Our usual stop for coffee on O’Hea Street is O’Hea’s Bakery & Deli. However the growing gentrification and changing demographics of North Coburg have paved way for a different kind of cafe north of Bell Street, such as you find with Little Deer Tracks.
Little Deer Tracks has only been open a very short while. Earlier this year we noticed some activity in the strip shops west of the railway line on O’Hea Street. Then something popped up on my faceache page that let me know that it was open. So S. and I cycled down there excitedly on Saturday morning to sample their offerings.
The cafe is a very large space with ample seating. The walls are adorned with artworks and a little research has revealed that the intention is for the cafe to also provide an opportunity for local artists to be showcased. S. was extremely happy with the view sitting at a front table afforded him of the passing trains (‘If only there were freight trains’ he bemoaned, ‘it would be even better’). Yes, I am married to a rail enthusiast and yes, you can feel sorry for me now. Apparently he’s in good company though. Others of his ilk include Neil Young, Pete Waterman, Frank Sinatra and Rod Stewart. What do these people including S. have in common? Music and rail. Go figure.
The menu is vegetarian, and provides for quite an extensive and enticing Italian lunch menu. On Saturday morning though we were there for breakfast. I opted for porridge with banana and honey, S. for the french toast with organic maple syrup.
We were a little underwhelmed by our breakfast dishes. The french toast looked good however it hadn’t been prepared properly, as the bread hadn’t been fully soaked through with the milk and egg mixture. And while my bowl of porridge was generous and cooked to leave a little bite in the oats, it didn’t offer anything new. It was evident that good quality produce had been used in their preparation but with so much competition around in the breakfast stakes Little Deer Tracks will need to do more to get people returning for that first meal of the day.
The promise evident in the lunch menus brought us back the next day. We shared a plate of crumbed & fried fennel with lemon aioli, and dishes from the specials menu. I had the broccoli & saffron risotto, S. had the gnocchi with Redhill blue goats cheese (made from vegetarian rennet and free-range goat’s milk), rocket and walnuts. Happily these meals were more successful than our breakfast the previous day and I’m glad we came back for a second visit.
We started our lunch with the crumbed fennel with lemon aioli. The fennel was wafer thin, soft and light, making it quite appetising to someone such as myself who sometimes finds the aniseed flavour of fennel off-putting.
Next up was the gnocchi, which for both of us was the stand out dish. The actual gnocchi was light and firm. The sauce was extremely rich with a hint of blue cheese tang and a little sweetness, which we later found out came from the addition of port to the sauce. We both found this dish quite moorish and extremely delicious.
I’m in two minds about the risotto. The golden warmth of the Iranian saffron generously flecked through the al dente rice, and contrasted against the green of the broccoli made me want to tuck into this dish with gusto. And the crumbled feta provided salty punctuations in between mouthfuls of plump grains of flavoursome rice. However, it lacked the of creaminess I expect in a risotto. This makes me wonder if the nano variety of rice was used to make it, which is more absorbent than arborio or carnaroli varieties and results in both a less sticky and creamy dish. And there was just a bit too much of the broccoli stalk used in the dish. That said, I enjoyed it, despite the lack of creaminess.
I was particularly impressed with the service at Little Deer Tracks, which with It was attentive, helpful and friendly. And the waiting staff were so happy!
In offering a vegetarian menu, Little Deer Tracks provides an alternative to the mostly meat focussed cafes and restaurants in Coburg. Being so new, I suspect things are being fine-tuned so it will be interesting to watch its development. For the moment, we would definitely go back to Little Deer Tracks for lunch.
Where’s the Beef? were also at Little Deer Tracks on the day we were there, so check back for another perspective.
What we had:
Porridge with banana & honey $7.00
French toast with organic maple syrup $9.50
Crumbed fennel with lemon aioli $8.50
Broccoli & saffron risotto with lemon and fetta $13.50
Gnocchi with Redhill blue goats cheese, rocket and walnuts $17.50
Organic orange juice $4.00