Review: Lot 3, Ripponlea

Originally published on Concrete Playground.

Don’t underestimate the dishes at this small station-side spot.

Lot 3 occupies an old stationmaster’s house right next to platform two of Ripponlea station. For the most part, it’s a laidback space with minimal furniture to complement its no-frills menu. But the boom gates and the buzz of gleeful schoolchildren marching to the station after school are reminders that life continues beyond this tiny slice of culinary paradise.

The cafe’s menu is flush with Italian flavours, championing classics such as an eggplant parmigiana reinvented in burger form ($12). A traditional gnocchi is also on the menu for just 13 bucks (if you can find cheaper bowl of gnocchi at a cafe, tell us), alongside roasted carrots with house-made ricotta. You know it’s seriously Italian when the place makes its own cheese.

The succinct menu descriptions will mess with the minds of Melburnian foodies who are used to a minimum five ingredient run-down of a dish. At Lot 3, the owners know locals are busy people trying to catch trains. That’s why they call a roast chicken sandwich a — *drum roll* — roast chicken sandwich. Revolutionary! Don’t stress about the ambiguity of the menu though — you can trust that the food at Lot 3 is well crafted and delicious. Plus, it’s incredibly affordable; no meal dares to exceed $20.

Soda fountains also sit quietly in the corner, hosting flavours that rotate regularly. And if one glass isn’t substantial enough, Lot 3 does well to challenge to free refills at IKEA with refills for just $1. Yuzu, root beer and Japanese Fanta (all $4) are a few of the flavours that have previously graced the taps.

For those who have made a daily habit of sprinting for the 7.32am City Loop train, you can pick up a coffee made with Proud Mary’s beans and one of the front counter pastries as opposed to sitting in. Otherwise, take a seat on the communal table that occupies most of the cafe. It’s sprinkled with newspapers so you can get your dose of what is happening in the world beyond your porchetta roll — which, to be fair, is worryingly easy to get lost in.

If a café is going to stop you in your tracks, make it Lot 3.

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