Operator 25 isn’t your ordinary Melbourne brunch venue – it’s a little posh and a lot playful, and just a hop away from the Flagstaff Gardens.
Housed in a heritage-listed telephone exchange building, this brunch restaurant is the creation of Valerie Fong and Randy Dhamanhuri. For their first venture, the pair saw a gap in the market, realising that the crowds were congregating in the suburbs, not the city, for breakfast.
They sought to open a quality CBD cafe with a fine-dining flair, combining the dishes of a cafe with the cooking techniques of a restaurant. It’s now a well loved institution, frequented by corporate workers and university students alike.
The food offerings espouse Asian flavours and are overseen by Head Chef, Felipe Guedes, who executes a ‘breakfast restaurant’ menu, combining international flourishes with classical training. Felipe and his team take great pride in their produce, and only source the best. Free-range eggs are from Green Eggs, an ethical supplier near the Grampians. They are served with a variety of extras, with smallgoods and meat coming from Gamekeepers.
This emphasis on fresh ingredients means the menu changes all the time. Depending on the time of year, you could start your morning with the famous matcha-almond pancakes topped with grilled pears, berry sauce, vanilla cream, macadamia, dark chocolate and freeze-dried raspberry; or opt for the Japanese open omelette, a perfect balance of smoked cod, soy, pickled ginger and fried enoki mushrooms.
As coffee is taken pretty seriously at Operator 25, you’ll want to partake. Beans are sourced from local roasters, Code Black and Small Batch. They’re used in classic espresso-based offerings, as well as alternative brews such as pour over and cold brew.
Head Barista, James Ooi, is also known to take the experimental approach with simple ingredients, so keep an eye out for something a little left of centre popping up every now and then. He’s also passionate about tea and enjoys inventing specialty drinks with tea as the base.
For lunch, the choices are endless: do you order the Balinese pork burger with a fried egg, chilli mayo and slaw, or the slow-cooked duck leg, with pumpkin puree, shitake mushrooms, XO sauce and chorizo? There’s always a different protein on offer and a delicious vegetarian option, meaning your lunch selection will never be bland again.
For something stronger than coffee, wine is available by the glass and Australian craft beers come in the bottle. If you need a pick me up, reach for a Sprotini, which brings together Starward whisky, Mr Black coffee liqueur, Amaro Montenegro and freeze-dried raspberries.
All of this can be enjoyed in the beautiful building, of which Valerie and Randy wanted to retain heritage elements. They restored the window frames and brickwork to lend light to the space, and introduced one-liners all over the walls that make reference to the building’s history. These little elements tie into the venue’s casual and cheeky atmosphere.
With restaurant-quality food and specialty coffee available all day, Operator 25 is always a popular option. So make sure you dial ahead – it will brew your mind.