This suburban café, with an emphasis on tolerance for the food intolerant, nails its colours to the mast with a red sign at the front counter that reads, “Keep calm, it’s all gluten free”.
Owner Robyn Metz, who has gluten, lactose and fructose allergies, was an arts student working in retail and hospitality when she formed the idea for her own specialty café. Good coffee had to feature too – her father was a coffee snob, who ground his own beans daily – and she wanted to show that intolerance-friendly food didn’t come at the expense of choice or taste.
Camberwell was chosen as a location because of its shortage of food-tolerance outlets. The seven-month-old café’s extensive menu caters for vegans, gluten, fructose, egg, dairy and nut-intolerant and allergic diners and uses no garlic or onions in its kitchen.
All meals are gluten-free and only buckwheat bread by Moorabbin-based Matisse Bakery is used. Breakfast choices include oven-roasted tomatoes with mushrooms, spinach and house-made hummus in a herbed polenta nest, rice porridge with mandarin, pistachio and lime, french toast, pancakes and baked eggs.
Try the justly popular sweet potato rosti, with golden caramelised edges and a choice of toppings such as earthy house-made baked beans, feta and baby herbs. Lunch options include soups, salads, pies, veggie stacks, fritters, kangaroo steaks and tea-smoked duck with pickled cabbage and quinoa.
All roads (and the Facebook friend network) led coeliac and lactose-intolerant Jess Keeffe to her role as head barista at Red Robyn Café.
The part-time singer and cellist, who plays in four bands, had worked at several Melbourne cafés before her most recent role at Macro Wholefoods in Glen Waverley. There she learnt to use rice milk and lactose-free milk with the café’s organic coffee, gaining an understanding of many food concerns.
Keeffe and Metz have created their own vegan-friendly, lactose-free hot chocolate blend and the café offers a range of black, spiced and herbal teas. Keeffe says the organic Syndicate Espresso coffee blend works well with black brews, dairy, soy and even rice milk – and there’s a specific steam wand for each type to avoid contamination.
An espresso will arrive with an even crema and notes of creamy chocolate and honey, while a piccolo latte, with A2 milk, holds the same pleasant flavours.
Red Robyn Café
393 Camberwell Road, Camberwell
Phone \ 9077 3763
Barista \ Jess Keeffe
Coffee \ Espresso Syndicate
Barista’s choice \ Long macchiato
Open \ Monday to Friday 7.30am-3.30pm; Saturday to Sunday 8.30am-4.30pm
There’s a ruby wall in the rear room, a scarlet-haired waitress wears a red spotted scarf, and splashes of crimson in tiles, shelves and kitchen ornaments, but the theme is cute rather than overworked.
Timber tables and chairs mix with red-and-white-painted stools; a panel of russet-toned vintage wallpaper lines an old fireplace; and birdcages and antique kitchen whisks decorate the walls and ceilings.
Images of robins are repeated on menus, the chalkboard and on black paintings on glossy white tiles.
There’s a cosy coffee-coloured couch for snuggling and a tiny rear deck for perching.