62 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Filling: 3.5/5 (Pork Loaf)
Situated at the opposite side of the city to Roll’d is the city version of N.Lee Bakery. It’s purpose is basically identical, catering to the many hungry officeworkers, opened at weekday lunchtimes only. Whereas Roll’d is more of a Vietnamese fast-food restaurant, N.Lee is more of a cafe, offering gourmet sandwiches, sweet snacks and seating to read the newspaper while digesting delicious bánh mì.
The East part of the city is very annoying to get to, you have to walk, a long way (sort of) and sometimes my legs aren’t up to it. Okay, that was part lie, I’m not that lazy, but when trams can take you anywhere else (in the city) it feels primitive to be travelling on foot and anyways apart from N.Lee it’s just skyscrapers out there. Of course, the trip is totally worth it when you catch a view of the massive deli-fridge and frantic staff, busily filling bread rolls to control the peak hour queues. Fans of the traditional Vietnamese bakery may not get the same vibe inside N.Lee but the standard is expectedly at the same level to its Collingwood counterpart while serving to a different market. Disappointingly, a new location comes with a price rise. At the city N.Lee, you are paying $1.50 more for the same product than on Smith Street.
I went to the counter and without much thought asked for a BBQ pork bánh mì. I was met with ‘no’. What, that is odd. I know hot pork is an ingredient not common in Vietnam due to availability/price but I don’t think I’ve been to a place in Melbourne that don’t serve it in some form and it is my favourite filling. Oh well, another pork loaf down the chute in a few days, it’s still good. Being N.Lee, the meat it better than most other places, though its cold nature, in my mind, stopping it from being drool-over amazing. The dressing was as usual superb; that combination with the pork was meant to be. What truly sets N.Lee apart from the competitors is their wonderfully fresh bread rolls. It seems they have just come out of the oven each time, keeping your hands warm through the paper bag as you step back into the cold. I get such pleasure slouching back in my chair and letting the bread crumbs scatter all over my front, it’s a sign of a good quality roll. Inside, equally as fresh and crunchy, the salad waits and gee, a serious load of it gets consumed every day. I’d rather go to Collingwood for the explained reasons but if you can’t get any further than Little Collins Street for your upcoming feed, there’s not exactly any reason to complain.