When I think of snow and ponies, the image of a mystical far away land covered with fluffy white snow comes to mind. There’s not a soul in sight, apart from a lone pony trotting in the cold forest. On its back sits a fair skinned princess with blonde long hair, stroking the pony’s hair and whispering into its ear. The more I think about it, the more my imagination runs wild. I’m not sure how the owners of Snow Pony Cafe in Balwyn came up with this cute name, but I’m certainly quite taken by it. Not only is its name intriguing, it’s simple and funky interior (although totally different to my imagination), mouth-watering meals and friendly staff are all elements that appeal to me.
When I called up at 12:30pm yesterday, I was told the cafe was very busy but they will try to fit the 3 of us in for a 1pm lunch. I wasn’t expecting much when I entered the cafe but to my surprise, our table was ready and my friend Racheese was already sitting there.
There’s three areas that contain tables – the front of the house with a long communal table, the back room with its cute hanging light and slightly darker and more private setting and there’s where we sat, the patio for a casual meal out in the sun.
The patio was just perfect. It was 30 degrees and the sun was shining on our table but in the excitement of trying this lovely place, I didn’t feel warm at all. I spent the first few minutes just admiring the decorations and the awesome light fittings. This place was so photogenic!
I was dying for a coffee. For the last few nights, I’ve been staying up writing blog posts (doing it right now in fact) as Christmas gatherings and shopping took up most of the day and the only time I had to myself was when everyone else had gone to sleep. I’m obviously still getting into the whole posting once a day thing so I was in desperate need of a good caffeine hit. My latte arrived very quickly, far quickly than it took me to photograph it.
It was not a bad coffee at all, although it had a slightly bitter or burnt taste. This ‘burnt’ taste was more just the taste of the coffee beans than anything else in my opinion, although Yuye didn’t agree. Either way, it was my coffee not his, so I get the say.
Yuye didn’t order a coffee like he normally does. I think the heat is finally getting to him. What he ordered though was no surprise – organic grapefruit juice ($5) while Racheese ordered a fresh orange juice ($4.5). They came in the cutest ‘medicine bottles’ as we called them. If medicines really came in these bottles, I’d have drank enough as a kid to never get sick. They looked especially gorgeous in the sun.
The grapefruit juice gave me more of a kick than my latte by far. It was a burst of sourness with a slight bitter aftertaste and the chunky pulp was oh so yummy. I can get addicted to drinking that all summer. The orange juice was not bad either, sweet and also very pulpy, it was a very refreshing and fitting drink for the hot weather.
There were so many things I wanted to order on the menu! I believe the menu changes seasonally, in fact the menu we ordered from is slightly different to the one on their website. I wanted to try a dish with an interesting name as I was very much into the whole pony deal, especially Giddy Up which featured my favourite poached eggs and roasted tomato. However, Racheese eventually pointed me in the right direction – the Hopkins River eye fillet steak sandwich ($21.90). As soon as I saw ‘beetroot’ I had made my decision.
This dish had beetroot + blood orange relish, caramel onions, bacon, roast tomato, aged Maffra farmhouse cheddar and a poached egg. It’s everything I like, on the one plate! The placement of the ingredients was interesting too, it sort of made it look like a looney clown face with a huge smile, don’t you agree?
The steak was very tender and juicy, the tomatoes were peeled and oven roasted (although I found them to be a tiny overcooked and mushy) and the relish was quite sweet. I couldn’t really taste the blood orange but that didn’t bother me because there’s beetroot which is cooler than anything else. The only thing I didn’t like about the dish was how the relish and tomatoes made the bread quite soggy in the middle. Perhaps it was better if the steak was placed on the bread before the relish.
this was the first time I only got 1 poached egg and it’s probably a good thing as I’ve been eating a lot of eggs lately. I did find only having one egg a bit less than completely satisfying as I love the bread and meat to be smothered in the runny egg yolks. Only having one egg yolk means I only really had yolk on one piece of bread. Either way, I loved the dish and I was fighting over it with Yuye.
Yuye ordered one of his favourites (and probably also mine), the kransky with asparagus, mustard and potato salad ($18.90). The dish looked beautiful. As it didn’t come with bread, I didn’t think it would be very filling but it was.
The kransky was as expected, meaty and perfectly salty, although I’d have preferred to eat them with a piece of bread or some pancakes. I was however, surprised at how good it went with the mustard. Yuye agreed that we should eat mustard with our store bored kranskies next time. I found the asparagus was a bit overcooked and was too soft. I like my asparagus just cooked and still green and slightly crunchy. Personally preference I guess.
The potato salad was very creamy and had a nice amount of seeded mustard mixed through. I love anything with seeded mustard as it gives the dish that perfect tanginess. The colours of the salad was also quite vibrant.
Racheese ordered a Spanish tortilla with chorizo and lots and lots of rocket and shaved parmesan ($17.90). This is a new dish not on the site menu.
The shamed parmesan was so fine it looked almost like snow on top!
Rather than a tortilla, it was more like a potato fritter that was a little more dense. I loved the taste of the ‘tortilla’ mixed with the chorizo. Without the chorizo, I thought the dish would be a bit bland although you can order this dish as a vegetarian option without the chorizo.
The rocket gave the dish an extra dimension with its nutty, herby flavour, although I’m not too sure I’d really call this dish Spanish.
Not sure if it was the weather but all the staff at Snow Pony seemed so cheerful and friendly. I love it when waiters (and baristas) pose for photos, although their attention always takes me off guard and my camera’s usually out of focus. This one turned out alright I guess. 🙂
Coffee wasn’t the best I’ve had in Melbourne, although it was by no means bad. I would return just for the environment and friendly staff which makes up half of the experience at any restaurant or cafe I think. The food was also fantastic, although with a few tiny tweaks, it could become something even greater.
The best of all, its location is good for visiting Racheese’s house and sampling her many dessert creations (I had a beautiful strawberry panacotta with berry compote and lemon lime bitters jelly at her place later that afternoon). Did I mention that Racheese is a former pastry chef at Luxbite? Her desserts are amazing!
Question time: Do you prefer to choose a restaurant based on its location and convenience or some other factor such as reputation?
Phone: (03) 9816 8911
95 Whitehorse Rd, Balwyn VIC 3103