A line of lofty umbrellas, perched on a sprawling terrace, was our only hint to Aura’s blink-and-you’ll-zoom-past locale. Sitting on the ground floor of the Manningham Medical Centre, Aura is flanked by a set of soaring golden arches and a high-rise, oversized cartoon rooster; skip the drive-throughs to find brilliant staff, humble fare and outrageously good coffee.
The croons of Stevie Nicks welcomed us as we walked through the door; so did an Anthony Bourdain doppelganger, who directed us into a light-flooded space decked out with a smattering of modest, dark wood tables and chairs. White walls are minimally dressed – simple canvas paintings hang on those without windows – and booth seating stretches along the one side.
Feeling especially gluttonous the morning of our visit, I made daring dietary choices: absurdly thick slices of golden fried French toast complete with pure maple syrup, berry compote and mascarpone. And a homemade potato rosti. Of course. I approached the mammoth serve the only way that made sense: unceremoniously tipping the toppings from their ramekins onto the toasty mountain and diving in with unabashed abandon. The crisp-edged bread was pleasurably dense; still doughy enough to swiftly mop up the maple syrup and tart berry juices. And unlike past French toast tastings, there was no allusion to that overwhelming ‘scrambled egg’ flavour. Without any toppings the slices were ordinary – I would have loved brioche to up the richness factor – and it was when I smeared mascarpone, piled on just-burst berries and sopped up some maple that the flavours danced on the tongue. Each mouthful became a jumble of sweet and sharp, creamy and chewy. Delish. The rosti was good too; crunchy on the outside, soft and rich in the middle.
Where I was daunted with the size of my breakfast, Mother was feeling shortchanged. Her baked eggs – in a tomato, roast capsicum, onion and chorizo salsa – arrived in such a shallow ceramic bowl it had Mother wondering if she’d been given a half-serve. Beneath a blanket of tangled mozzarella and snippets of greenery were two poached eggs, slightly overcooked but still with enough ooze to satisfy. A pair of garlic-rubbed thyme-dusted toast slices slurped up the saucy juices; the salsa was a smidgeon watery but it didn’t detract from the overall flavours. Of all the elements in the salsa, the chorizo was the standout with each of the halves packing a strong punch. If there had been anymore, the chorizo would have drowned out the other flavours – especially the sweetness of the roasted capsicum, which was already playing second fiddle.
Forget raising an eyebrow at Aura’s lack of trendy roasting-house beans; the coffee at Aura tops that at oodles of inner city eateries. Beans here are provided by Scorpio Coffee, a boutique roaster, who has created a custom blend for Aura – and oh my, what a blend. Mother’s long black was rich and robust with a lovely crema and smooth mouth-feel. My café latte was velvety and creamy, needed only a sprinkling of sugar and had me contemplating ordering a second – such a rarity, it took me by surprise.
Straight from the Mother Being greeted with a smile set the tone for an amazing breakfast at Aura Café. The menu is dotted with palate pleasing, tried-and-tested fare as well as an original creations; the lengthy list of optional sides is impressive and well-priced. In summer the terrace would be lovely, especially with a coffee and slice of cake plucked from display fridge. The only possible downside to Aura? It’s not closer to my house.
Aura Cafe Bar Restaurant
200 High Street, Templestowe Lower
(03) 9850 4007