If you’re like me, you’ve probably walked past the building hundreds of time and haven’t paid it any attention. When I heard the newest cafe from the team behind Top Paddock and Kettle Black was opening in a converted power station right near Southern Cross Station, I just couldn’t picture where it could be. Sometimes things hide in plain sight in Melbourne.
It turns out that all along, right on the corner of Little Bourke and Spencer Street there was an amazing old brick building with soaring ceilings and lashings of industrial cool but it’s taken the opening of Higher Ground to give it a new lease of life. It took years to redevelop the property and Higher Ground’s opening was repeatedly delayed but the hard work has paid off. The space is stunning set over several levels, each with its own outlook onto the light, airy central void with its vaulted ceiling, arched windows and exposed brickwork. Tones of muted grey and pale timber are brightened up with lush greenery spilling out of pots.
The menu offers all day breakfast options which range from semolina porridge to steamed market fish and at night switches to more substantial sharing plates of lamb ribs and corn fed chicken. I went for lunch with my friend Eliza who wanted the ricotta pancakes ($21) but was deterred by a 20 minute wait so went for the buffalo yoghurt chia ($17) instead. The tangy yoghurt is balanced by the sweetness of slices of strawberry, dried kiwi fruit and shards of pistachio.
The lamb fry up ($20) is made up of a mix of spicy minced lamb, dukkah and pomegranate scattered over two fried eggs and served with a few dollops of smoked yoghurt. The Middle Eastern flavour combination is great but the dish is dry and needs more yoghurt.
Coffee is from the team’s own roastery, Square One, and delivers a well finished latte and creamy chai latte with just a hint of spice. It’s the sort of attention to detail that sets Higher Ground apart despite slightly erratic service which ranges from a lovely welcome at the door to getting forgotten about when it comes time to pay the bill. Higher Ground is set to become an iconic Melbourne destination once it settles properly into its groove. The hype and the wait has been worth it.
Details: Higher Ground, 650 Little Bourke street, Melbourne (Ph (03) 8899 6219)