Bowery to Williamsburg in Melbourne’s CBD is a cafe that, as the name suggests, is inspired by Manhattan’s Bowery, Brooklyn’s Williamsburg and all things cool and New York City in 2013.
Run by the same team that own the popular Hardware Societie, the aim is to bring a slice of this New York vibe to Melbourne. When I went to New York, Williamsburg and the Bowery were two of my favourite areas (you can click the links to read my Manhattan and Brooklyn food reviews) and I was keen to see if the team at Bowery to Williamsburg had succeeded with their new venture.
Walking down Oliver Lane, you’re greeted by the friendly staff member behind the outside coffee station where you can grab a coffee-to-go. The enthusiastic, but never forced friendliness of the staff really stands out. Walking down the stairs and into the cafe proper, you certainly get a New York vibe. The use of iron and the smattering of New York paraphernalia throughout evokes memories of the New York subway.
“Flat White” $3.80
The coffee is from Brunswick’s Padre, with 2 Slayer machines and a Mazzer grinder taking care of proceedings. As to be expected with such a setup and quality beans, the coffee was top notch and the Hershey’s Kiss on the side was a nice touch.
Bowery to Williamsburg takes both Williamsburg’s hipster cues and food. Browsing through the offerings on the menu took me right back to the part of Williamsburg where the hipsters and gentrification make way for what is a very traditional, Hasidic Jewish neighbourhood.
For lunch, the main deal is $12.50 for one of the many sandwiches on offer or $16.50 or a sandwich, side, pretzels and a pickle. There is a board that contains all of the options that contains some interesting creations, as well as classics like the Reuben.
There is a huge selection of bagels with an impressive array of options to fill them with (the bagels themselves come from Melbourne’s 5 Dime Bagel and, although I didn’t try any on this occasion, I have had 5 Dime bagels before and they are excellent.
“Lox On Latkes” Heirloom Tomato, Pickled Fennel, Cream Fraiche, Poached Eggs ($17.00)
Latkes are shallow fried potato pancake, and lox is the yiddish word for salmon. This dish was pricey (prices are on the higher end of the scale here) but the serving was massive and I just managed to finish everything on my plate.
The latkes were crispy on the outside and dense on the inside and not too greasy which I really appreciated. The flavours all combined really nicely and the poached eggs were perfectly gooey .
A variety of typical Jewish and New York products are on display in the “open pantry” behind the service counter.
A changing selection of cakes and pies are also on offer. I wasn’t going to leave without grabbing something to take back to the office with me.
“Sesame Bar” ($4.50)
It was a toss up between the sesame bar and the pumpkin and caramel pie but on this occasion, the sesame bar won out.
This thing is intense. It’s very chewy and tasty, with a burst of kosher salt that doesn’t really hit until you’ve almost finished each bite. It reminded me of the “crack pie” from Momofuku Milk Bar in a way. You take your first bite and it’s very sweet and very salty, too much many would say. Despite this, you just can’t stop eating it. I got about half way through it before calling it quits and saving the rest for the next day.
Working out in the suburbs these days, I unfortunately haven’t been able to visit as many places in the CBD for lunch as I’d like to and my visit to Bowery to Williamsburg was a strictly breakfast affair. If what I ate was any indication as to the quality of the rest of the food then I can’t wait to try a bagel and a sandwich sometime, plus the peanut butter hot chocolate which is already gaining a cult status.
Edit 16 Aug 2013: I returned to Bowery to Williamsburg this week for lunch and was not disappointed. The peanut butter hot chocolate was very tasty and surprisingly not overly sweet. I tried the Rueben and some of my companion’s Chicken Schmaltz. Mac and Cheese was the side of choice. It was all delicious.
Bowery to Williamsburg is a really welcome addition to the CBD. The staff are really friendly – yes there is a hipster vibe (it wouldn’t be authentically Williamsburg if there wasn’t) but there’s not pretension at all and I left really satisfied.
The owners have got the vibe just right, and as I walked out with Erykah Badu’s “Sometimes” playing through my headphones, the only thing missing was the rumbling of the L train above.
Bowery To Williamsburg
16 Oliver Lane
Telephone: (03) 9077 0162
Mon – Fri: 7:30am to 3:30pm