Pope Joan, named after the legendary woman who may (or may not, depending on who you talk too) have sat on the papal throne, is the very new, very busy and very cool East Brunswick cafe. Owned and operated by super chef Matt Wilkinson, recently ex-Circa (my favourite fine dining spot), and partner Ben Foster, it is THE cafe to be at right now, and YES they are kid friendly too.
It is located on Nicholson St, not the Birdie Num Nums end, but the residential with a touch of industrial end. Polished concrete floors, muted tones, dark wooden furniture, a stunning wall of black and white Moroccan tiles, and modern wooden deer head (very on trend!) complete the look of this “laid-back cool” cafe. They offer a couple of highchairs (of the funky strap on to the chair variety – no white plastic models here!), a spacious baby/disabled toilet, however the changing table hadn’t arrived as yet, but had been ordered and is on its way, colouring pencils, paper and kids menu items too.
There is a kid-friendly side courtyard that is sheltered, heated and has plenty of room for prams, but alas for dog lovers is not welcoming to your four legged friends, however this does make it a safer environment for your little ones (thats the two legged variety) to frolick and play. They will also enjoy running down the spacious side area and into the backyard, complete with astroturf, veggie patch and quirky secondhand furniture including little wooden chairs and an old school desk… I even had to flip the lid to check if there was a Luke Perry poster blu-tacked up, just like my desk in Grade 6. Sadly (or luckily?) there wasn’t. There are plans to complete this huge space with more tables, more greenery and big umbrellas… it will be great come the summer months.
The dedicated section on the menu “For the kids” offers spaghetti on toast, cheese on toast and bangers & beans on toast. And there are the obligatory jars of cookies and treats including Anzacs, Smiley Face cookies and Little White Mice for $1 each… a perfect little accompaniment to a babycino.
Big kids can enjoy an all day menu with breakfast items including porridge, poached fruits and rice pudding and warmed banana bread with rhubarb cream. Yum! There’s also plenty of eggy goodness – boiled eggs & soldiers, baked eggs, fried eggs and bacon steak, poached eggs, coddled eggs and an omelette. Too bad if you don’t really “do” eggs.
There’s also a bacon and fried egg sanga, a “posh toasted sandwich” and some unique lunch combos on the specials board – ox tongue and picillili sandwich, confit tuna, mayo and lettuce sandwich, beetroot, green bean, haloumi and harissa salad as well as good old pumpkin soup.
The cafe was rather packed and the staff were under the pump, but were coping pretty well and were still remaining polite, pleasant and efficient. We didn’t have a pram with us however the staff were happy helping and opening up the front double doors for another patron and her pram… of course being Brunswick it wasn’t a common Bugaboo but a stunning and unique old vintage number.
Great cafe, great look, great food, great chef and nice little touches that accommodate the wee ones. If you are a real foodie or fan of Matt Wilkinson then this place is for you… but just bear in mind that half of Melbourne are too. Super busy on weekends, so expect table delays, which could mean restless tots. It’s a tad quieter during the week, so that may be the way to go with your little ones in tow.