Fergus in Malvern East (Melbourne)

I always love the simplicity and wholesomeness of visiting a cafe whose primary aim is to offer its customers good food and coffee. “Good” as in lip-smackingly delicious. Not “good” as in “Instagram-able” or aesthetically wowing. I think that a plate of food could attract you to want to eat its contents in two ways: One, looking like its maker had just made a piece of art: sauces paint-brushed across the palette, edible flowers scattered, ingredients processed into unimaginable form and striking colour (read: “compressed” anything, “charred dust” of something, “vacuum-sealed” etc). Two, looking like this:

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Slow-cooked lamb shoulder spaghetti

What a humble and down-to-earth dish! Every mouthful offered a burst of the richest flavours. If I could try to break down the dish into its components (although this doesn’t even come close to doing it justice): the lamb melted into velvety meatiness, the tomato-ey and herb-y sauce was thick enough to cling onto every spoonful of pasta yet perfectly viscous to lubricate every slurp, and the spaghetti was cooked to al dente perfection. Sans bells and whistles. How could this not make the day of any hungry man (or woman), especially on a cold, wet, winter’s day?

Fergus is an absolute gem of a cafe in the suburbs. I’m sure, that residents in the area would very quickly lay claim to as their neighbourhood coffee haunt, and people like me who would call it their side of the woods even though it takes about a 20-minute drive to get to from my home. Having said that, somehow I feel like Fergus is going to stay on as a bit of a well kept secret (of which I am secretly pleased about and certainly not complaining). So how did I find out about this cafe? Well, I stumbled upon it when flicking through a book on cafes that two very dear friends got for me on my birthday. In fact, this book has already turned into one of my go-tos when looking for a new place to brunch at, without needing to fight with the hordes trying to cram into the latest faze like it were a UNESCO heritage listed site. Side story: My friends shared the tale of their acquisition of this book. I guess you could say that they found out in a slightly more dramatic way that there were two versions of the book – one featured cafes in Victoria, and the other in New South Wales! In any case, the effort that they put into it is certainly one of the reasons I am so “fondue” of them!

I have sidetracked, haven’t I? Back to Fergus. To me, this is how cafes should look like. And to step into the welcoming, neighbourhood warmth was simply a delight. I just feel so comfortable here with nary a fanfare:

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The coffee was good too. I really couldn’t complain about either the milk-based coffees or the long black. It was the kind of roast that I liked – bold and bitter and little to no acidity.

On to the food. You saw the pasta dish above, which by the way, was sublime. Here’s the rest of what I’ve tried:

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Smoked ham hock with poached eggs, hollandaise on potato rosti
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Confit crispy duck salad with pomegranate, sour cherries, dill dressing and date paste

Can we please stop drooling, calm down for a minute and reflect on how wonderful and sensible the flavour combinations are? I mean, cherries and pomegranate and duck? Smoked ham and apple-thyme hollandaise? If you don’t want to eat that, then you don’t deserve to eat at all (I know this is OTT but just sayin’). I also just had a quick peep at their current menu and it looks to me that they have changed a number of dishes on offer, most likely to take advantage of ingredients in season. I can already spot at least five other dishes I would love to try:

  • baked salmon salad w avocado, ruby grapefruit, cucumber ribbons, dill, mint, seeds, crunchy ciabatta bread & mixed leaves
  • crunchy citrus herb chicken schnitzel strips with carrot, cabbage & apple slaw & charred corn
  • honey granola w raspberries, ginger set yogurt + lemon balm
  • smoked ham hock w poached eggs, apple-thyme hollandaise & braised leeks on toast
  • slow cooked pulled lamb shoulder w chickpeas tabbouleh, cumin labna, pomegranate + toasted sumac pita triangles

The one thing that I would encourage the team at Fergus to think about is to add proper plated desserts that customers can order off the menu. I think the kitchen would do a great job at it and it would certainly round out a perfect brunch outing. Until then, this was what I had for sweets:

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Last but certainly not least, the staff here are absolutely friendly, with smiley faces abound. All in all, Fergus comes highly recommended and I know my next visit shan’t be too long before now!

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Fergus
301 Wattletree Road
Malvern East
Phone: +61 (3) 9690 2688

See how this cafe ranks on The Hungry Wolf’s list of Melbourne’s Best Cafes!

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