I’ve been meaning to try Craft and Co, the enormous new cafe / restaurant / wine shop / artisanal producer / provedore on the corner of Smith and Keele streets in Collingwood, for some time but frankly have not felt inspired. But when I realised they are open on a Monday they rose on my places to visit list and I went there for brunch last week.
An online marketing tip for beginners – don’t hide your opening hours on your website on the contact page – put them prominently on the homepage so people can easily find them. My visit with a friend began badly when we realised to our horror that they do not serve all day breakfast. Another online marketing tip – put your meal service hours on your website. If I had known breakfast finished before 12pm I would not have come expecting to order from the breakfast menu at 12pm.
When we arrived about midday we were presented with lunch menus, but steak and salad is not what we wanted for our first meal of the day so we asked very nicely, the wait person checked with the kitchen and, as it was quietish, we were permitted to be presented with the breakfast menu.
I ordered bubble and squeak with trout and a (single) poached egg (according to the menu) and my friend avocado and brioche, which was supposedly smashed avocado with goats cheese on toasted brioche with poached eggs and salsa verde. Both dishes were well presented, with my bubble and squeak being formed into patties with eggs on top. The smoked trout was outstanding, barely salty at all but as fresh as the sea.
I suppose I won this round of menu lottery (ordering has become a game of guess which item will actually match its description on the menu as so often they don’t), and my friend immediately claimed food envy. I had one more egg than I was expecting, while she was lacking evidence of goats cheese in her mash. She did have lots of dry tasteless toasted brioche though. The coffee and mocha we had were very good.
Craft and Co is not competing directly with anywhere nearby. There are several cafes within a minute’s walk, including Cibi on the same street, and Pavlov’s Duck and Breakfast Thieves nearby on Rose St. There’s nothing remotely like it this far north on Smith St. In terms of similarity, the nearest competitor is Smith St Alimentari several blocks south (the other side of Johnston St).
It’s a physically huge and hugely ambitious setup. I like the emphasis on local produce and the cheese counter in particular looks enticing, the wine stocked is well selected, and the fitout is stylish (though the large noisy metal box, an airconditioning unit or generator or something, immediately adjacent to the rear courtyard deck facing Keele St effectively kills the vibe in that space).
I’ve not seen how it’s faring on nights and weekends. Obviously I’d like to see it succeed, but I am somewhat skeptical about its chances. I wonder if they can sustain opening every day, especially quiet days early in the week. As more apartments are build in this vicinity north of Johnston St, however, they are well placed (and sized) to meet potential increased demand.
As a locaholic I’ll be back to peruse the Victorian wines in more detail, though I am rather spoilt for choice with Wine Republic and Blackhearts and Sparrows being relatively recent Fitzroy arrivals. I’m less enthusiastic about the food, though I can image it being the place to come with a group for dinner if something smarter than the pub is required.