Jace’s 101 Cafe

Posted on September 24, 2011

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This is going to be a strange post to write because there’s so much to criticise and yet some really deserving praise as well, so bear with me as I stumble along. As an overall feel, it’s safe to say that Jace’s 101 Cafe (101 Hudson Road, Spotswood VIC) left me with very mixed feelings. This slightly peculiar cafe is located not too far from that breakfast spot I refer to a lot but it could not be more different. To be perfectly honest, it is not the type of place I would even notice, let alone want to try (yes it has been well documented that I can occasionally be superficial like that), but I’d found it via those coupon sites and the deal was pretty sweet, one I couldn’t refuse – $15 for 2 breakfast/lunch items and 2 drinks.

Jace’s is quite spacious, occupying 2 shop fronts and a few tables for outdoor dining. The first frontage is largely taken up by a take-away looking counter, coffee machine and drinks fridge. The second part is where the majority of the seating is and it is an odd space for its purpose. The entire space is done in a very sombre dark tone with no wall decor at all unless you count the flat panel tv or very modern fire place in the centre of the back wall. Glass tables and old school ‘waiting room’ looking black chairs then fill the floor. A side note, I happened to be very lucky and awake early enough to take the following picture, it was only moments after that the dining room filled up considerably.

Something about their interior is seriously amiss here. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but for some reason the space looks both ultra modern and daggy at the same time. It’s like a bad cross between an 1980s ‘mod’ office, take away joint and cheap pizzeria, it had me completely confused. It felt strangely cold. In no way did their decor suggest breakfast or brunch to me, nor did it give me good vibes about their coffee. Indeed their coffee could do with improvement. While I can’t claim to be a coffee connoisseur by any standard, I can discern the difference between passable and good, and this unfortunately missed the mark. Although I do dig their saucer, very cute.

Sour notes so far, but things turned around largely with the arrival of our food. I had the salmon benedict (roughly $11) of poached eggs with smoked salmon, mushrooms, spinach and holladaise on english muffins. Beautifully cooked eggs and great sides only let down slightly by a bland hollandaise. But this isn’t the first time I’ve complained about bland hollandaise in cafes before (here and here for example), so it probably isn’t enough to fault the dish on. By any stretch, this is excellent value, most $11 breakfasts will just give you eggs and 1 side.

My companion had the big breakfast ($16.50); that is poached eggs with bacon, sausages, grilled tomato, mushrooms, hash brown and baked beans with toast. Again perfect eggs and generally tasty sides. Faults were for using mass produced hash browns and baked beans. The beans were watery and highly likely to have come from a can, and the hash brown was rather MacDonalds like. If they had just put in that little extra effort to make these 2 items in house or source a better quality ready made version, the dish would have rated a lot higher.

Some hits and some misses. Service was effective without being either good or bad. Funnily enough, I think I might be coming around on the decor now. There are more than enough cute/quirkly/cosy breakfast and brunch cafes around than you can poke a stick at. Why not go against the grain and do something a bit different? There’s certainly no communal table at Jace’s. What for? Every other breakfast/brunch spot around Melbourne already sports one. There is a market demand for places like this; simple, not at all fussy, decent food and exceptional value for money without being overcrowded by those foodie types.

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