Last Saturday after the scorching heatwave, my dad, my brother, E and I had arranged to have lunch at CERES. The plan arose after my brother had been telling us about going there with his wife and daughter to make themselves bikes for a pittance. Unfortunately my brother couldn’t come on Saturday. The rest of us swithered about whether the ‘cool change’ of 37 C would be too hot, but in the end we decided to risk it and had a lovely relaxing brunch.
CERES is an acronym for Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies. It is situated by the Merri Creek in East Brunswick which used to feel miles from the city but these days with rising real estate prices seems almost inner city. Although it is not far from the city, it feels like a little oasis of country living in the midst of picket fence suburbia. It has a whole range of classes – including bread baking, permaculture, basket making, chook care, cheese making, bike-making etc etc and is a great place to just wander around at leisure. There is a plant nursery, an eco house, odd sculptures (see photo) and a market on Saturday mornings. While, neither the classes nor the café are cheap, they are worth checking out.
We were there for the café. It has been a while since E and I have visited, and my dad had never been there. It is a spacious family-friendly area with long tables under a large marquee and verandah (which can be enclosed in cold weather) and smaller round mosaic tables under the leafy trees. I took a photo of the one with chooks especially for my mum.
I admire a place that embodies the sustainable practices it espouses. There is no air-conditioning and, in line with CERES environmental goals, there are no bottled water or straws. But we were able to help ourselves to tap water. Most food is organic and all is cooked on site. The toilets are ‘composting’ (ie a seat above a hole in the ground which when I was young we would have called a dunny). Despite it being a warm morning, we found that the shade, an occasional cool breeze, plenty of water and a request for some ice, meant that the heat was not a problem.
The café is busy but not crowded, and the atmosphere is relaxed. There were no free mosaic tables in the shade, so we sat under the marquee. The breakfast menu – which is served until 3pm – is extensive with lots of interesting dishes. The lunch menu is smaller but nicely supplemented by the specials menu, including cakes. The café caters for dietary preferences such as vegan and gluten free.
I love a menu with a big vegan breakfast, so I don’t need to work out how to order a fry-up with no eggs. It was an easy choice for me. E also went for the big breakfast but he went with the meat and egg version. My dad had an egg and bacon foccacia. My big breakfast ranks among one of the nicest breakfasts I have had out for a while. The plate was full of interesting flavours and textures: marinated smoky tofu, spinach (a little bland by itself but great mixed with rest of meal), dark and intense oven baked mushrooms, sourdough toast brushed with herb infused oil, beetroot and chilli relish, and home made beans which were lightly flavoured and yet tasted so good.
We were able to take our time with brunch and chat at leisure. It being my dad’s first visit, he would have liked to have spent some time to get a sense of the whole complex after we had eaten, but the day was too hot for much walking. However, we are hoping we will be back soon to explore more. And we were glad we hadn’t postponed til this weekend when it was 46 C on Saturday!
Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets,
Brunswick East, VIC 3057
Melways reference: Map 30 B7
Phone: (03) 9387 2609
Opening hours: Mon-Sat: 8.30am – 5pm, Sun: 9.30 am- 5pm
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