From the outside, Vans just looks like your better-than-average beach-side cafè, which just happens to be a bit busier than others most of the time. But it's definitely a cut above the rest - the $125 bottle of champagne on the wine list chalkboard kind of gives it away.
One of the things I like the most about Vans is their enormous menu on the left hand side of the room. It proudly displays their breakfast, lunch or dinner options, including Bloody Mary (virgin or loaded), Slow Cooked Tunisian Lamb Shoulder, and Duck Spring Rolls to name a few I was hungrily eyeing. On the right they've also got a seasonal specials menu, which lists a different special for every day of the week, Monday to Sunday. Another thing that is so aesthetically pleasing about Vans is that all of the chalkboards are written so neatly, complete with bold font, written on ruled lines (erased afterwards, of course) and all in the same handwriting. And yes, someone has told me before that I have issues.
And I just love the interior. It's a mix of blue ornaments, steel and jarrah. Throw in a couple of awesome star-shaped clocks, San Pellegrino bottles, lots of white and sunlight and you've got yourself a nice, beachy retro vibe with a hint of western-suburbness.
The service was impressive from start to finish. We were greeted by a waitress within seconds of entering, who magically conjured a table out of thin air in the middle of the room for us. About one minute later, a different waiter came to take our drink orders, which arrived very promptly after that. And so the good service continued. It was as if the whole waitstaff shared one brain, with tabs on what you'd ordered, where you'd been sitting and what was happening next. The girl at the counter asked if 'everything had been okay' during our breakfast, a rare find for cafès as busy as Vans.
Vans is definitely a Cottesloe institution. Cyclists - check. Mothers and young daughters having breakfast in designer wear - Check. Surfies - check. Attractive, healthy looking joggers ordering coffee - check. Pretentious middle aged lady who glares at food bloggers taking photos of the interior - unfortunately, check. The snapshot she photobombed was too scary for publication purposes.
My SLMXH topped up ($4.5) was sharp, bright and uber nutty, and such a joy to drink after living off UWA Guild coffee for the last few weeks. It came in a delightfully tall glass something like double the size of what you would normally get elsewhere, which meant it was also very strong. Just as well that I had work straight after this. Who would have thought, a long mac for good value in Cottesloe?
Michèl had the Hot Potato Cake with smoked salmon, poached free range egg, wilted spinach and lemon butter ($21) which was vegetarian, organic, gluten free, and damn good. The amount of smoked salmon on that thing looked absolutely mouth watering. The sexiest thing about this one - as soon as you touched the top of the egg with your knife, the poached egg split open and the bright-orange, free range yolk cascaded down the side of the stack of ingredients. The hot potato cake underneath was a super-sized hash brown which really hit the spot on a chilly, overcast Saturday morning. The sauce was perfect for tying it all together, a little lemony to combat the strong salmon taste but still rich and thick enough to be indulgent. I managed to scrounge a couple of delicious bites before the boy breathed it in. Which took about 3 minutes flat.
I opted for the Buttermilk Pancakes, vanilla pears, maple syrup, creme fraiche ($18). For the last month, I haven't really been able to eat gluten because of some health problems. And for someone who loves cake as much as I do, quite frankly, it's been like having a limb amputated. But I've slowly been re-introducing flour into my diet, and this dish was my sweet revenge for every gluten-free meal I'd eaten for the last month. That's right corn thins, bite me.
The best bit about these pancakes were the poached pears - the smooth sweetness of the vanilla, topped with the rich creme fraiche, an excellent combo. The pancakes themselves were pretty decent; fluffy, not too dense, but on the whole, nothing spectacular. Not too long ago I had the Grilled Peach Pancakes at Voyage in Sorrento with Amanda, so perhaps my expectations of this dish were simply too high to be satisfied. It was probably a combination of that and the lack of colour on the plate which meant I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed. But then again, who gives a shit?
I ATE GLUTEN!
So now I've crossed off another one of those Places-I've-Always-Wanted-To-Visit-Since-Forever-Ago. That's what I love about being a food blogger: your dreams can come true up to three or four times a week, depending on how much you eat out. Being a writer for a food magazine and being paid to do it?
Now that would be the ultimate dream.