Address: 601 Burwood Road, Hawthorn, Victoria, 3122
Telephone: (03) 9819 5555
Telephone: (03) 9819 5555
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 8am until 9.30pm & Sunday 8am until 8pm
"Tell me honestly," said owner and friendly front-of-house man Glen as he took our order, "what do you think of the swan? I am the ONLY one here who likes it!"
Although I did not have a particularly strong preference for the multicoloured bird, the china kitty salt and pepper shakers were another story entirely.
I absolutely had to know where to find them, so I asked.
"Actually, a lady came in and gave them to us. There is a white one for salt and a black one somewhere upstairs for pepper," I was told.
There are not many cafes around able to boast that little old ladies with white hair have donated their china teacups. If there were, I doubt any could pull it off as well as Home Dining Room in Hawthorn. It is as if the staff is paid overtime to scout the best hidden china and antique books from every dusty opportunity shop corner in Melbourne. Polish it all up and you get a cosy, homely space with thick red-brick walls and wooden seating, balanced with delicate floral tea sets and modern feature lights.
Rustic paintings and posters are framed on the white walls and contemporary tunes flow from antique speakers that are hooked up to a modern sound system upstairs. Wooden shelves support pages from Herbert to Hardy, silver teapots, dolls and other knickknacks. Each item hints at an untold story, which adds to the familiar feel. The great thing about walking into this collector's den is that you feel as if you are a guest in a favourite relative's house, not a customer keen for a caffeine fix. If the small talk runs out, you can also choose from one of the many board games on offer.
There is seating for about 30 people downstairs, which undoubtedly has the best atmosphere. A further two rooms upstairs seat another 30 and eight people respectively, and apart from accommodating the Sunday brunch overflow, can also be booked for private functions.
While I could write all day about how I want to take home every keepsake on the premises, the food is as palatably pleasing as the space is aesthetically charming.
I had a 'pinky' milkshake, a combination of chocolate, strawberry and rose. It was delicious and just like a little kid, I sculled it without self-restraint within three minutes - my stomach paid the price! However, nothing could prevent me from delighting in the generous serve of granola with rhubarb compote and vanilla bean yoghurt. It was, in all honesty, the best and most filling granola I have ever tasted. Unlike many cafes, it was chock-full of nuts and raisins, with an abundance of mostly hazelnuts and walnuts. The rhubarb added a sweet tang and for once there was enough creamy yoghurt served to make the addition of milk redundant.
The Small Batch coffee - roasted at Auction Rooms in North Melbourne - is smooth and mild, but if you like it slightly stronger make sure you ask. Regardless, the cafe definitely wins points for presentation, with hot drinks served in elegant china with silver souvenir teaspoons.
Home Dining Room also offers an extensive lunch menu. A few top picks include beetroot & goats cheese risotto filo with watercress, caramelized walnuts, and agrodolce; duck salad with watermelon, crispy vegetables, toasted peanuts, and mint chilli-lime dressing; and the lamb meatball melt with rich tomato sauce, feta, spinach, and gruyere.
If you fancy eating three meals a day here, then you can come back for dinner too! Might I suggest sharing some starters, including the polenta crusted salt & pepper squid with aioli, Japanese fried drunken chicken with wasabi mayo, or the beetroot and walnut arancini with blue cheese and honey? For the main course, why not order the eye fillet with sweet potato and blue cheese rosti, Dutch carrots, and horseradish cream? Or perhaps for vegetarians, the sage and butternut gnocchi with walnut butter, Gorgonzola and vine tomatoes is more your thing? For the 'cherry on top,' finish with a Tim Tam or Mars Bar cake served with berry coulis and whipped cream.
If you want to leave the decision making to someone else, there are also some good value set menus available. Alternatively, for those struggling students out there, head to Home Dining Room for 'Tuesday Turf' (steak and wine) or the Wednesday Roast (also with wine) for only $15. For the cost conscious there is also a BYO option from Tuesday to Thursday.
Home Dining Room's name is self-explanatory. Our time at Glen's 'house' gave me the same feeling one experiences on a Sunday afternoon in front of an open fireplace, and it wasn't just because I was full of delicious food. The care and pride in this establishment is evident throughout, from the quirky decorations through to the high quality food, and even the flannel hand towels rolled up neatly in the bathroom.
While an outside area is something to look forward to in the coming months, for the time being you can secure a spot at Home Dining Room by booking over the phone or online here.