The Glenferrie Road strip in Hawthorn has always thrived with bakeries, fast food, and quick and easy eateries. However, apart from Tao Tao House serving some fantastic dim sum, I’ve found it lacking in offering a more polished experience. That is a thing of the past with the fairly recent arrival of Crabapple Kitchen, which has created an oasis of relaxation amidst the hustle of weekend families and weekday university students. It is led by New Zealand chef Greg Feck, who has an impressive history working with the likes of Jamie Oliver, Ben O’Donoghue, and Stephanie Alexander at Richmond Hill Café & Larder, but who more recently opened Sapore in St Kilda and the FoodandTravelCo cooking school with partner Kim Coronica.
The white picket fence on the pavement outside speaks volumes of the nostalgic comfort that Crabapple Kitchen embodies. You can order Campos coffee and takeaway treats through the front window, then the cafe opens onto a rustic-style kitchen and bar area, while the seated area flows through the long room to the working kitchen at the rear. The design is warm and inviting and recalls the charms of a country kitchen, with warm colours, wooden furniture and, on this visit, baby pumpkins dotted on tables (our pumpkin was called Ricardo).
So far I’ve only had chance to explore the breakfast menu but having read the lunch menu (begins at 11:30am), which features spiced duck meatballs, 12-hour Merino and slow-cooked pork, it won’t be long until I do. Of note is that they’re beginning to experiment with opening for dinner, starting Friday November 2.
Despite having no booking and going the busy Sunday morning after a rave review in the Herald Sun, we were seated at the bar area for a coffee and to peruse the menu while we had a short wait for a table. The service is casual and friendly, exactly what you want from your local eatery, but without lacking an attention to detail. Campos coffee is served, a brand that I don’t see often in Melbourne, but which I have frequently in Sydney when visiting my head office; as well as T2 tea and a range of fresh juices and smoothies.
The menu takes two approaches, one part is Greg’s interpretations of classic breakfast menu items, with the second featuring more unique global choices from their travels around the world. Each dish highlights great produce and local producers with Myrtleford butter/milk, Meredith Dairy feta and various high-quality meats appearing across the menu.
The Myrtleford buttermilk pancakes is set to be one of their signature dishes. The crunch of salted peanut praline offers a counterpart to the soft milky pancakes, littered with chunks of banana, and the creamy tang of whipped mascarpone balances with the sweet maple syrup.
Their take on ‘baked beans’ is a generous serve of cannellini beans, slow-cooked in tomato, garlic and herbs; so rich and warm that it’s hard not to smile when eating it. The melted taleggio and an, optional, poached egg ooze through the beans and makes the accompanying crunchy herb bruschetta perfect for dipping.
On the more adventurous global side, the Northern Indian-style eggs, inspired by Jalandhar City, is similarly comforting with a warming lentil and carrot curry that never overpowers with its subtle and aromatic use of spices. Two poached eggs beg to be burst open and let their golden yolks mingle into the curry, with a spiced yoghurt offering a, not entirely necessary, dash of acidity. The grilled wholemeal flatbread has a lovely charred flavour that adds to the dish when mopping the bowl of every drop. This was easily my favourite dish.
I’m not one for having seafood at breakfast time, but with someone else at the table ordering it, I was able to try the Swedish inspired smoked ocean trout. The trout was gorgeously tender, served on grilled bread (gluten-free sourdough on this occasion) with delicately arranged shallots, cornichons, caperberries, horseradish creme fraiche and seaweed caviar on top. While not my personal choice, this dish showed the artistic hand behind the food, with beautiful plating that you don’t often find at breakfast.
Crabapple Kitchen has deservedly become my new favourite local restaurant/cafe, and that’s without trying the well-received lunch menu. Even if you don’t have the good fortune of living around the corner, this is definitely worth travelling for, and being able to book online (see their website) is an additional blessing.