‘Ginger and Date Bread’, a choice largely influenced by the pictures I’d seen of it on Operator 25’s Instagram account. My only hesitation was my strong dislike for chunks of ginger, but my curiosity won in the end.
As expected, the dish was beautifully plated, with 2 large slices of bread topped with warm banana mascarpone and a salted milk crumb. This was accompanied by a little pitcher of pomegranate sauce on the side. I was blown away by how well every element complemented each other. The bread was moist and sweet, which was accentuated by the warm, comforting banana mascarpone. The milk crumb provided some lovely texture and saltiness, and the pomegranate sauce was like nothing I’d ever tasted. It was fresh and tart, which really helped to lessen the intense sweetness of the bread. Even though I still found the pieces of ginger in the bread to be a little overwhelming, this was hugely overshadowed by how spectacular the rest of the dish was.
As an added bonus, our second visit also marked Operator 25’s 2nd birthday, and we were presented with 2 mini matcha cupcakes to celebrate the occasion, which I believe were sourced from Cupcake Central. By the time I got around to them, I was already stuffed, and probably didn’t enjoy them as much as I would normally have, but they tasted like pretty decent cupcakes to me. Operator 25 is definitely one of my favourite Melbourne cafes. Their menu is innovative and interesting, and their dishes really do live up to their hype. The customer service is great, the coffee is decent and I also appreciate the way that they engage with their fan base through social media. I have no doubt that I will be returning to this lovely café in the near future!