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Secret Grounds

Posted in Melbourne

The Secret Grounds Cafe in Doncaster is not all that secret. We visited late on a weekend (at the fringe of lunchtime), and found it quite full, with only a couple of tables outside available. As a suburban eatery at the corner of a row of other suburban shops, people clearly sought this out as a dining destination, as opposed to an opportunistic wander by.

secret grounds sign
The sign outside, from the other side.

Given that the only available tables were outside, we were seated outdoors. It was pleasantly breezy, although we did opt to move tables so that we weren’t fried by the sun – unfortunately the umbrellas didn’t shade all of the outdoor seating quite enough.

We were brought water and menus. There were good food options, printed on a single A3 sheet. They spanned the range of typical brunch favourites like a scrambled egg dish, a benedict, and even a hotcake dish for the sweet tooths, but also a bit more stretch, with a soba noodle salad and tacos (not together).

secret grounds menu
A glimpse of the food side of the menu.

80s pop hits from the likes of Wham and Abba played over the speakers at the right volume for outside, so you could hear the words, but could also hear your own conversations over them. It had a relaxed, upbeat atmosphere.

secret grounds inside
A look at the inside seating area (after most people had left).

Drinks came out first. The flat white was a good strength, and had good flavour, with chicory notes to it.

secret grounds flat white
The flat white, with a little latte art.
secret grounds flat white
The flat white again.

We decided to chance a matcha latte. It was a good colour when brought to the table. It had quite a subtle flavour though. It was unsweetened, and though it wasn’t bitter, the matcha wasn’t really discernible over the soy milk.

secret grounds matcha latte
The matcha latte, also with some art.
secret grounds matcha latte
The matcha latte again.

The Croque Monsieur was one of the dishes that appealed to us from the menu. It was listed as having smoked ham hock, creamy bechamel, bocconcini, swiss cheese, truffle oil, topped with a fried egg, on sourdough, and an apple fennel salad. It looked promising on the plate, with melted cheese covering most of the top slice of bread, and a nicely fried egg atop it. It was a cheesy, meaty mix, with the melted cheese melding well with the pulled meat. The bread had chew to it, and a crunchy crust. We thought it could have done with a bit more zing though, as the apple fennel salad wasn’t quite punchy enough a contrast to the otherwise quite rich meat and cheese mix. It would suit those seeking a hearty dish, however.

secret grounds croque madame
The Croque Madame, topped with fried egg, and salad to the side.
secret grounds croque madame
The sandwich closer up, so you can see the cheese.
secret grounds croque madame
And a bit more on the apple fennel salad.
secret grounds croque madame
And a look inside the sandwich, though not the neatest shot.

The other dish we decided to order was the Risotto. It had marinated tiger prawns, prawn bisque, chorizo, green peas, and fresh tomato, topped with a squid ink tapioca crisp. The orangey risotto was tidily spread on a contrasting jade-hued plate, with the green peas studding it and cherry tomato sections adding more colour. It looked like a good risotto, an almost gooey mix with body that could hold its own form, rather than being a watery mix of grains. It was a flavourful mix, with the tomatoey, creamy prawn bisque based sauce as the foundation, punctuated by the spicy chorizo and fresh mint. The risotto grains were separated, not clumpy, and were cooked just right, so they had some chew to them, but weren’t crunchy. The prawns were also well cooked, so they were juicy and had a pop when you bit into them.

secret grounds risotto
The Risotto, as plated.
secret grounds risotto
The dish closer up.
secret grounds risotto
And the from the other side. You can see the texture of the risotto.
secret grounds risotto
And a closer look still.

We could certainly see why Secret Grounds was popular. The dishes were well done overall, with the risotto being one of the better versions we have had around. It is quite a pleasant setting as well, so good for a relaxed brunch. Worth visiting if you are on that side of town, though anticipate it being busy if you get there at a typical mealtime.

Food: 3.5/4
Setting: 1/2
Service: 1/2
Total: 5.5/8

Price point: The dishes we had were $24 and $26. Other dishes from $19 for more than eggs on toast.

Value: Alright for tasty food.

Address: 87 High Street, Doncaster
Phone: 03 9857 6056
Website: Secret Grounds

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