Nestled in the heart of leafy Fairfield, a mere 15-minute drive from Melbourne CBD, you will find bustling Station Street – a suburban strip well loved by locals. This colloquial thoroughfare has recently become home to CH James – a unique café that stands out against the backdrop of long-established family-owned grocers and bakeries.
The namesake is in celebration of local businessman extraordinaire – Charles Henry James – who was hugely influential throughout the late 1800s in forming the unique community dynamic of the northern suburbs. Those accustomed to this area will no doubt be familiar with all that this dynamic affords; the welcoming, exciting sense of being part of a larger collective – a feeling that is reflected by the café’s clean, spacious communal design and inviting atmosphere.
CH James is a meeting place that will immediately draw you in for those early, bright mornings and long, nostalgic summer afternoons. This charming establishment is the brainchild of owner and proud local Theo Krambias, who has succeeded in creating an attractive space for locals and visitors to enjoy a thoughtful and well-crafted brunch. Headed up by French chef Franck Verschaeve (ex Pope Joan), in partnership with Sophie Nikolaidis (ex Taxi Kitchen), and marvellous barista Yuki Tanaka (ex Auction Rooms), this café certainly brings a strong sense of community spirit and belonging to every two-legged (and sometimes four-legged!) being who walks through the door.
Built on the concept of self-sustainability and reaping the rewards of home-grown love, there is a focus on maintaining a low carbon-footprint with locally-sourced produce from boutique institutions such as Ocean Made Seafood, Melbourne City Rooftop Honey, Amore Cheeses, Villa Verde Free Range Eggs, and Dr Marty Crumpets. Many of the dishes on the menu are created using seasonal organic fruits and vegetables from the café’s own sunny “edible” courtyard; a peaceful alcove ensconced by the beautiful red bricks of the heritage church next door which blends seamlessly with the café’s stylish interior. Maintained by their very own gardener (with some generous help from Krambias’ own green-thumb grandfather) the courtyard is a therapeutic space that complements the impressive fare on offer.
The delectable brunch menu features a light and refreshing watermelon, orange blossom, minted yogurt & granola crumb ($10). For a traditional breakfast with a very fine twist, be sure to try thepoached egg served on house-cured ocean trout with salted zucchini and fennel & dill salad ($19) or the Only if You’re Hungry ($19) option – chickpeas and eggs served with roasted potatoes, chorizo, and a side of mouth-watering thick cut bacon. Vegetarians won’t be left to starve, with the Hungry Vego ($19) plate including three grains, roasted pistachio, activated almonds, seasonal vegetables and lemon yoghurt topped with a poached egg.
The lunch menu is well considered, with several shining dishes such as the baked buffalo ricotta cake, roasted tomato & herb salad ($12) and cod croquette with gribiche, salad & crispy bread ($16). If you’re feeling a little naughty, then you may most definitely order the enticingly succulent fried chicken wings with grilled corn & green salad ($16). We were pleased to sample the perfectly searedsilver trevally, served on a bed of fresh radish, cucumber & caperberry salad ($19). The Asian-inspired flavours were an appetising way to begin this culinary journey and we were fascinated to find delicate, delicious slivers of seaweed amongst the tangy greens. For our mains, we opted for the exquisite, crunchy snow pea salad with lemon ocean trout, served with cucumber sandwich fingers ($17) andspiced pork sausages with Asian coleslaw & sirachi mayo ($18). The dishes were plated with classic elegance and strong attention to detail. The sandwich fingers were a velvety, sumptuous delight, crafted from biodynamic potato and honey sourdough sourced from BDS Breads. Chef Verschaeve has definitely gone above and beyond with the opportunity to demonstrate his technical flair in creating unique dishes that cater to every taste, providing the option for changes to be made to any order (vegans, rejoice!).
Daily specials and desserts make this innovative café a must for return-customers. However, it is the open coffee bar that is the real magnet for passers-by; serving high-calibre Small Batch brews both inside the café and out. For those settling in for the afternoon, there is a range of wine, beer and cider, sourced locally from the Yarra Valley through to Woodend and Geelong. We opted for the refreshing Australian SOHO cola muddled with house-made raspberry and rhubarb juice for a refreshing, summery twist.
It’s fair to say that CH James is a welcome addition to the café scene of Fairfield, as evidenced by returning locals and visitors alike. With top-notch produce and ample seating, it is certainly an attractive and wholesome space to spend the weekend with family and friends. You will find yourself feeling instantly at ease here with the hospitality and friendly atmosphere. We recommend heading in early and staying late for a splendid affair.
Address: 86 Station Street, Fairfield
Contact: (03) 9486 3484
Opening Hours: Mon – Sun: 7am -5pm