Well, it’s been a while!
I’ve just had a look in my drafts folder and my most recent post (which I never got around to publishing) was last edited on the 17th November 2014 – exactly a year ago today.
So, where was I?
Planning a wedding, going on a honeymoon to the USA, recovering from the high-fructose-corn-syrup-induced-food-coma resulting from said honeymoon… and the rest can probably be put down to laziness.
But anyway, here I am. I’m sure you’ve missed me.
It seems that hipster is the new normal these days. The term is used almost exclusively with derogatory intention, few people willing to identify with the subculture (I don’t think I’m a hipster, says Mr Man-Bun-and-Overly-Groomed-Beard!). However, the hallmarks of hipster cafe culture are now ubiquitous – insofar as it appears, ironically, that ‘hipster’ is now mainstream.
This is a quandary, of course, for the amateur food critic. No longer can we depend on exposed brickwork and blonde timber finishes to guide us towards The Good Cafes, their Edison bulbs shining like beacons of hope in the distance. A few months back, I stopped for a caffeine break while on the job in an industrial estate in outer suburban Melbourne. The sunny yellow La Marzocco and Tolix stools showed promise but the place just didn’t quite deliver. I’ve been cautious ever since.
In the last month Bob and I had noticed a new place pop up next to our local Bunnings. Although it ‘looked good’ at first glance – minimal, plenty of concrete, a touch of greenery – I wasn’t quite prepared to chance it without delving a little further. Thankfully, the results were good. The team’s background (Pillar of Salt, Three Bags Full, Duke’s) was enough to draw me in.
It’s not easy to put together a good cafe menu. The competitive nature of the industry demands creativity and interest; you need to be edgy enough to stand out, but not so much so as to be alienating. Striking this balance is what elevates just-your-local-coffee-joint to a Melbourne cafe heavyweight in the vein of Top Paddock or Proud Mary.
Bawa’s all day menu fared pretty well in this regard. The Californian Superfood Salad, which almost reads as a parody of hipster food (kale, quinoa, heirloom tomatoes, goji berries), has obvious appeal for the health-conscious trendy. (It’s clearly popular, as it also appears on the menus of Pillar of Salt, Touchwood and Barry). The more carnivorously inclined may be tempted by the grass fed scotch fillet and ciabatta (read: steak sanga), while the cafe-staple smashed avo is given a makeover with some creamed corn and hazelnuts.
I went for the potato roesti with braised pork, poached eggs and herb hollandaise. The soft pork was a nice deviation from the typically cured meats of the breakfast world. The roesti was also of good standard – crispy and browned on the outside and tender, not mushy, on the inside. The hollandaise, which initially seemed counter-intuitive against something as rich as braised pork, was balanced nicely with the addition of herbs. The unexpected garnish of freeze-dried apple was a welcome surprise.
Good quality, innovative food. It’s clear that the team here know what they’re doing. I look forward to not lining up at Axil ever again.
248 Burwood Rd