• Once a Tailor (Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn)

Once a Tailor, now a fashionable Hawthorn cafe.  Business partners John and Tony started the cafe 8 months ago, with a name that pays tribute to John’s late father who bought the premises, with plans of turning it into a tailor shop.  It is fitting, as dining at Once a Tailor is a family affair.

This cafe used to be Tribe, it has since been transformed into something more stylish and cool.  The outdoor area is warm and pleasant.  Decorations are in keeping with the name with old sewing machines and flowers.  The focus is on brunch and lunch.

“We want to introduce Sicilian style food so that it is more accepted,” explained Tony.

John Bertuna and Tony Verga had invited a group of us bloggers to their cafe for the launch of their new autumn menu.  We were lucky enough to taste test and hear their thoughts on their latest project.

“It is Sicilian home food but more simple.  We’ve toned some of it down, but focus on great service.” Tony described how their cafe was a stand-out compared to the plethora of good coffee and breakfast shops on Glenferrie Road.

Whilst their ethos is to “keep it fresh and keep it simple”, we began to work our way through an interesting menu from breakfast to lunch.

The first tasting was a corn fritter with cherry tomato confit.  This would usually feature bacon, but like all dishes on their menu, it can be made without meat.  The fritter was quite dense and was more like a patty than a fritter without the crispiness of being fried and served hot.  Whilst the texture was heavy, the patty and tomato combination blended well with the corn slightly charred.

Round two saw their signature quinoa porridge with pistachios, apricots, raisins and honey.  The others at the table loved this one.  I am not such a fan of porridge, and like quinoa more for the fact that it is a super food.  Still, I enjoyed the nutty flavour of this blend.  The honey was not mixed all the way through so that each mouthful would hold a different level of sweetness.  All the ingredients had been chopped into little bits.  This would be a lovely breakfast in winter.  Fresh mint prettily garnished the top.

Next was a parmesan crusted brioche with salad.  This dish usually comes with prosciutto and like the corn fritters, a poached egg too.    It looked insubstantial without the extras, but it tasted surprisingly more-ish.  Served at room temperature, the salad on top had a mustard dressing which complimented the saltiness of the brioche, which was light and soft like all good brioche should be.

Our last breakfast tasting was the zucchini flower fritters with a salsa verde.  This was served warm, with a bitterness to the sauce and a texture similar to the corn fritter.  Tony explained that zucchini flowers were something his mum used to make for him as a kid when they were in season.  Again, we were reminded that the food goes back to their heritage, whilst keeping it simple.  I had a sudden urge to visit Sicily, with its food and market gardens.

Lunch was next, starting with a beetroot carpaccio.  The beetroot had an orange tinge and I discovered that beetroots are not so juicy when raw.  It was a pleasant salad with crisp rocket but then drenched in sweet, honey-like caramelised balsamic.  Fetta also featured.

The olive foccacia is house made and was served warm, drizzled with olive oil.  The olives had been blended so that their taste enjoyably went through out the dough.

At this point, our arms were also twisted (not that hard mind you) to have a glass of wine with the meal.  It was a Sibling Rivalry, Pinot Gris, 2012 from the King Valley.  Served chilled, the scent was fruity with grapes.  The colour was pale yellow.  It held only very slight acid and was quite fruity with grapefruit.  Whilst it smelt sweet and grapey, the taste was actually dry.  A young, refreshing wine.  It tasted bitter and closed against the next dish.

This was the most aesthetic of dishes; a baked fig with goats’ cheese with sourdough.  This looked  so beautiful that I found myself taking photos for some time.  It was an interesting dish that tasted different to expected.  The cheese was soft and very subtle in flavour without much saltiness.   The flavour of the figs had intensified with baking.    Served with toasted sourdough it was a very warming dish and without the usual prosciutto, closing my eyes it could have been luxurious fruit toast with ricotta.

The final dish was a quinoa salad with fresh pomegranate seeds, radish, avocado and coriander.  It looked cute and the avocado was soft.

It surprised me that on the menu there was no pasta.  Then again, I am not an expert on Sicilian cuisine.

Rushing off after a lovely long lunch, I was told I could not leave without a casateddi, an Italian pastry filled with ricotta that had just been made that morning.  I took it home to enjoy after the lovely lunch.  The inside was smooth and soft, the pastry had a delectable crust.

Once a Tailor
727 Glenferrie Road
Hawthorn 3122
03 9818 2224
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