The bread deserves attention. It’s a house-made loaf of 70 per cent rye and 30 per cent spelt, making for a lighter than traditional slice. Sunflower and pepita seeds add extra body. Some sandwiches ply traditional lines, like the one with rich, creamy pork liver pate, smothered with lingonberry jam then topped with a poached egg (very Melbourne; in Copenhagen you’d get a boiled egg) and toasted hazelnuts. It’s an extremely satisfying balance of crunchy and rich, wholesome and indulgent.
Owner and chef Zume Pham came to Australia from Vietnam four years ago to study mechanical engineering. It’s fair to say that opening a fancy sandwich joint was not on his radar but – as can happen – Melbourne’s vibrant hospitality scene saw him swerve into a career as a chef. Last year he married designer Amy Vo, a fellow Vietnamese immigrant, and it was during their honeymoon in Scandinavia that they identified a smorrebrod-sized gap in the Melbourne cafe scene. Oppen opened just before Christmas; the design is calm and clean and the location, next to Windsor Station, is an off-Chapel Street oasis.
Beyond the stuff on bread, a free-floating Scandinavian influence is also seen in the granola, a pleasantly savoury blend of nuts, seeds and grains that’s served with fabulous sour cherry foam, skyr, a sour Icelandic yoghurt, and ymerdrys, a sweetened breadcrumb. So many mueslis are sweet mush; this one is great. Skyr also keeps a delicious rhubarb and “apple pie” smoothie light and fresh to the bottom of the glass. Other dishes bust free from geography: the burger is a nicely made tower of indulgence with juicy wagyu patty, smoked cheese and an oozy truffle-spiked sauce.
When I’m told Melbourne doesn’t need another cafe, I tend to agree. Surely there’s one for each of us now? On the other hand, when spirited citizens keep founding original, pleasant and friendly places, I can’t help but Oppen my arms.