IT'S a difficult strip, that patch along Victoria Street North Melbourne that’s bookended by Errol Street and Queen Victoria Market. It’s a black hole of sorts with little-known attractions to help increase foot traffic and put the area’s gems on the public’s radar.
Helping this is six-month-old cafe Sketch & Tulip. It’s a double-fronted space tucked in the centre of the strip, with yawning windows and a bubbly bright atmosphere to boot. Owner and cook Huda Sleiman founded Flemington’s Made cafe and ran it for two years before spying the Victoria Street site, selling up and opening Sketch & Tulip.
The space is reminiscent of a Brunswick Street cafe of 10 years ago. It’s a little bit grungy, a little kitsch and tied together with hearty servings on big white plates. Part cafe, part gallery space, the walls are dripping with work for sale by new and local artists.
“Our cafes are flooded with amazing creatives and I thought it was a good way to give back,” Sleiman says of displaying artists’ work. With no commission on sales, she certainly is giving back.
But Sketch & Tulip is a cafe at heart. A rustic wooden communal table, soft green window couches and a rear dining room meld seamlessly with the art. The counter showcases the daily calzones and rolls but it’s difficult to notice anything past the shiny Slayer coffee machine that earmarks Sketch & Tulip as a serious coffee contender.
Serving Supreme Coffee’s origin blend, the barista has mastered the Slayer. Silky smooth milk allows the flavours of the coffee ($3.50) to shine, although I needed a double shot to get the kick I required.
The menu is short and sweet and comes inserted inside old leather-bound books. There’s a wood-fired pizza section with six options all sporting super-cute names. Fish outta water ($15) is a thin base topped with salmon, rocket, ricotta and capers, while a Super Mario ($13) is a classic margarita.
The breakfast options stray from the traditional.
A mountain of creamy scrambled eggs on slabs of crunchy sourdough ($12.80) is enlivened by three stalks of snappy asparagus wrapped in a cured salmon spiked with dill and creme fraiche. It’s incredible value and the presentation was a nice twist.
House waffles ($9.50) are not for the faint-hearted. Vanilla ice-cream and a sweet blueberry and raspberry compote ooze in the honeycomb weave of overly doughy waffle squares. A dusting of cinnamon sugar and berry-infused maple syrup elevated the dish to memorable sugary heights.
A hearty bowl of baked beans ($13.80) reminded me of mum’s kitchen. Heavy with tomato and spiced with chunks of chorizo, the dish was crowned with a wobbly poached egg. It was a dip and dunk affair with a sourdough crust – a sturdy napkin was needed.
Sketch & Tulip isn’t breaking any boundaries, but they’re serving up decent fare and warm service. That’s exactly what the area needs.
Sketch & Tulip Cafe
364 Victoria Street, North Melbourne
Call: 9329 9665
Hours: Tuesday-Friday 7am-4pm, Saturday-Sunday 8am-4pm
-A naughty breakfast
-Early morning coffee kick-start
-Couch time post market chaos