Neighbourhood Guide: Hawthorn
Gone are the days when the only good eateries were exclusively situated in the city (along with their high prices). Inner suburbs such as Hawthorn, Fitzroy and South Yarra are increasingly exerting their culinary dominance, in part due to the many high-profile restaurateurs such as Fonda and Huxtaburger moving out of the CBD to expand their empires, but also thanks to other smaller eateries that are flourishing and making their own mark. Here’s our neighbourhood guide to the unique foodie hub that is Hawthorn.
Formerly known as Canvas, the popular bar on the infamous Glenferrie drinking strip, the Hawthorn Common has been given new life as a wholesome and sophisticated take on café eating. Passing the small coffee bar on the ground level and up the stairs to the main dining, awaiting is a refined and modern space to dine, setting the scene of what this establishment is all about: minimalist but pleasant aesthetics both on and off the plate with relaxing vibes to match.
The café prides itself on the wholesome approach of their menu, making everything from scratch including curing their meats and growing their vegetables. The new seasonal menu relies on the typical breakfast collection of sourdoughs, eggs, grains, that sit alongside other surprising combinations such as special Earl Grey pancakes with rhubarb and pistachio crumble. There is a lot going on but the execution is seamless and highlights the fresh and seasonal produce on offer.
Axil Coffee Roasters
Sitting next door to Hawthorn Common, Axil is a lively affair thanks to the caffeine-tinged air of freshly ground coffee and the constant buzz of chatter. The converted warehouse setting includes high benches and booth seating, breaking up the environment with pendants and greenery to create a touch of sophistication in surroundings that could easily become sterile.
To start with, the coffee is where the party’s at. The air at Axil is filled with coffee aromas not only from the big and serious coffee machines but also the roasting facilities out the back. The kitchen produces the reliable classics such as fritters, smashed avocado and baked eggs, available on the all-day breakfast. The lunch options also spice things up a bit, with corn tacos, fava bean falafels and confit duck leg, plus seasonal favourites. The perennial Instagram favourite, the red velvet pancakes with raspberries and cream cheese frosting is a must-try for any proud foodie.
This multi-level pizzeria not only provides the perfect surroundings for both the casual catch-up and group dinners, but it also brings Lygon St to you thanks to the ultra-thin pizza bases and punchy Italian flavours we know and love. The menu steers away from cliché Italian offerings in favour of calamari share plates and arancini. The desserts are also worth visiting in their own right with the toffee pudding cake, featuring candied walnuts and smooth spheres of white-chocolate coated apple, being a stunner. On a gorgeous sunny day you just can’t beat grabbing a pizza and Peroni and lazing on the rooftop, you’ll be sure to fulfill ‘la dolce vita’.
Crabapple Kitchen quickly cemented itself in Hawthorn’s food landscape after its opening in 2012 by Chef and Owner Greg Feck. Having trained with Jamie Oliver, Ben O’Donoghue and Stephanie Alexander, Feck has carved out his own niche thanks to his creative and carefully considered menu inspired by travel.
A surprisingly large all-day breakfast menu houses the usual suspects, plus a Brazilian shrimp & coconut curry and a Greek flatbreak with lamb and spiced fried egg. Lunch is much the same explosion of global flavors, with inspiration from French, Italian, Middle Eastern and American cuisine. Many of the dishes on the menu have a travel-inspired back-story and the wait staff are happy to regale you with how your cured salmon dish was created. Crabapple’s spectacular out-back seating area is a prize to be won on bustling weekends and be sure to ask about the themed travel dinners taking place each weekend.
No list would be quite complete without reference to the funky Mexican chain that is taking Melbourne by storm. The newly opened Fonda Hawthorn is serving up big Mexican flavours in its famously quirky pastel surrounds, this time scaled back compared to its CBD and South Yarra branches.
The menu is the same as the other restaurants but there’s no need to fix what ain’t broken. You can still enjoy the burritos and tacos that have helped Fonda earn its name and wash it down with either imported Mexican cervezas or a chilled aguas frescas, like the Horchata or pineapple and mint mocktail.
Housed in a simple chapel in the middle of Hawthorn, St Columbs’ charming café, The Green, is a social enterprise café geared towards assisting the long-term unemployed by providing hospitality training. Standing opposite the Hawthorn Hotel, The Green provides café style breakfast and lunch until 3pm either inside the building or behind in the quaint gardens. The pulled pork, lamb shoulder and smoked salmon fillet dishes anchor the lunch menu and there are some interesting accompaniments to choose from. The Green is not the easiest to spot on Burwood Rd, yet its secrecy creates a surprisingly special experience right across the road from Swinburne University.
Omah brings to Hawthorn authentic and modern Asian charm thanks to it sophisticated take on usual Malaysian Hawker fare. You’ll find many business types frequenting Omah’s to pick up one of the many lunch specials, including Roti Canai, Nasi Lemak and Curry Laksa, which, although not blisteringly hot, strikes the right note in serious Asian comfort eating. Plus, it is hard to turn down lunch for just $10. The Malaysian staff are fuss-free, catering for all needs promptly and with a smile. Don’t feel that you’re missing out if you can’t make lunch as the menu is offered throughout the day and into the evening.
Hawthorn has stepped up its burger game with Grill’d, Ribs and Burgers and Huxtaburger all vying for hungry stomachs, however Humburger has managed to define itself as one of Hawthorn’s up and coming burger joints. Each burger is named for one of the hottest foodie destinations from around the globe, such as the New Yorker, double beef, cheddar, onion, pickles and lashings of mayo and tomato sauces, or the Saigon, with grilled chicken breast, coriander, chicken parfait, cucumber and nuoc cham. If any of the five set options don’t take your fancy, you can choose the basic ‘Hum’ and add your extras as you like. Although the fries occasionally leave something to be desired, Humburger offers the comforts of juicy patty, lots of condiments and sweet sweet buns to rival the diverse varieties of burger dining in Hawthorn today.
Unsurprisingly from its namesake, Samurai specializes in all things Japanese.
Highlights include the delicate sashimi share plates, crisp gyozas accompanied with a salty soy and vinegar towers of tempura seafood and vegetables, and the crowd-pleasing Chicken Katsu Curry: crumbed chicken with a mild Japanese curry sauce. There are also daily bento boxes to choose from at lunchtime, and with queues out the door a regular sight, this is one place that has cemented itself in the culinary landscape of Glenferrie Rd. For the die-hard footy fans, it’s not unusual to see a cluster of Hawthorn football players together at lunch so don’t forget your selfie-stick.