THEME: LAZY BREAKFAST
1 SWANSTON STREET, MENTONE, 9583 6462
LICENSED MC V EFTPOS
BREAKFAST: $14-$21; LUNCH: $13-$27; DINNER: $16-$30
Just as our actual corner stores and milk bars have faded into empty-shelved, past-use-by-dated obsolescence, Mentone’s Corner Store has had a sharp refit and reimagined itself. Though the 2017 version of a place to pick up the essentials doesn’t trade in cartons of milk and loaves of sliced white.
Instead it’s kimchi burgers on black buns, nourish bowls with wellness sprinkles and pork crackling on everything. Milkshakes straddle the corner store/Corner Store divide but as well as nostalgic chocolate and vanilla, there are choc-bar blitzes with Aero, Cherry Ripe and the like. Just as in the days of yore, there’s Coke in the fridge but you may prefer cocktails such as the 3194, a postcode pin-up with gin, cucumber and lychee.
The owners of this all-day everyday 130-seat neighbourhood hangout are Damien Jones and Tim Jones (they’re unrelated), who have experience in pubs, restaurants and bars, notably as part of the Red Rock Leisure group. Chef Jeremy Duxbury trained at Stokehouse and was head chef at Mordialloc’s popular Main Street Cafe for five years. Together, they’ve created an easy-please venue that works for families, couples, laptop tappers and large groups (ask about your next party). Classic dishes are done well and there’s enough that’s on-trend to make locals feel that the big smoke has come to them.
The large premises hug the corner, opposite the train station and the Mentone Bowling Club – such neighbourhood amenity! – with the main shopping strip on the other side of the railway line. An astroturfed front terrace wraps the frontage; inside there’s a sprawling mix of booths, tables and stools at a communal bench. Service is efficient and friendly but not entirely polished: it would be nice if someone took a quick broom to the floor when time allows.
Breakfast goes all day and, for mine, the pork crackling benedict is the pick. Pork shoulder, cooked overnight, shredded and luscious, is piled over wilted spinach and toasted Turkish bread. On top, the hollandaise is silky as Smooth FM, the poached eggs spill just right and a generous scattering of chopped pork crackling brings crunchy counterpoint.
Pulled pork and crackling turn up in the popular pork tacos too, strewn with a thick barbecue sauce that’s based on tomato, onion and ginger and spiked with Jack Daniels. Spice-marinated pineapple brings fruity freshness and controlled chilli kick – nothing’s going to blow your head off.
Comfort food favourites include chicken parma, steak and spuds, and a very good pumpkin ravioli, dressed with nut-brown butter and a chunky walnut and parmesan pesto. Most savoury dishes span the lunch and dinner menus; the burgers are popular both sides of sunset. The beef burger keeps things classic but the chicken version has all the trendy bits and pieces: it’s Korean spiced, on black brioche, layered with kimchi and even dolloped with wasabi aioli. If that makes it sound super spicy and exotic, don’t be put off: it’s nicely rendered and gently sparky.
Happily, there’s much made on site (kimchi is fermented here, the spice mixes are house-made) and purchased items – those black buns, the smallgoods – are sourced from local suppliers. These many elements are wrangled into thoughtful, respectful meals for the neighbourhood. The value is keen and so are the values; it’s heartening to see this modern Corner Store picking up where our old corner stores left off.