It’s been a while since I’ve done a cafe review, but after eating at Zen Den a few times lately I thought it was about time I rectify that! The standard of cafe in Eltham sure has gone up a notch or two since I lived there as a kid, so I’m always happy to go out for brunch when I’m out visiting my folks!
These dishes were from a few different visits, but all bar one are from the standard menu. It’s got a good array of vegetarian and gluten-free options, plus some vegan friendly dishes as well. Off to a good start!
This first Zen Den dish is the Sumac Attack ($18.5) which consists of sumac roasted pumpkin, tahini yoghurt, labne, dukkah, poached eggs and rocket on toast. It’s a super tasty dish and makes for an interesting spin on a poached egg breakfast. Flavourful, well balanced and well poached eggs – what more could you want?
The Veggie Burger ($22) is another winning dish. A sweet potato quinoa patty with mushroom, haloumi, spinach and beetroot relish, served with sweet potato fries. The patty is clearly homemade which I love, even if it sometimes falls apart a little, and the addition of haloumi is always going to make me happy. I never enjoy sweet potato fries as much as I think I will, but these ones are at least deliciously seasoned.
On a recent visit I chose the Shakshukah ($19), the baked eggs were served with a spicy tomato, roast capsicum and chickpea sauce with feta. They definitely were spicy, but not so much that it overpowered the flavour, which was delicious! The eggs were slightly more cooked than I usually prefer, but that’s often the case with baked eggs and there was still a bit of runny yolk to keep me happy! A hearty, warming breakfast option that I would happily choose again.
The next dish is the gluten-free version of the Hulk Smash ($18.9) – smashed avocado, beetroot relish, toasted pepitas, feta and mint. It also features a little waffle fry that migrated from my uncle’s dish! It’s hard to go wrong with a smashed avo dish at a Melbourne cafe, and this is another excellent example of the dish. I liked the addition of the toasted pepitas to add some crunch, and the beetroot relish is also delicious. It’s a classic combo for a reason!
This Mexican Bean dish was a special the last time I visited Zen Den, and I shared it and the baked eggs with my sister. It’s a vegan friendly option, with black beans, guacamole, tomato-lime salsa, cashew cream and tortillas. I loved that there were plenty of tortillas so I could load up a bit of all the ingredients multiple times. There was also a well balanced amount of each of the elements, including plenty of the excellent cashew cream. I’d order this again for sure!
This is the only dish I’m sharing that I haven’t actually tried myself yet, but my Dad has ordered it a few times so I’m guessing it’s another good one! It’s the Shroom Raider ($19) consisting of thyme roasted mushrooms, enoki, goats curd, basil pesto and poached eggs on thick cut brioche. It’s definitely a pretty looking dish, and I love the combo of mushrooms with the goats curd and pesto. Brioche is not my favourite of the breads, but I have a feeling the sweet and savoury combo would be a good one. I might have to try it myself next time!
Zen Den also does excellent coffee, sourcing their beans from Proud Mary. I’ve had their long blacks in both traditional and iced form, and both are spot on. Quite possibly the best coffee I’ve had in Eltham (outside of the coffee my Dad makes at home!).
The staff are Zen Den are excellent as well – super friendly and accomodating, creating a really friendly and welcoming vibe at the cafe. They even put aside a table for us on a public holiday even though they weren’t taking bookings because we were quite a big group. That’s the kind of service that will make us go back time and time again! Plus, the food is obviously top notch as well!
Have you been to Eltham before? Next time give Zen Den a try!