Scorcher reviews: A1 Bakery
Click PLAY below to hear the full review on 3AW Breakfast
We all have those friends from a previous life, from school days perhaps, whom you can call upon for a long-overdue rendezvous and when you meet up it’s like no time has passed at all.
It’s the same with restaurants.
There are certain eateries in Melbourne that you know will always be there for you, ready to comfort you with a hearty hug of a meal, when you next need it, even though you’ve been off gallivanting with other newer, sexier establishments.
A1 Bakery, a Brunswick institution, is one such restaurant: a beacon of bready goodness in bustling Sydney Road.
And this week I thought it was high time that I paid a visit to my good old buddy.
Started by two brothers, the Lebanese bakery has been pumping out spicy baked goods to feed the hungry masses of Melbourne for almost three decades.
Serving traditional Lebanese flatbreads, pitas and pizzas, A1 is the kind of place you come to fill your belly with wholesome food – and walk away without having drained your back pocket.
The phrase ‘cheap and cheerful’ was invented for a joint like A1 Bakery.
Old men sit around chatting over coffee, students take a temporary break from diving down the rabbit hole that is their iPhone to devour huge $3 spinach triangles and kids shove slices of folded pizza into their smiling gobs, their parents stoked that they’ve only had to part with a fiver to pacify their sproggets.
The simple, canteen-style space fills up quickly, but the queues move swiftly and tables turn over at a pace, so wait times are seldom longer than a few minutes.
When A1 Bakery opened in 1992, Joan Kirner was Premier of Victoria, Billy Ray Cyrus’s ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ was topping the ARIA charts, Prince Charles and Diana were heading for Splitsville and Ross Stevenson hosted a program called ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money’.
Melbourne has undergone so much change in the years since – we got CityLink and eTags, Crown Casino and Federation Square, freak shakes and smashed avocado – but A1 has remained a reliable feature of the northern suburbs, with prices seemingly frozen at Nineties values as well.
The massive spinach and Danish feta triangle is almost a meal in itself, and at $4 you’d be hard pressed to find a better value snack in this city.
The dish that got my tummy humming was the shanklish pie ($5), a kayak-shaped doughy parcel as long as your arm filled with yoghurt-based cheese, tomatoes, onions and herbs.
The pizzas are fine and thrifty as well: the zaatar-based flatbread with tomato, onion capsicum and olives is a treat for vegetarians, so too the dips with pita, and the felafel wraps and platters.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t flashy, white-tablecloth dining; punters flock here for good, honest, filling food.
So, while old friends may not always be as intriguing or beguiling as new acquaintances, it can be a rather fulfilling exercise to drop in on them for a catch up every now and again.