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Fenton Food and Wine

  • Restaurants
  • Carlton
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. In a bowl there is two fried eggs with spices and herbs next to a crusty piece of bread
    Photograph: Supplied/Fenton
  2. Inside Fenton there is a large wooden door, wooden tables and a bar, with people sitting in a group around a table drinking wine
    Photograph: Supplied/Fenton

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Sustainability and community are the focus at this Rathdowne Street newcomer

Fenton is unusual for a few reasons. Among a sea of old-school Italian cafés on Rathdowne
Street, owners Nesbert Kagonda and Ruby Clark are revolutionising the strip’s breakfast
game – alongside their sister venue Tanaka and much-loved neighbourhood eatery Florian.

Like many cafés, it has a focus on seasonal, zero-waste produce, but unlike a lot of them, it
works within its own closed-loop system alongside the team-operated Tanaka Farm Project
to ensure everything grown is used. And as a day-to-night operation open several days a week, it mirrors an increasing raft of cafés like Ascot Food + Wine that are satisfying not only their patrons’ breakfast and lunch needs, but their dinner ones, too.

Unlike sandwich destination and community grocer Tanaka, which predominantly does a
takeaway game, Fenton’s light-filled space (it used to be an architect’s office) is designed for dining in. Gunmetal walls frame repurposed barn doors, while ornate ceilings, recycled tabletops and interiors lined with bottles of fresh produce add to the café’s farm feel.

Fenton’s menu is a seasonally changing one, reflecting its garden-to-plate ethos. Its spring
menu is enlivened by pickles, preserves and seasonal greens, while soft-boiled eggs from
Kagonda’s parents’ farm in South Gippsland and sourdough feature in nearly every breakfast dish.

Sustainability is the focus at Fenton, so you’re likely to find the same ingredients replicated across multiple different dishes, albeit always in new and exciting ways. Strips of cured trout are arranged artfully on a piece of sourdough, with ribbons of pickled fennel and smatterings of dill and parsley adding a pleasant acidity and freshness to the dish. Fenton’s immaculately fried rosti is a must-try, and alongside the pork and chilli sausage it appears with, it’s a much heavier breakfast – tackle it with a full appetite.

Mirroring Tanaka’s focus on South African dishes, the rich, tomatoey goodness of Fenton’s
chakalaka eggs is lifted with dollops of herb labneh. It’d be remiss to visit a sister café of Tanaka without trying one of their famed sandwiches – there’s a special daily-rotating market sambo, but we opt for the tuna melt. A thick doorstopper wedge of sourdough filled with tuna and squares of molten cheese, it is a savoury dream.

For the dinner service on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, expect the same focus on
seasonal ingredients and the melding of African culinary influences with Middle Eastern,
Asian and European techniques and traditions. Translating from Zulu to mean fish, ‘inhlanzi’
spotlights sardines with the pairing of salsa verde and pickled daikon, while ‘kabichi’, the
Swahili word for cabbage, sees the cruciferous vegetable paired with a spiced caper sauce. Terrine, harissa and furikake feature in inventive flavour combinations as well.

Locals have taken quickly to Fenton. With a decent outdoor area and the ability to guzzle
down a Fenton Spritz, pet nat Mimosa or fruit punch mocktail no matter what time of the day
it is, the all-in-one café and bistro is guaranteed to attract a summer crowd.

Looking for other reasons to get out of bed in the morning? Check out the best breakfasts in Melbourne

Written by
Sonia Nair


158 Rathdowne Street
Opening hours:
Mon & Tues 7am-4pm; Wed-Sat 7am-late; Sun 8am-4pm
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