Feast of Merit
117 Swan St, Richmond
Hours: Monday 7:30-3pm, Tuesday-Friday 7:30am-1am, Sat-Sun 8am-1am
The Middle-Eastern influenced salads and breakfast dishes of Feast of Merit, a non-profit community oriented cafe in Richmond, had been on my radar for quite some time before our visit on Sunday morning. A YGAP initiative, all profits from Feast of Merit go to youth education and leadership projects in disadvantaged communities in Malawi, Ghana, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Australia, with the aim of helping these communities become self-sustainable. The philosophy of Feast of Merit itself is also admirable, with the name based on a tradition of Nagaland, a region of far North-eastern India, about how “merit lies with those who choose to give it away.” (read the full story of Feast of Merit in the cafe).
Stepping inside early on a Saturday morning felt like entering a separate world: gone was the busy traffic of Swan St, and in its place was the spacious world of Feast of Merit. Hazy morning light streamed though large windows with stripped back wooden frames, vibrant greenery hung from the ceiling, rustic bleached bricks contrasted with the dark wooden seating, and the cushioned benches gave a homely, unpretentious feel. It is much bigger than it may first appear – the space is divided up by pieces of old wood and big doorways into separate, more intimate sections, ideal for dinner seatings, while a big communal table in the entranceway is perfect for the lunchtime rush.
Feast of Merit offers breakfast, lunch and dinner most days, all with a Middle-Eastern influence and combinations that would be difficult to find else where in Melbourne. The breakfast menu, running until 1130am weekdays and all day on the weekends, encompasses options like bircher with super seeds, orange blossom yogurt, poached new season pears, cinnamon, honey & lemon thyme ($11), Autumn Harvest – avocado, roasted cauliflower, smoked yogurt, spiced eggplant, vintage carrots ($16.5), and a shakshouka with tomato, chilli peppers, legumes & pulses, green eggs, tahini labneh, & toast ($15). It is a menu for adventurous eaters, and our only thought was that it would be nice to have an additional sweet option for those so inclined. For lunch, you can choose a protein source (such as Hopkins river beef, roasted Milawa chicken with lemon and za’atar, or BBQ market fish with tahini and herbs) and one or two salads. The salads look phenomenal, and I will definitely be back to try them – options include local mushrooms with chermoula, garden herbs, cracked wheat & yoghurt dressing, roasted eggplant with smoked labneh, dukkah, harissa oil, coriander & parsley, and charred broccoli with mint, watercress, pomegranate, lemon oil, rough hummus & za’atar.
For breakfast, though, I couldn’t go pass the hot smoked trout ($17). Feast of Merit’s own supergrain toast is chargrilled and topped with smears of chunky hummus, strips of pickled zucchini, flaked ras el hanout hot smoked ocean trout and a soft poached egg. A sprinkling of homemade dukkah finishes the dish, of which fennel, coriander and cumin were dominant flavours, and decorated with fronds of fresh fennel. This was a meal that I would happily eat again and again. So good.
Kate and Kate (is there a plural of Kate??) ordered the locally foraged mushrooms ($17), where grilled supergrain toast is topped with a thick layer of fresh ricotta, parsely, coriander and lemon, then served with tender, warm (and massive!) mushrooms and a poached egg. Flavoured with spices and sweet paprika, the mushrooms had a note of heat to them, matched by the refreshing and cooling ricotta and lemon. Another hit dish, in our opinion.
What we saw of Feast of Merit made us want to return as soon as possible. For more brunch (would happily eat those trout and mushrooms dishes again), for lunch (those salads!) and for dinner, which looks just as innovative as the daytime menu. A relaxed, charming atmosphere and fit-out, plus healthy, filling food absolutely bursting with flavour and unique to Feast of Merit is a winning combination.
Don’t miss: the breakfast mushrooms
Features: breakfast menu, selection of salads and protein of lunch menu, and full dinner menu.