A cute and cosy milk bar style cafe in Thornbury, the Kitschen Pantry differentiates itself from the multitude of cafes in the area, by growing and using their own produce, and sourcing dry goods from reliable Australian sources. Despite great intentions, I have had mixed experiences here, some incredible, others incredibly average. Despite this, their dedication to bring produce to plate will always reignite my desire to return.
Owned and run by hospitality virgins, Rhondalee Hunt and Steve Ridley, the cafe was created as a way for the duo to utilise their love of gardening and food. Learning as they go, it is obvious as soon as you meet the pair that they have their lives invested in the place. Sweat, blood and tears, they are both easily working 17 hour days. Ignore the heat in the kitchen and you will find a quiet escape outside on one of tables adjacent. It is the perfect spot to bathe in the afternoon sun on a quiet suburban strip. Inside you will find a kitschy interior filled with products from incredible Australian suppliers. They have a tight, well thought-out range of dry-goods, icecream, yoghurt, milk and bread, cementing themselves as a gourmet contemporary milk bar.
Miss J and I sat in the sun and ordered two of their infamous spiders; an ice cream and soda drink. I ordered the coconut, kaffir lime and ginger beer and Miss J ordered the rose gelato and lemonade. Both were just what I remembered, a refreshing take on a traditional classic.
Rushed by the awkward serving staff, we ordered the mushroom and blue cheese quiche and an Istra proscuitto, cheese and tomato sandwich. The menu is quite short, the specials change regularily and there are mainstays such as the sandwiches and breakfast options. They also serve fairtrade and organic coffee, which we turned down to enjoy our spiders. Our dishes looked fresh and vibrant, great presentation.
The quiche contained Tarago ‘Shadows of Blue’ cheese, fresh mushrooms, caramelised fennel and spinach, with a raw vegetable salad and a vino cotto dressing. The quiche base was perfectly crisp, the filling was a let down. Too much egg, not enough cream or cheese. I generally prefer my quiche to be creamy rather than stiff. Both times I have been here, I have had the same problem. I have learnt my lesson. I could barely taste the double cream blue cheese which should have been more prominant. However, the salad was fresh and vibrant with a beautifully sweet dressing. The sugar snap peas tasted as if they were picked straight off the tree. Everything about this dish could have been amazing, but the way it was overcooked just missed the mark.
The sandwich was unexciting and badly executed. Although all components tasted good on their own, together they lacked any clarity. Personally tasty cheese and proscuitto should never be pared together. The sandwich was too dry and too expensive for what it was worth.
I was dissapointed with the meal as a whole, but will point out that I have been here a couple of times before and have really enjoyed the meals. I still remember the exquisite fresh fig and balsamic salad I had last summer. I have read reviews on Urbanspoon and it seems that the main issue is with the management of staff and the treatment of customers. I too have seen this first hand, and really believe that the owners would benefit from stepping out of the kitchen and observing their cafe from afar.
It is a great spot to grab everyday household items such as Jonesy milk, Phillipas bread and a range of ice cream and assorted products, or to bathe in the sun sipping on gourmet spiders. They really have a lovely destination to escape. So far it has been a hit or miss cafe, however I will return based solely on their philosophy and hard work. I still remember the great customer service I received when trying to make their lemon polenta porridge at home, not only did they help with picking the ingredients, but they gave me a free tub of fresh cream to go with it, as I was short of cash. A moment of great customer service that will make me come back to try more……