The Salad Special is an absolute delight at APTE
Growing up there in the 80s, no one ever seemed to know where Alphington was when I told them that's where I lived. For those that still don't know, it's over here; a tiny little suburb of Melbourne that doesn't even warrant it's own postcode, it has to share with the 'hood next door - Fairfield.
Nowadays though, Melbourne's 'suburbs' extend to almost rural boundaries and it is considered 'inner city' if you can get to the CBD in around thirty minutes from your front door. No surprises then that APTE has popped up in my old stomping ground. It might be a little place, but Alphington real estate is certainly in demand, and the kind of incomes that can afford to purchase it require a high level of local cafe.
I mention the location in particular because parking is a nightmare. There is a car park at the back of the cafe, however it fills up very quickly at busy times - which is most of the time. A bit of preemptive praying to the Gods Of Parking certainly won't hurt on the way there.
The other downside to being on Heidelberg Road are the trucks hurtling past. If you sit in the courtyard, which is country garden lovely, you may be frequently interrupted by the sounds of hydrolic brakes and horns blaring.
The menu at APTE is a mix of usual breakfast choices - eggs, bircher, hot cakes. The portions are huge and the sides are generous and fresh. There is a large selection of teas and organic juices to choose from as well.
For lunch there are an array of pides, a pasta and a few hot dishes, as well as my favourite - the mixed salad special of the day. The salad special varies from weekday to weekend and consists of three varieties. The last time I was there it was roast potato and bacon; lentil with char-grilled tomato and zucchini; and gorgeous asparagus and butter beans (pictured at top). It was quite simply superb. The vegetables crunched in all the right places, the lentils were smooth and flavoursome and there was just the right amount of tangy vinergeratte dressing. I really savoured every mouthful because I didn't want it to end, but was glad when it did as I was stuffed.
One of my companions enjoyed the baked meatballs; they were the size of cricket balls and served on pide with grilled vegetables, cheese and a rich tomato sauce. The other enjoyed the enormous BLAT that was doused in a creamy aioli and housed in a pide (are you sensing a theme here?) toasted to perfection.
The coffee at APTE is usually served really strong and even though I am a two shot girl in the mornings, I was taken aback by what appeared to be the world's scariest macchiato. The milk barely changed the colour of the coffee as it cascaded down the sides of the glass, rippling through the espresso and almost daring Mr Tea to drink it. He did, but he didn't finish it.
If you can possibly fit in another morsel after the main event, there are an array of cakes and muffins to choose from that are decadently displayed spilling over the tops of their patty pans or oozing their sticky insides onto the cake trays.
Where APTE falls down for me is the service. The set-up for the kitchen is a door out onto the courtyard that the floor staff barrel through, holding out plates in order to clear the way and nearly cleaning up anyone in their path. You are often met with a glare as if it were your fault the architect couldn't come up with anything better.
More than once I was made to feel that was an inconvenience for the staff to have to bring me things, but I was under the impression that was their job.
Overall I give APTE 4 cravats out of 5, because the calibre of the food just about makes up for the disappointing service.