Like most good things in Melbourne, you need to seek them out. We are not the Harbour city where the beauty leaps from the sea and smacks you in the face with some architectural finery in the form of a bridge and an opera house. In a city like Melbourne, however, it is important to not judge a book by its cover, or perhaps in fact you should because the darker the lane, the obscurer the location, the more sinister the neighbours and the greater the cobble stone to paved road ratio the higher the chance you have found a gem of a place to eat.
To wit, Operator 25 is set down a little known street off Latrobe St in the back blocks of the criminal court district, it’s only neighbours are an eclectic mix of apartment buildings and a neon flashing light takeaway shop. So unless you live in this street there really is no other reason to come down here, other than to wrap your lips around one of the best breakfast/brunch/lunches in Melbourne.
The building itself is heritage listed and formerly housed a telecommunications centre, hence the name. Whilst it’s old school on the cover, with bluestone like bricks, it’s new school on the inside with a light, bright and spacious interior. Exposed wires and copper pendant lighting also reference back to the historic use of the building with some quirky signage that will bring a smile to your dial.
Once you are tucked up inside and out of the cold, the staff welcome you warmly and pace their service beautifully. The team works seamlessly and knowledgeably. It is clear they are well versed in handling a popular place and are relaxed about people taking a while to decide on their order. It was lovely to not feel rushed, for you do need some time to carefully peruse the wonderfully original menu that offers all day breakfast.
Quality options abound with every appetite and most dietary requirement catered for. Ginger and date bread will delight the traditionalists, elderflower sago for the adventurists amongst us and a three rice congee with duck for when you need some restoring. As tempting as the breakfast options were I went for a combination I had never come across before. The gluten free, ras el hanout soft polenta with grilled octopus, chorizo and peppers was as smooth as silk. If you can describe octopus as being succulent that is what is was. A real cooking triumph highlighted further by some exceptional discs of chorizo and vibrant red peppers, truly delicious and highly memorable.
My beautiful lunch date made a daring choice from the breakfast menu of smoked sardines. I was having flash backs to the time the Baron made a similarly daring choice of kippers for breakfast and boy did that backfire. The Baron was not a fan, suffice to say this ordering mishap did not happen at Operator 25. Kippers have never been ordered since but we do have a laugh, well it’s mainly me doing the laughing, every time we see kippers on a menu. Well, luckily this sardine dish was no laughing matter, Operator 25 is so awesome they not only made the sardines look good, I was assured by my date that they were delicious and light, perfectly accompanied by pickled cucumber, sour cherry, manchego and grilled rye.
So next time you pop by County Court or find yourself taking a stroll around Flagstaff Gardens take a little detour to Operator 25 and be blessed by what we embrace as beauty in Melbourne.
25 Wills St, Melbourne
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