I remember a time when there was a milk bar on every other corner, and I was quite literally like a kid in a candy store every time I visited one. Times have changed, and milk bars are a rarity now with the influx of 24 hour convenience stores and service stations. However, I still feel that same joy every time I enter Fordham’s Milk bar. This building has stood tall in Camberwell since 1915, and its nostalgic allure has been preserved, despite the café moving forward with modern trends.
Shannon Smith opened the café back in 2010- serving only coffee and a plate of brownies gifted to him by a neighbour eager to welcome him to the neighbourhood. As that first week progressed, pastries arrived, bacon and egg rolls where added to the menu, and Shannon soon become part of the local community. Since then the café has expanded, underwent a renovation earlier this year, and will extend in January 2018 to include a 3rd dining area in the adjoining premises. This will bring with it a greater emphasis on the milk bar theme, with booths and artefacts that pay homage to the buildings humble beginnings. You only need to look up now to see them dotted unobtrusively around the café, such as the ice-cream cone light above the entrance door, and the Tarax sign above the front counter.
The warmth saturates you from the moment you walk in. It is rustic, timeless, and airy all at once. Much like the old milk bars of yesteryear, lolly jars and chocolate bars line the shelves, freshly made pies and pastries adorn the front counter, and there’s a freezer full of frozen treats. More to the point- Shannon seems to know everyone’s name- even the pets! He, quite literally has become a part of the neighbourhood, and has watched kids grow into adults, and trained an array of young teens who have gone on to own and run their own cafes.
All the while, Fordham’s remains committed to being Melbourne’s favourite milk bar, serving a wide demographic, from young kids to elderly local residents, and everyone in between.
Coffee is sourced from Zest, and extracted on a La Marzocco Linea PB. The Blackbird Blend is made up of Ethiopian, Colombian, and Brazilian beans, and serves as the house blend due to its rich, full strength body. With milk, it offers a sweet toffee flavour, with malt chocolate notes on the finish. Single origin beans rotate weekly, and I was treated to an Ethiopian Suke Quto. This naturally processed lot from the Guji zone, was grown between 1860 and 1950 meters above sea level. It had a delightfully sweet aroma, with peach and raspberry flavours.
The food menu offers wholesome honest food, and some much loved staples like the Egg and Bacon roll with caramelised onions, sliced tomato, and herb mayo. Breakfast includes Panko Eggs with Chorizo or Halloumi and sweet potato hash topped with apple cider hollandaise and ruby fruit; Buttermilk and Ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb ice-cream; and the Sundae Waffles with burnt orange syrup and vanilla bean mascarpone. Then there’s lunch, which ranges from Salt and Pepper Calamari; Zoodles with roast pumpkin puree; right through to a selection of burgers, toasties, and pastries from the cabinet served with house made relish.
Fordham’s has come a long way from its humble beginnings with only an espresso machine and a plate of brownies, but has never lost touch with the important element of running a café- that being, remaining loyal to people focused service, and the art of being hospitable. Look out for the extension early 2018.
116-118 Fordham Avenue