This is one of Our Best Kept Secrets. . . . .

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By Regan Stoneman

7 Inkerman St St Kilda, Phone: 90789309 Open 7 days, 6.30am to 4pm Breakfast & Lunch ( a little later 8am on Sundays)

The other day, aimlessly wandering down Inkerman Street and famished as I was, I discovered by chance, this wonderful cosy little cafe, unexpectedly tucked away just before the St Kilda Road intersection. I was delighted to be greeted by a very welcoming and convivial crew.

Manager, and owner Heidi Terry, lead the way and immediately extended me a warm welcome and within a few short minutes my caffeine addiction was satisfied, as a latte was speedily placed in front of me, a nice strong one at that! Heidi, a previous Ballroom dancer and teacher turned hospitality maitre de, along with her chef partner Larissa Clayton, boasting a distinguished reputation in such establishments as Thousands Blessings and Harry’s Cafe over the last 10 years in Melbourne, have both combined forces to present this charming new food & rendezvous “Hide & Cheek”. Heidi meets and greets out front and Larissa creates the magic in the open spaced kitchen for all to see.  Barista Shaun Clifford produces his brand of magic behind the espresso machine.

These guys form the nucleus of competent, sincere and friendly staff !

There is a fascinating story here, as it is not the first time the two girls have come together under the same banner of “Hide & Cheek”! Previously they united as a rock group under that same name, over 10 years ago in fact, starting out as a 2 piece acoustic duo, guitar and vocals. Hide & Cheek Band entertained in the very same type of eating spots as this, their new venture they own and operate here in St Kilda! Consequently, their motto inscribed on the menu, is: “Our food is from the heart and soul, with a little bit of rock and roll!”

Hide & Cheek commenced only 3 months ago and its popularity is multiplying weekly.  The exceptional eating experience, the scrumptious food itself and its unique style of presentation are all contributing to the word of mouth reputation. Then there’s this warm, relaxed atmosphere created by the comfortable rock and blues music playing in the background. The music is appropriately endorsed by the signage displayed in the café saying, ” Stay calm and rock on!” and this phrase says it all about the Hide & Cheek experience.

Other factors drawing the crowd are the management’s attention to the little, but important things; like all condiments, pickles, salsas and jams even the mayonnaise are home made on premises, only top quality A2 and Bonsoy milk, gluten free choices available, soy alternatives, free Wi- Fi, abundance of power points, plenty of daily newspapers and current Magazines and the list goes on.

Office workers and professional people alike, come from all walks of St Kilda life rubbing shoulders here, and today is no exception.  I had some very interesting conversations with some of the patrons whilst having breakfast. I was pleased to notice that my favourite dish, Eggs Benedict was included on the menu.

Mine was a yummy rendition of perfectly soft poached eggs on New Zealand Smoked Salmon (smoked ham as the normal option also available), on a generous piece of traditional sourdough toast.  I had the pleasure to meet a fascinating lady who religiously frequents the cafe daily, Desley Lodwick, an executive personnel coach, a previous managing director of a global IT company now representing Cohort Coaching. Desley described her daily ritual of coming only to Hide & Cheek now, as her office away from her office. She finds the premises perfect for small private meetings over breakfast or lunch, but stressed to me the main reason she shifted from other establishments nearby, besides the extraordinary food, was the competence and sincerity of the staff. “Always putting the customers best interest at heart “, she claimed.

The Winter Breakfast Menu attracts a great deal of attention by the novel way the various dishes are referred to.  Such jovial and novel titles as Goldilocks, the Mermaid, Edith Piaf, Speedy Gonzales amongst others, make for curious patrons that enjoy exploring. For example one of the most popular choices is the inimitable,”Antonio Banderas”: Two poached eggs on sourdough, avocado, tomato, fetta, herb and chilli salsa. Another popular dish is, “Buck Rogers”: Organic buck wheat pancakes- gluten free, berry compote, maple syrup, vanilla ice- cream. The dishes absolutely live up to their unique titles in quality and taste. Of course they offer the standard egg classics and a diverse selection of irresistible breads, namely : La Madre Traditional Sourdough, Seven Grain Whole-wheat Sourdough, Cibatta and Vine Fruit Loaf.

Lunch is light, healthy and different and all accompanying sauces, chutneys, salsas and even the mayonnaise are made on the premises! Chef Larissa, whose background is primarily a pastry chef produces a wide variety of delightful cakes and pastries all personally cooked daily Very reasonably priced with nothing over $10: Beef & Onion Pie, Beef & Pork Sausage Roll, Tuna Pasta Mornay, Thai Chicken Curry & Rice, Homestyle Lasagna, Vegetable Polenta Stack, Vegetarian Quiche, Indian Dahl & Roti, Soup of the Day with herb buttered Cabatta, Daily Salads whole or as a sidesalad. Sandwiches and Burgers take pride of place especially the Tuna Pattie I devoured for lunch as a standalone dish rather than its very popular sandwich version.  An unexpected treat of fresh Australian Tuna, baked that morning with Fetta Cheese, potato, chili , tasty herbs and spices, nicely served with that magnificent Avacado Salad I explain later .

Every day there is a board of fantastic specials and one such dish was highly recommended by another group of guests I talked to that day.  Two enthusiastic eaters were Jesse & Dean Smith, who were raving about a dish the chef labelled as, “Arincini”. Dean had just consumed this stunning looking dish modelled in the shape of a pyramid and in fact it is described as an Egyptian delicacy of specially cooked Risotto treated with exotic middle eastern spices. Accompanying this 7 or 8 inch tall Risotto presentation was a lovely Avacado Salad, which “was scrumptious”, quipped local builder and sculptor Dean . The salad had freshly finely cut tomatoes, chillies in amongst tender Avocado segments.

Drinks have always been a treat here since opening, featuring the well-considered Melba range of organic teas & coffees and a comprehensive choice of freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices. Recently Hide & Cheek has just been granted a liquor license and now you can enjoy a limited range of quality red and white wines and a few locally well-chosen brewed beers with lunch, followed by cocktails or spirits with splits. Some adventurous patrons are enjoying a glass of champagne or a Bloody Mary with breakfast. Soon, come spring, Hide & Cheek will open later on Fridays and weekends featuring Cocktail Happy Hours to cater for those going to or coming from work or maybe just a bit of fun where you can meet some stimulating local company . So, stay tuned!

A final word on this extraordinary little meeting and eating spot. Not forgetting all those healthy foodies in the area, Chef Larissa tells me that the majority of the produce and ingredients she uses to create her culinary delights are farm fresh, organic and there are many vegetarian and gluten free options.

The Grey and Inkerman Steet strip is fast becoming an exciting new food hub for St Kilda, and I am sure once you pay a visit to Hide & Cheek in this area, it will not be your last!

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