I first visited Industry Beans for coffee a few days after it opened, and while I was satisfied I was not seriously impressed and thought I would leave a couple of weeks for them to settle into trading before returning to eat. On my second visit the coffee was the same but I also ate and now have a sufficient impression of the place to write a review.
My lunch companion and I marvelled at the large and diverse menu. It’s ambitious for a backstreet cafe, albeit one with a larger than average number of seats. The menu is much longer than comparable places like Backstreet Eating or Breakfast Thieves. I chose the beetroot rosti with smoked eel, watercress, samphire and confit tomatoes, and she the baked black beans with corn, potatoes, feta, sourdough toast and cured egg yolk.
I have to agree with Mel: hot or not that the rosti was too dry: it was charred and brittle on the outside, tasting more burned than beetroot. The smoked eel was presented in a whitefish salad similar to what I ate at a deli in New York in January and was the best part of the dish.
My companion, a former chef, questioned whether her dish could accurately be described as ‘baked’ beans when the beans did not appear to have been baked (which is usually done in a sauce), but rather boiled separately and then combined in the salad. Of the cured egg yolk (in a separate little dish on the side of the plate, not photographed), which was glossy orange, gooey and salty, she simply said that it was perhaps more fun to make than to eat.
Taste is a subjective thing, of course. I don’t think that Industry Beans makes the best coffee within walking distance from my home. I vote Campos in Carlton the best. Industry Beans is similar in quality to Hammer and Tong in Fitzroy, Two Bob in North Fitzroy and Gypsy Hideout in Northcote. They are all very good, but I prefer the thicker intense kind of coffee at places like Campos and Martha Ray’s to the more watery kind at Industry Beans.
Treating coffee as a high quality product, like wine, rather than a uniform commodity, is a genuine innovation that I appreciate, but I’m not otherwise much of a follower of third wave coffee culture. Latte art is a form of wankery I’d like to end and too much molecular gastronomy leaves me cold.
I like to drink coffee and eat food. When it becomes more thought provoking than immediately pleasurable though, I begin to question the point of it. I respect what the owners of Industry Beans are aiming to achieve, but perhaps it’s not for me. Like Brix, which I never went to, the offering here seems over complicated.
Poppet’s window is more positive about Industry Beans while Petit Miamx is mixed about the quality of the food. I’m probably not going to become a regular customer, but I do want to return to try other dishes on the menu as they offer many things I love, including duck, rabbit and venison. I’m willing to let Industry Beans grow on me, if it can, with repeated exposure. The staff are very attentive and the service is excellent, which is something I can appreciate without reservation.