I just love it when old milk bars are transformed into community spaces of a different kind – a welcoming local cafe. And so the story goes with Darling Street Espresso, a 7-day a week daytime operation that inhabits a corner position on Darling Street and Athol Street in suburban Moonee Ponds.
Despite its quiet location, away from the main strip of Union Road, it’s actually a prime position for a local. It’s down the road from a school and just a hop skip and jump to Maribyrnong Park and the river.
The interior is cosy, with a front room and steps leading to a red and tightly squeezed back room.
A better bet is the side corridor (marked ‘For prams and pets’) that leads an undercover courtyard with narrow garden beds and a small Astroturf play area for kids.
The all day menu is rather eclectic, with Italian, American, Mexican dishes all jumbled in – so you can have a cheeseburger or tacos for breakfast if you choose! Coffee is made with Fitzroy’s Industry Beans.
Breakfast runs all day and I ordered beetroot-tinged cured salmon, two poached eggs resting atop two potato and preserved lemon pancakes and avocado puree ($16). The mini pancakes were an interesting twist on a traditional breakfast dish though I couldn’t detect much citrus in them.
To test out their sweet breakfast options I ordered the grilled banana bread. For $14.50 you get two slices of soft banana bread, a puddle of activated chia and quince pudding and lots of crunchy paleo granola.
To finish I couldn’t resist one of their puddings ($9). The dark chocolate pudding came with frozen honey custard and chocolate popcorn. It was a bit too sickly sweet for my liking and the messy presentation wasn’t terribly appealing. I think the custard would be better off being churned into ice-cream for textural and visual appeal.
The service at Darling Street Espresso was very friendly and helpful and I liked how they had a buzzer at the entry of the courtyard to call out a waiter if necessary. While the inside of the cafe is cosy and beautifully decorated, the outside courtyard is where to hang out.