Only having opened recently in the up-and-coming Northside suburb of Melbourne, Northcote, Barry is already growing a cult following from nearby locals and fans of sibling cafés Pillar of Salt and the newly opened Touchwood in Richmond.
The first thing to note is the stunning fit out that strikes you the moment you walk in. Set in quite an old building, the café is bright, spacious, and minimalist, however still maintains a homely feel and a welcoming space. The mint green spotted floor sets the tone for a mostly white interior with a few hard edges: large wooden communal tables, a concrete-based cake display, custom Synesso coffee machine, industrial shelving against one wall, and the orange colour pops in the potted plants.
This post is a combination of our two visits over two consecutive days. Our first visit was on the Wednesday, a mere four days after opening. Being a mid-week brunch, the venue wasn’t overly busy and the service was impeccable. We were seated straight away, our coffee order taken, and food received within 15 minutes of ordering. The waitstaff were relaxed, attentive, and very keen to chat through the menu. We returned the following day (the food was that good, and the close proximity to our Westgarth-residing friends helped the decision), to a busier Barry and more stressed waitstaff. It took a lot longer for our orders to be taken, and we waited around 25 minutes for the food to arrive. Still, the staff seemed accommodating and apologetic for the delay. Understandably, the service needs a bit of tweaking (not to be confused with twerking) during busy periods, however, given it’s infancy, and it’s opening in the midst of the school holidays, I do applaud the staff for their relative consistency over our two visits.
For coffee, Barry uses their own house blend – 50% Brazilian, 30% Costa Rican, 20% Ethiopian (3.8) – courtesy of Perth based roaster, 5 Senses. Hailing from Perth myself, i’ve had my fair share of 5 senses coffees, and most have been sub-par to average at best. Recently however, i’ve had two stand-out experiences – once at Pillar of Salt in Richmond, and now at it’s sibling café, Barry. Over the two visits, I had two double espressos, a long black, and a latte, all on the house blend, and each time they were consistently good.
We also tried an Aeropress on our second visit, and were a little disappointed with the result – it was very underextracted, probably due to the great rush the stressed staff were in trying to keep up with the demand.
The Calmer Sutra chai (4.5) came beautifully presented in a pot with a jar of honey and honey dipper on the side. While the chai was fairly standard, I do applaud any café that doesn’t limit their chai options to chai lattes.
The Mork hot chocolate (4.0) with added peanut butter (0.5) is sure to become a favourite with little kids and big kids alike. Served with huge side chunk of chocolate, it’s nearly a meal in itself, and the addition of crunchy peanut butter gives the beverage and extra dimension and added thickness. YUM.
One thing that ol’ mate Barry seems to have going for them is the food. The menu is on trend, and has something for everyone with gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options all available. The breakfast menu is all-day, while the lunch menu runs from 11:30 onwards.
Char-grilled bruschetta, crushed avocado, mint, chilli, lime, manchego, seeds (16.0) w/ Eggplant kasundi (2.5) + Mushroom & thyme duxelle (4.0)
My friend ordered two extra sides on this dish, just because we couldn’t decide which to get, and though I didn’t sample any of the bruschetta, i’m assured it deserves 5 stars. The kasundi was rich and complex in flavour derived form the spices used, and the mushroom duxelle was pleasantly meaty, without being overcooked. There is nothing worse than overcooked mushrooms. Other than overcooked meat, of course.
Benedict poached eggs, potato rosti, slow braised free range ham hock, apple cider hollandaise, granny’s apples (17.0)
Slow braised ham hocks should definitely be a thing. If it isn’t already, i’d like to make it a thing. A very large thing. This was the most impeccable balance of salty, flavoursome goodness, that was perfectly cut through by the acidity of the apple cider hollandaise and the freshness of the apple, all the while not being too meaty or heavy for a breakfast.
The poached eggs were cooked wonderfully, with the bright yellow yolk on the inside oozy and runny, and soaked right into the crispy potato rosti. Everything on this dish was perfectly balanced and well seasoned, with a brilliant contrast between each element’s textures and flavours.
Baked eggs, chickpeas, chard, tomato sugo, salsa verde, toast (16.5) + pork & apple sausage (3.0)
Our only disappointment with this dish was that it didn’t automatically top-up when we finished. If our mate Barry could get on to that so the dish never ended, we’d really appreciate it. Cheers, Barry.
The sugo was decadently rich and juxtaposed greatly with the acidity and freshness of the salsa verde. The eggs weren’t cooked all the way through, which i’m assured by our resident baked-eggs-expert is the best kind of way. The pork and apple sausage was a nice suggested accompaniment to the dish, taking it from a vegetarian’s dream to the next (and much better) level.
Barry wagyu beef burger, zucchini pickles, cheddar, tomato, spicy relish, rough-cut kipflers (17.5)
The beef patty in this burger was moist and juicy – to the point where I had burger juice dripping down my arm, which is exactly everything you hope for in a good burger. More snacks for later, I guess. The zucchini pickles were a nice alternative to traditional dill pickles and complemented the greasiness of the chips and meatiness of the burger. The burger bun was also a perfect choice – soft and not too sweet – perfect for hand-eating and soft enough to soak up most of the excess juices.
The only negative to this dish was the very acidic aioli served with the rough-cut kipflers. A bit too much vinegar, perhaps? I didn’t mind too much though, I had lots of burger juice and tomato sugo from the baked eggs to dip my chips into!
Overall, our two visits to Barry were pleasant and would definitely be highly recommended. I hope that with time, most of the service challenges will be easily ironed out, but they already have a strong foundation of good food, good coffee, a pleasant venue, and friendly service. For city-dwellers, it’s a little far out, but if you ever find yourself northside, it is definitely worth a visit. If this was a Margaret and David situation, they would probably be getting a solid 4.5 stars.