In Short: Higher Ground is refined food that pushes the envelope. Grand, yet relaxed, dining experience with exceptional service. Late lunches or a super early breakfast to avoid the wait.
Cue up the classic ‘Higher Ground’ by Stevie Wonder on your music player of choice, as it perfectly gels with this review of a Melbourne cafe insitution. Like the song, Higher Ground is an upbeat, vibrant…I was going to say cafe, but it’s not…it’s more a temple, where those who take their breakfast seriously, come to indulge. We dutifully walked up, and knowing that on a Friday afternoon it would be crowded, found the front-of-house manager and put our names down. Conveniently, there’s an outdoor seating area with a barista on hand to allay any fears of caffeine withdrawal.
I, on the other hand, scoped out the building. The building was Melbourne’s first public power station it’s a spectacular layout, with 250 diners providing human energy. On our visit, we were extremely fortunate to score a lounge table on the second level. We had views down onto the café bar, and could take in those beautiful arched windows and distressed brick walls. As Melbourne provides a prelude to winter outside, inside, Higher Ground is comfortably warm, with a groovy soundtrack complementing the buzz of hungry humans.
To kick off our lunch, I try a filter coffee. A bright and lively coffee, I am struck by the lack of acidity with no milk to mask any form of bitterness. It’s a smooth, clean tasting coffee that gentle awakens the palate.
Sampling Mavis’ house spritz of ginger and plum reveals the aromas of the ginger first off. A sip confirms that the tickle of heat from the ginger is quelled by the ice and sweeter flavours of the plum. The addition of lime keeps the drink light and refreshing.
Either time flies, or service is just so efficient, but in no time, our uniformed waitress places our lunch on the table. Spiced heirloom cauliflower with scrambled eggs, curry leaf, roasted chilli and house-made flatbread is bold. It takes a brave chef to mix in the strong flavours and aromas of curry leaf and chilli. For me, it’s a standout! When the plate hits the table those aromas of the crispy curry leaves waft up to my nose. It’s an aroma that brings back memories of Mum’s curries cooking at home. I love the chilli on the scrambled eggs that doesn’t overpower but just lingers in my mouth. Bright purple heirloom cauliflower is soft with a bit of crunch. It marries well with the scrambled egg and spicing. The flat bread on the bottom takes in the flavours of the egg, and is just so good on its own.
When we initially perused the menu, I struggled to choose a dish for little Sammi. Everything sounded so grown up; sophisticated. Sammi is a huge fan of sausage rolls, and so I rolled the dice on confit lamb sausage roll, cucumber pickle with anchovy mayonnaise. As it sat on the table, I had pangs of food envy and secretly hoped Sammi would save a morsel or two for me. The confit of lamb is delicious, meaty and chunky. Slather it with the anchovy mayonnaise, and it’s elevated to the next level. That umami that the anchovy delivers, is heavenly. The pastry is flaky, buttery, a little sinful, but boy is it good. Rounding off the dish is pickled cucumber that balances out what is pure deliciousness.
Completing a trifecta of perfection was the ricotta hotcake maple syrup, seeds and grains, seasonal fresh fruit and flowers. Soft and fluffy ricotta hotcake stuffed with blueberries are delightful to cut into. The textures of the seeds also impart a nutty flavour. The maple syrup delivers its sweet touch, with the flowers adding an almost herbal dimension. Fresh fruits cut through the cream. Definitely one of the more generous plates of food you will see, and would comfortably feed two.
As the first line of Steve Wonder’s 1973 hit starts off with ”…People keep on learnin‘…”, well I quickly learned (and you need to learn!) that if you visit Melbourne, you need make it to Higher Ground. We enjoyed every minute, and I feel Higher Ground epitomises the cafe scene in Melbourne; food that pushes boundaries, and a space that’s so cool and so grand!