Whatever happened to those uncomplicated corner cafes? The ones that didn't rely on slick branding, brushed concrete or nouveau art plate design?
Mary Miller is a breath of fresh air in Fitzroy North. No pretension, no wankery. Just good food and an amazing community atmosphere. Melbourne circa 1997, in a good way. It's headed up by business partners Sarge Michael and Marie Macheras. Michael's been in the Melbourne hospo business for over 10 years, you may know him from such venues as Preston's Chesire Café and The Glass Den in Coburg.
Now, the duo have "restored the North Fitzroy's community's faith" after breathing some life back into the corner store. And boy are the locals are glad...
"We've had nothing but positive feedback," Macheras said. "It's a bit of everything. They love the service we offer, the interior and the food."
Just off busy St Georges Rd, Mary Miller pops out with its bright turquoise sign. The other thing you'll notice from across the street: strollers. When you're just metres from Merri Creek Primary School, you become the default watering hole for busy mums (and kids dying for a babycino).
When it comes to the food, Macheras recommends the Chilli Scrambled Eggs ("they walk out the door") or the Lentil and Sweet Potato Cakes, a vegan dish for Mary Miller's growing vegan community. Very popular up this end of town.
You'll find Head Chef Parkash Adhikari in the kitchen, aided by chef Banphot Leelatham, combining modern Australian with Leelatham's trademark Thai influence. The result is a familiar menu, built from unfamiliar components. The occasional chilli hit lurking behind a friendly face.
If you're suffering menu paralysis (a real condition), go the Mary’s Big Breakfast. It's a generous plate, with two poached eggs sitting next to some grilled haloumi, a bunch of bacon, spinach, and roasted thyme mushrooms. And in the centre? A little cup of house-made baked beans, in case you're still feeling peckish.
And for those unsure of what sort of latte to order, Mary Miller offers you three mini ones on a platter: the matcha green tea, tumeric and ginger, and a beetrot latte. Padre supply the coffee goods, and tea is by Larson & Thompson. Outside, there's a sunny courtyard (still a WIP at the moment), which will be a welcome addition when Melbourne decides to grace us with some sunshine. Marie and Sarge plan to plant a herb garden, where locals can pick their own ingredients. The courtyard will also be pet-friendly.
Visit Mary Miller weekdays from 7am to 4pm and weekends from 8am.
Image credit: Griffin Simm