In Short: All Are Welcome is a bakery, provisions, and coffee shop in Northcote, Melbourne. It is a pastry lover’s heaven, and has quality coffee to go with the array of delicious baked goods and breads baked in-house. With each bite and sip you can feel the love, care, and respect that the owner Boris Portnoy has for his craft and the community that he has built around his cafe business.
Northcote is an inner suburb in Melbourne that is a melting pot of culture and people. Here, the Greeks are living alongside the Italians; the artists and musicians, alongside young families. There are live music shows, theatres and even a Uniting Church. Walking along High Street, which is the main street in Northcote, there are lots of interesting restaurants and cafes to choose from. If bakeries, bread, and pastries are your first food love and passion, then one must-try café destination for you is the All Are Welcome Cafe. As Sydney-siders, we had never driven into Northcote, yet as we drove along, there was an instant and unanimous magnetism about this cafe with its stacks of perfectly formed loaves.
Owner Boris Portnoy used to work at a 3-star Michelin restaurant in California but, after moving to Melbourne in 2013, he wanted to continue baking and instead of fine dining restaurant crowds, he wanted something inspired by the local community, for the local community. The original foundations of this cafe may have housed “interesting” interpretations of the Christian faith, but while the carryover of the Church do remain and give the bakery character, this space is definitely a space for pastry lovers to unite.
Stepping inside the café, just from looking around and taking in the aromas I can feel an adrenaline rush and excitement (and that is before I have even eaten anything!). On one side of the wall, there is a whole shelf filled with several kinds of sourdough bread that has been baked fresh onsite. There are also all sorts of house-made jams, chutneys, pickles, and even recyclable bread bags with the café’s name printed on it.
Coffee is not forgotten, and the All are Welcome crew have sourced their beans from one of Melbourne’s best in town in Everyday Coffee, Collingwood. A flat white delivers that pleasing taste that is the reason why Melbourne is home to the best coffee in the land. A mouthful of dark chocolate cuts through the delightful foamy top that characterises a flat white. A sweet caramel finish left me wanting to go back and order up another cup.
Besides the standard coffee options, there are also some unique option on the drink menu that sets All Are Welcome café apart from the rest. The one that caught my eye was the Smoked Maple Iced Latte. The drink is everything that is described. The milk has a sweet, smoky flavour, which is unusual, but when you stir the drink and it is mixed with the maple syrup at the bottom, the drink starts to come together. The sweet and savoury sensations start to play with your mind and, to me, it’s like drinking liquid bacon juice! Some people might find it odd, but I say go out on a limb and try it at least once. You might be surprised and find yourself craving for more of this smokey concoction!
On the other side of the wall is what I would call the pastry heaven! There must have been like over 20 different kinds of pastries, all piled high and stacked up against each other, identified by the name tags and the various shapes, sizes and appearance. Portnoy has created a good mix of sweet and savoury pastries and bread on offer daily.
A testament to Portnoy’s pastry skills is the basic Butter Croissant. This horn-shaped pastry may look simple, but is definitely an art and skill to make it taste like the ones from a Parisian boulangerie, and people have trained for years to perfect its recipe. For me, a good croissant is one that is buttery, crunchy but not so flaky that you end up with crumbs all over yourself when you bite into it. Biting into this one revealed a delicate and soft inside, that it was like eating air, were it not for the deliciously crunchy texture on the outside. It was so good that Little Coco and Viner Sammi polished it off the croissant in no time at all and promptly declared it one of the best croissants she has ever tasted.
From the savoury section, there are some familiar classics alongside some unusual and innovative items as well. Even with their classic items, you can be sure that All Are Welcome have put their own twist on it to make it their own. One savory pastry worth trying is the Corn and Baby Zucchini Tart. A delicious seasoned mix of corn and baby zucchini sits in the middle of a square piece of puff pastry, that has risen to a glorious, magnificent height. As with the croissant, when you bite into it the light, buttery, and flaky texture of the pastry is so fragrant and enticing it lures you in for bite after bite. The flavour combinations are classic, simple, and uncomplicated but so very delicious together.
When Sacha from Coco and Vine first ordered a Khacha Puri, my first question was, ‘what is it?’ Turns out a Khacha Puri is a traditional Georgian open-face bread that is usually soft and fluffy, with a cheese and egg filling. All Are Welcome put their own spin on it, by using a light flaky, croissant-like dough. Also instead of being open-faced, the filling is completely encased and hidden inside the bread, which is great because I like the element of surprise when I bite into the bread and find that its filled with a delicious mozzarella and feta cheese filling, with the additional fragrance from oregano herb. The lightness of the pastry is just amazing, as are the different flavours from the filling experienced with each bite of the pastry.
I first heard of Babka when I watched that infamous episode on Seinfeld. So, of course, when choosing our sweet pastry option, I had to try the Chocolate Caramel Babka. Portnoy’s version is more like a pain au chocolat or chocolate croissant, but it still features the many layers of light sweet bread, interlaced with chocolate filling swirling in between the layers that you just pull apart. Instead of the one huge Babka, they have made individual-sized versions, artistically plaited and knotted up to form a round muffin-like shape. However you choose to eat it, you will be rewarded with pieces of delicious brioche-like bread interlaced with a rich chocolate filling, peppered with tiny bits of chocolate in between. It is a chocolate lovers delight, and completely addictive.
The kitchen is an open concept, so customers also get a view of the bakers artisan skills. If you are lucky, you might even see Portnoy creating magic with his own two hands. The café is always packed with people, and as seating is limited, people usually get a take away or just try to find some personal space within the café or even outside along the small side pathway garden.
The attraction of All Are Welcome café is knowing that no matter when you visit, you will always get a good coffee and pastry every time. If you stop and observe the inside and surroundings, you might even feel a short wave of peace and get a temporary break from the hustle bustle of everyday life.