I spied this cafe earlier this year as we were driving along Melville Road one Sunday morning and have wanted to visit it ever since. You see, this cafe and I share a name. Now it could be ‘Fine’, it could be ‘and’, it could be ‘Dandy’. I’ll let you decide. The point is, the name of anything that features my name brings about a certain reaction in me. I get a bit concerned, even a bit possessive. You see, it’s my name, and it’s such an unusual name, and I get very shocked when I see it used in other circumstances. But I soon get over all that.
Inspired by the glorious weather we’ve had this week, S. and I set off on our bicycles to see what this newish cafe had to offer. The cafe was a lovely and light filled space located just up from Albion Street, in a shopping strip that’s seen better days but has hung on to some key tenancies such as the licensed post office and pharmacy, which I think has kept the intersection ‘activated’ (as the urban planners would say) and saved it from being desolate and unfriendly.
For brunch, I ordered the Spanish tortilla with smoky paprika’d potato, olives and onion, S. had the beef rissole ‘with fresh herbs and secret seasonings’.
The Spanish tortilla is available with ham or melted provolone cheese on top. I ordered mine with ham. The serve of tortilla was very generous and featured lots of potato and green kalamata olives throughout it, with a strong overtone of the smoky paprika. I would have liked it to be just a little bit more moist than it was but perhaps that is a personal preference. The ham was a good quality deli-style ham on the bone, neither sliced too thinly or too thick. It was served on a very colourful and lively salad dressed in a tangy vinaigrette that, in addition to the usual suspects, featured avocado and capers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I enjoyed the salad a bit more than the tortilla because of the capers – I am a salt fiend. Overall, I really enjoyed this dish. I would definitely order it again, perhaps next time with the cheese.
One of the things that I really liked about the menu at Fine & Dandy was that it had a mix-and-match element about it. The menu features some classic old-style Australian cafe fare such as beef rissoles, salmon patties and sausage rolls (all made on the premises) that you can pair with the salad of the day, or not. Today a potato and a classic green salad were available – S. choose the green salad.
The beef rissole was a generous size, moist and flavoursome. Rosemary was the dominant herb flavour and this complemented the juicy beef pattie. It was served with classic tomato and fruit relish, home-made by the owner’s mother, which added a sweet tang to the rissole. Another winning dish we thought.
Unable to decide between two of the small sweet treats on offer, I opted to order both. I’m glad I did. The vegan fudge ball was a complete HIT! Paying homage to classic Middle Eastern flavours, the fudge ball was made from dates, pistachio nuts, rose water and coconut, then rolled in cocoa. This was like eating a piece of baklava, but without the pastry, so it was perfect for someone like me who shouldn’t be eating wheat.
The Anzac biscuit was one of the best I’ve had in a long time. Perfectly chewy, oaty and sweet. That’s all I really want in one of these.
The bread and butter pudding is made using Dench’s raisin loaf. It was a very generous serve of soft pudding, that was lightly spiced, custardy without being too eggy and topped off with some cream and a light dusting of nutmeg. It was a beautiful, moist bread and butter pudding that was satisfying and filled S. up nicely for the ride home.
We really enjoyed Fine & Dandy Cafe. Sure, it’s not bursting onto the scene with a high-profile chef like Pope Joan. However, it was like stepping into a good friend’s home and enjoying a delicious meal made by someone with care and very good cooking skills. The menu appears to be seasonal, there are fresh, daily specials (today’s was eggplant parmigiana) and the food is made using fresh, quality ingredients, with produce sourced a close to home a possible. In addition to their home-baked range of goodies, Dench’s bread and pastries are available, and Jonesy’s milk from Kerang and Maling coffee are used. We both enjoyed our coffees today. I’m not sure if it was the milk or the coffee or a combination of both, but they were lovely and creamy, and strong without being bitter. There are several vegetarian and gluten-free options available on the menu.
There’s seem to be a bit of cafe activity along Melville Road with some new ones opening recently and a couple more expected to open sometime soon. Fine and Dandy Cafe is a welcome addition with its friendly, enthusiastic and knowledgable staff who made us feel welcome, and delicious home-style food that harks back to the food of our childhood. There’s a vintage aesthetic about furnishings and crockery in a modern, light space. We enjoyed our meals today and will definitely be back.
What we had:
Spanish tortilla with leg ham $11.50
Beef rissole with side salad $7.00
Anzac biscuit $3.00
Vegan fudge ball $3.00
Bread & butter pudding $5.00
135 Melville Road
0403 704 449