Carolina cafe in East Brunswick is a popular haunt with the pram-pushing set in Melbourne’s inner north.
What was a former Italian shoe store called ‘Invicta’ has been transformed into a casual cafe with all the right elements to appeal to parents and little people. The owners have kept the shop’s original gold decal on the window so look out for the tiny curbside blackboard pointing you in the right direction.
In the front small room there are a smattering of tables, a high-walled bar and cosy wooden booths lining up one side. There are cute knick-knacks dotted around, including antique shoe moulds harking back to the premises’ original purpose.
If you are wielding a pram walk down the corridor and you’ll find yourself in a gorgeous courtyard with a backdrop of reclaimed wood. The spacious setting includes garden beds filled with herbs and vegetables, tangles of trellised vines and overhead, swathes of hessian that pull along wires to create shade where needed. In one corner, a clean little sandpit with toys!
If you have a pram (or come by bike via the Capital City bike trail) instead of entering via the main door I recommend that you take a left down the cobblestone laneway just before the entrance and go through the back gate. In the courtyard there’s plenty of space to park your pram.
Now, to the menu. The coffee comes from Seven Seeds and breakfast staples like eggs, muesli and French toast all make an appearance, but with a twist. For little people, they have a kids menu of boiled egg and dippers ($6), cinnamon sugar toast ($5) and best of all, half-serves of all the dishes where possible.
I try a half-serve of housemade fruit brioche toasted with poached peaches, a squiggle of orange blossom spiced syrup, a large dollop of mascarpone and fresh mint ($6.50 for half, $13 for whole). The bread is quite dense, all the better to soak up the syrup which I would have liked more of. The mint is a welcome addition to a reasonably rich dish.
From the lunch menu, which starts at 11am, I choose the Tunisian-style brik pastry rolls filled with mozzarella, basil and pine nuts ($14). This is served with some summery ratatouille, the slight sharpness an effective foil for the cheesy, nutty, finger-licking oily pastries. I hope that in future they might let you choose one of their wholefood salads as an accompaniment. I particularly liked the sound of organic quinoa, roast pumpkin, apple, snow peas and tamari pepitas ($9).
There is lots to like about Carolina – both the breakfast and lunch menus are wholesome and inventive, the service is friendly and the setting is wonderful. I’ll be back, pushing my pram through the back gate.
- pram access;
- high chairs;
- kids menu
- standard menu suitable for kids;
- disabled toilet;
- change table;
- outdoor play area – sandpit; and
- rear access via laneway.