Perhaps a signal of flagging café food standards of late, this hot Neil Road joint appoints itself a 'gastro-café' to highlight its flavour-forward leanings. And The Populus definitely lives up to its tag.
The rice and grain bowls ($18.50-$24) – they’re topped with all manner of vegetables and meats like pulled pork, teriyaki salmon and truffle-scented seared wagyu – are Instagram favourites that taste as hearty as they photograph. As is the server-recommended seafood linguine ($24), with al dente spools of bisque-coated pasta next to nubs of crabmeat and scallops. Fork out another ten bucks to add a tail of butter-poached lobster.
Given that co-owners Andrew Lek and Kang Yi Yang borrow references from Down Under, smashed avocado shows up smeared on robust multi-grain bread along with vinaigrette-slicked musses of kale, broccoli, spinach and other greens on the Superfood Platter ($20).
One tip to getting a balanced meal here is to have a tall swirl of ice cream on waffles – like the raspberry- and passionfruit-soured Dark Chocolate Sundae ($14) – with a cup of coffee to kill the sugar. Because the other part of the owner equation here, local roasting outfit 2Degrees North Coffee Co, trains its barista team well enough to offer suggestions on the ideal milk-to-espresso ratio for the three signature blends of coffee ($4.50-$5.50) and single-origins ($6-$6.50).
At times, the café’s house rules can come across as churlish: it discourages doggie bags by implementing a $2 surcharge. It's a good thing, then, that The Populus ticks all the boxes otherwise, feeding the iPhone-wielding café hopper with good food and three photo backdrops for snapping their best #foodporn shots.
|Venue name:||The Populus Coffee and Food Co|
146 Neil Rd
|Opening hours:||Mon 9am-7pm; Tue 9am-4pm; Wed-Fri 9am-11.30pm; Sat 9.30am-11.30pm; Sun 9.30am-7pm|
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