Small Graces, 57 Byron Street, Footscray. Phone: 9912 6429
Sometimes a stroll around the vicinity of the sadly burnt-out Little Saigon Market can present a rather glum prospect.
On a grey, chilly mid-week noon hour, for instance.
My understanding is that the post-fire wheels of bureaucracy are grinding ever so slowly towards a resolution.
But in Footscray, there is always life – and always new life.
The new carparking building has arisen and on its ground floor are several businesses already – a chemist; a hairdresser and (supposedly) a Huxtaburger outlet to come; in an adjacent edifice, a cult tea shop outside which I have already twice seen queues.
And there is Small Graces, a lovely cafe that IS small but BIG on heart.
In the normal turn of events, this place would register on CTS as a place for coffee and perhaps coverage in a westie eats goss story, but probably not much more.
But an approach by Small Graces proprietors Rebecca and Diego changes all that.
Yes, we’d like to take your place for a spin (see full disclosure below).
So it is that sometime CTS correspondent Erika, her son Hugh (both very near neighbours of the joint) and I arrive for a mid-week lunch.
We are knocked out.
Small Graces is a cosy place and the staff are smilingly friendly and obliging.
The compact menu ranges through the usual eggy outings, soup and blackboard salads through to display sangers and gorgeous-looking house-made sweets.
But our eyes are immediately drawn to the “sides” section of the food list.
Here there be treasure.
We are permitted, nay encouraged, to treat these as a sort of tapas/antipasto option – so we do!
How good is this?
Clockwise from top (all items clocking in at about $5):
Smashed avo with almond feta and dukkah.
Halloumi, baharat, honey and walnuts.
Chicken, adobo, chicken salt.
Two kinds of pickle – red cabbage and a kimchi-like mix involving carrot.
Slow-cooked pork neck with crackling crumbs.
The first two items here listed are these days, of course, standard cafe fare, but they are rarely presented with this sort of finesse.
The chicken thigh pieces and the sliced pork are miracles of deft seasoning and juiciness.
At first I had thought this light yet fabulously yum spread would need some bread or the like, but …
… these seriously sexy spuds with garlic and rosemary with lemon mayo on the side ($6) add just the right degree of heft to our meal.
Meanwhile, a salad of caramelised beetroot with black lentils, almond feta and dill ($8) continues the flow of fresh flavours.
Young Hugh enjoys his toast with what appears to be a very fine strawberry jam ($6).
With our fine coffees, Erika and I enjoy this mega-rich caramel slice ($5) – in this case, a smallish portion is a blessing.
More and bigger would be TOO much.
Then there’s this equally accomplished lemon curd cheesecake ($6.50) of the non-baked variety.
Our very vocal enthusiasm for the “sides” transformed into a main attraction pecking plate could, I suspect, see these items (there are several more we didn’t try) elevated in status beyond mere add-ons.
The food has been outstanding – more like your top-notch casual dining standard.
But even if that doesn’t transpire, we recommend them heartily.
As we do Small Graces in general.
(Consider The Sauce dined at Small Graces as guests of management. No money changed hands. Our food was chosen by CTS. Small Graces management did not seek any editorial input into this story.)