Monday, April 30, 2012

Breakfast at Hobba in Prahran

Hobba Coffee + Kitchen

Address: 428 Malvern Road, Prahran

Phone: (03) 9510 8336

Open: Monday to Saturday, 7am until 5pm
Sunday, 8am until 5pm

In winter last year, the team behind Willim Espresso in Malvern opened their garage roller doors to the people of Prahran. Hobba has been jammed full of young couples, locals, kiddies and trendies on fixie bikes ever since. Looking for a foolproof brunch, we arrived one Sunday morning only to be told there would be a 20-minute wait. But as we turned to leave, a table for five magically became available. Perhaps it was a misjudgement; then again, maybe it was fate.  

I’m pretty critical of the industrial-chic ‘thang’ every single café in Melbourne tries to pull off. It’s been done. So I surprise even myself when I admit that Hobba have absolutely smashed the mod-garage look. It begins with the enormous windowed shopfront that opens up when the weather permits and continues inside as natural light floods the hard concrete floor and raw brick walls.

Exposed beams support the corrugated iron roofing, while indoor plants ensure the space isn’t too factory-like. Rustic ladders pose as magazine racks and highchairs cater for fidgety children. Groups of nine or more are asked to book the “roasting room”, but smaller parties can choose from communal tables with metal stools, blonde wooden booths or white chairs.

We started with drinks. The loose-leaf teas can be ordered on ice and are a refreshing option on a hot day (not that we’ll be getting many of those for a while!). Try the Fiji papaya, wild pineapple and organic green tea. 

The 5 Senses coffee, while buttery and sweet, took over 20 minutes to arrive. We weren’t in a hurry but the wait wasn’t ideal. 

There are also specialty coffees written on the blackboard including single origin, house blend and filter options. On Hobba’s website they claim, “Our baristas are obsessed with quality”, and if this is not the face of obsession, I don’t know what is.

An iced chocolate was also ordered, and disappeared within minutes of arriving. A mild stomach ache followed, but it was worth it.

There are two types of people in this world: those who love slow-poached eggs and those who do not. I fall into the latter category. I have sampled the silky, translucent delicacy and to be honest I prefer my egg whites cooked through. Unfortunately, not everyone understands what slow poaching is, nor are some people wise enough to register what it means when they see it on the Hobba breakfast menu. The eggs at Hobba are poached at exactly 62.5 degrees Celsius in their shells. A blackboard states this blatantly, just in case you missed in on the menu as well.

Had we ordered any slow poached egg dishes I assume our waiter would have double-checked we knew what slow poached eggs are like. If this is indeed common practice, I have something to say to those people who send slow poached eggs back to the kitchen because they are ‘undercooked’… you are idiots. That’s my rant over. Before I begin blabbing about the food, I want to point out the Hobba changed their menu this month, so I recommend you check their website if you are drawn in by a particular dish mentioned, as some have been removed, altered or replaced with alternatives. However, this doesn't make them any less tasty.

Head chef Josh Powell (who has worked at Vue de Monde, Circa and the UK’s Fat Duck) is in charge of the kitchen, and every one of us licked our plates clean. I ordered the chermoula braised chard baked omelette served in a cast iron pot with a thick slice of grilled (read: toasted) spelt pumpkin seed bread. It went wonderfully with the smoked tomato jam, but the cherry on top was the generous sprinkle of kefalograviera cheese and young green sprouts.

If nothing on the menu tickles your fancy, you can make your own breakfast. Not literally of course, but by putting bits and pieces together. One of us enjoyed the free range green eggs served any style (scrambled in this case) on grain sourdough with a selection of sides (a fat Cumberland sausage and a mushroom the size of flying saucer).

At the other end of the breakfast scale was the bircher muesli. Bircher is always a risky option: I adore it, but so many placed can’t seem to get it right. Thankfully, Hobba is on the money. The thick consistency was in line with personal preference and each mouthful contained a surprise cranberry or toasted almond. Topped with a heap of julienned granny smith apple and a dollop of sweet yoghurt, the bircher is better at Hobba.

Unfortunately, the biggest member of our party ordered the smallest dish. But when it came to the bacon butty at Hobba, it’s not the size; it’s how they did it. In this rendition, Hobba squeezed dry cured Ottway bacon, heavy cheddar, HP Sauce and a fried egg between a powdery ciabbata. About four of these would be the perfect hangover cure. Alternatively, just one is a great choice for a light breakfast.

The gold medallist of breakkie items went to the 12-hour braised pork shoulder with flavoursome house baked beans, Persian fetta and grain sourdough. Filling without being too heavy, meaty without being dense, it’s flavour bombs like these that challenge my use of adjectives. Let’s leave adjectives behind and just settle with YUM!

Hobba also do lunch from midday. The choices range from cured ocean trout and faro salad with zucchini, radish and harissa dressing, to poached chicken terrine with a charred corn and leek salad, crackling and gribiche. There are also a range of fresh sandwiches and a daily specials board. But next time I hop over to Hobba, it will be for the stone fruit compote with toasted brioche, crème fraiche and raspberries. Talk about food porn.

Upon opening Hobba, owner Gerrick Numan was quoted in The Age’s Epicure saying he wanted to set up shop in an area ''…that didn't have a cool place to hang out.'' Not only does Prahran now have a cool place to hang out, Gerrick, but with the addition of Hobba, it seems to be the cool place to hang out.

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