Occasionally I have readers tipping me off about places to go and I recently received an email suggesting that I try The Bell Jar.
So one cold, blustery afternoon I decided to trek up the nether-regions of Smith St (I rarely go past Johnston Street) to have a look. The cafe is quite hard to miss because it’s not really in a strip of shops, nor does it have a particularly noticeable frontage. I peeked through the window and thought that maybe they just did sandwiches for lunch (which I didn’t really fancy), but the whitewashed terrace house interior looked cosy and welcoming, so I decided to step inside and take the risk of eating stuff with bread.
I’m so glad I did, because it turns out that they have quite an extensive menu of breakfasty things, lunchy things, sandwiches and sweets, from what I could tell all made on premises. I settled myself in the back room, with the huge communal table and a striking autumnal floral feature which I’m going to pinch as an idea for my own house.
I decided on the corn cakes of the day, which came with smoked salmon ($14). I asked whether they could do a vegetarian option, maybe with some avocado instead, and the friendly waitress said no problem. The young chef then came out with a plate a two thick corn cakes, piled with a vibrant avocado salsa and topped with a fresh salad. For some reason I thought the dish had an almost Vietnamese scent to it, maybe because of the cucumber and red onion, but that freshness contrasted perfectly with the smooth avocado and unexpected pops of sweetness from the pomegranate seeds. I told the chef that he should keep it on the menu permanently! He said that in fact the toppings for the corn cakes, along with the ricotta hot cakes, change every few days or so, to give him a chance to experiment.
As for the corn cakes, personally I prefer them with more corn and less batter, but they were by no means a bad version, especially smothered with that to-die-for topping.
I decided to stay on for something sweet. There were quite a few options available, from cake to Anzac biscuits, but I could sniff something chocolately coming out of the oven so asked for that instead. So, for $5, a plate of still-warm oozing chocolate brownie with a hint of coffee, served with a tiny doll’s jug of chantilly cream. I could have eaten a whole baking tray of it!
By this time, the rain had really started bucketing down outside and I didn’t have an umbrella. The staff offered to lend me an umbrella that I could just return ‘whenever’, which just goes to show the trust and care they show their customers. I opted to sit in the front window to wait for the rain to subside as I was feeling particularly contented and relaxed, just ‘being’, at The Bell Jar.
I very much hope that The Bell Jar continues to do well in it’s slightly out-of-the-way locale. The food is prepared fresh, there is an obvious care in using good quality ingredients and the atmosphere is welcoming. It’s the perfect little neighbourhood cafe.
For other fabulous cafes in Collingwood, try Proud Mary and Cibi.