Crabapple KitchenMarch 15, 2013
Whew, finally a European-centric-all-day-eating-house-with-a-stong-focus-on-brunch on Glenferrie Road! Crabapple is one of those new breeds of all day eateries, serving casual food fare that is modern without pushing boundaries, everything run and executed seamlessly with more than just a touch of class.
A white picket fence and a bright orange striped awing welcome people in; inside, the restaurant is long and narrow but they’ve made excellent use of the space, in particular by having tables for pairs with diners eating side by side rather than face to face – perfect for snuggling!
Owners Greg Feck and partner Kim Coronica, who have worked in some of the best restaurants around the world (evidence of their travels are littered across the walls), know what they’re doing. They also know exactly what they want, eschewing the new-age Melbourne species of cafes – you know the ones I mean, single origin cold drip coffee, minimalist industrial fit-out, waiters with questionable facial hair – for a classic, old-school feel.
And they’ve tapped into the sophisticated and well-travelled Hawthorn psyche like a pair of seers. Kim works the front of house like a total pro, every time I’ve been (I count six visits at time of writing) she’s done an excellent job managing a long queue of hungry and impatient diners, winning everyone over with her quick smile and energy. Crabapple Kitchen is just what the doctor ordered, and you can practically hear the locals crying out “just what we’ve always wanted!”
The front third of the restaurant is largely taken up by the bar and charcuterie section; I am particularly enamoured with this Lacanche cooktop they’ve got. The back two-thirds have larger tables and benches, and the fit-out is old-school European, with exposed brick and vintage pieces of furniture.
The first time we went was during that ungodly heatwave over summer, and Crabapple’s iced coffee was a tart and refreshing drink to start us off. Coffees here are consistently good, smooth and nutty with not a touch of bitterness. A very easy drink.
The menu is long, varied and interesting, each dish both delicious and well presented (the two characteristics are not always seen in good company, unfortunately). Crabapple is also licensed, allowing service to shift seamlessly from OJ + eggs to pinot gris + free-range pork belly.
Having read Nina Rousseau extol their virtues in Epicure (aw Nina, how your messy crop and grin make me smile), I was determined on ordering the Myrtleford buttermilk pancakes with banana, salted peanut praline, whipped mascarpone and Canadian maple syrup. If you’re gonna have pancakes, you better make them buttermilk pancakes, because these were the goddamn best plate of fried batter I have had in my life.
A thick, fluffy interior housed soft slices of banana, all encased by a crispy outer shell, slowly made soggy by the mascarpone. Be warned though; these are very sweet and are not for the faint of heart. As you can expect, I was more than up for the challenge!
I didn’t even need to ask Alex what he was ordering before jotting it down in my book; I just knew he wouldn’t be able to pass up a Hopkins River scotch fillet steak sandwich with fontina cheese and rocket. Yes, the cheese is a bit stinky, but I’m of the strong opinion that the stinkier the cheese, the better the taste. Bring on the washed rinds, I say!
Going at it with your hands is the best way I think, it optimises the man-food enjoyment factor. A bloody good rendition of a classic bistro dish; get some steak in ya!
The second time we went, having pulled Alex out of bed early in a bid to miss the queue, I apologised in the form of a Jum & Bender Sarnie – a small but filling brioche bun stuffed with bacon, HP sauce, aioli, rocket and a fried egg.
When I asked Alex how he was enjoying his Sarnie, all I got was a “goomph” as he aggressively took another bite. When I subsequently tried to weasel my way into getting a bite of his dish (a common food blogger trait – all in the name of research!), he pulled the Sarnie out of my way. Enough said, I think.
A slightly sophisticated take on the ‘avo on toast’, I had my order with a pair of eggs, and something about the saltiness of the cheese and that strong whack of chilli really lifted this dish up a few notches. Tucking in, I could feel my metabolism kicking into gear, my body thanking me for such a healthy and damn fine tasty start to the day.
Another time, I had lunch here with Mum, and we shared the steak sandwich (predictably incredible) and this small salad of Mozzarella di Bufala with peas, mint, fig, prosciutto and aged balsamic. I see what they were trying to do here (be a little different from all those other mozzarella / fig / prosciutto salads floating around), but the added flavours of pea and mint really didn’t agree with the other elements of the dish. I also found the mozzarella a tad dry and not as creamy as I’d expect.
I hate to end on a bad note so here are those pancakes again. If the sight of that mascarpone slowly melting down the rounded side of the pancake isn’t food porn, I don’t know what is. Seriously, head down to Crabapple, brave the queue on a weekend and get some of those pancakes on your plate, you won’t regret it.
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