62 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
Situated at the opposite side of the city to Roll’d is the city N. Lee store. It caters to the office workers on the east side, open for weekday breakfast and lunch only. Whereas Roll’d is a Vietnamese fast-food restaurant, N. Lee is a cafe offering gourmet sandwiches, sweet snacks and seating to read the newspaper while you eat.
From the Little Collins pavement, catching a view of the massive deli-fridge and frantic staff, busily filling bread rolls to control the peak hour queues, is thrilling. Fans of the traditional Vietnamese bakery may not get the same feeling inside this N. Lee but the standard is expectedly at the same level as its Collingwood counterpart. Disappointingly, a new location comes with a price rise. You have to pay $1.50 more for the same product than on Smith Street.
I went to the counter and without much thought asked for a grilled pork banh mi. I was met with “no”. Surprising and a little disappointing. Hot pork isn’t the be all and end all but I’m super hooked and nearly every Melbourne bakery serves it. Being N. Lee the pork loaf is better than most other places, though its coldness brings it just short of the drool-over amazement at the Smith Street store. The dressing was 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 with stealth, packed minimally but with the right ratios. I’d rather go to Collingwood but if you can’t get any further than Little Collins Street for your upcoming feed, it hits the spot excellently.