This groovy Melbourne café gets the family brunch test from Jonathan Empson  The website photos make Three Bags Full look painfully hip – twenty-somethings in cardigans, beardy baristas, funky fit-out – which puts me off right from the start. And clearly everyone is too cool to answer the phone when I call to book a table for six for brunch midweek (you can’t book at weekends).

But then I get a friendly call back to confirm they can accommodate my group – four adults and two boys, aged eight and 10.

The omens are good when we find free parking on a side road off leafy Nicholson St, almost close enough to smell the coffee. Our table is waiting when we step through the door and the crowd is more varied than expected: a couple with their teenage daughter; single guys reading the papers; two middle-aged women in cycling gear. Nicholson St is a cycle route and handy for the bike trail that runs along the Yarra River, Abbotsford’s eastern boundary. In fact we could have ridden here down the Yarra all the way from our Templestowe base, and really earned our breakfast.

It’s a nice atmosphere; busier than I’d expected for a weekday, but relaxed. The mixed layout – from tables for two to a communal table in a separate room – makes it a versatile place for breakfast or lunch, and if it’s too packed in here you can always try Next Door, an “overflow” space that offers the same menu. The decor is as quirky as promised: stools made from road signs mixed with bentwood chairs, cute cup-and-saucer lampshades, ever-changing hanging art, fresh flowers. The hard surfaces – a mix of wood panelling and distressed whitewashed walls – make it noisy like most cafés, but the natural light from windows on two sides make it a nice place to linger and read.

Three Bags Full prides itself on its coffee, surprise surprise. It uses Five Senses beans (a Guatemalan/Colombian blend on our visit) and a custom-made Synesso espresso machine or a Clover filter machine for those with more esoteric tastes. I’m a flat-white kinda guy and therefore not qualified to voice an opinion, but it certainly hit the spot. Don’t ask for a “large” coffee, though: one size fits all.

“When’s my food coming?” asks Owen, age 10. It’s 30 minutes since we ordered, which is on the cusp of unacceptable. But the food turns up a couple of minutes later: two kids’ breakfasts (one egg, toast, bacon – crispy, as they like it); a vegie breakfast (a generous plate of eggs, tomato, mushrooms, avocado, spinach, relish and toast, all well timed, but nudging expensive at $17.50); a Three Bags Scramble of eggs, herbs and feta on toast; a rösti from the specials board, served with poached eggs and smoked salmon; and finally my beetroot-cured salmon, served on a corn, pea and feta fritter with rocket, a chunk of avocado and dill sour cream. The rösti is on the solid side – it looks like polenta – but it’s tasty. Beetroot doesn’t do much for my salmon apart from make it purple, and the fritter is a little bland. But the Three Bags Scramble gets the thumbs-up, as does a dairy-free mixed fruit smoothie.

The Details
Where Corner of Nicholson St and Mollison St, Abbotsford.
Notes Open Monday-Friday 7am-3pm; weekends and public holidays 8am-3.30pm. Next Door: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm (kitchen closes at 3pm); weekends and public holidays 9am-5pm (kitchen closes at 3.30pm.
Contact 03 9421 2732; threebagsfullcafe.com.au

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The Menu
Coffee $3.50 x 3
Smoothie $6
Organic lemonade $3.50 x 2
Kid’s breakfast $6.50 x 2
Vegie breakfast $17.50
Three Bags scrambled eggs with herbs and feta $14.50
Rösti with eggs and smoked salmon $16.50
Beetroot-cured salmon with corn and pea fritter $16.50
Total $101.50

THE AT Verdict
Jonathan Empson, who paid his own way and visited anonymously, says:

“The food is fresh without being exceptional – or exceptional value – but Three Bags Full has a great location, a nice atmosphere, friendly staff and good coffee. And the takeaway cupcakes got ‘eight out of ten’ from the kids.”

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