20 Oct Bawa Cafe, Hawthorn
The understated facade of Bawa Cafe is easy to miss while driving past if not for the buzz of people milling around the front door. It’s only been open for a few weeks but it’s attracted plenty of attention, and it’s easy to see why. Bawa Cafe is co-owned by Shri Bhagwandas, Kael, Matt and Elias Sahely and Chris Griffiths (also head chef). The team have racked up a pretty impressive resume, being responsible for other incredibly successful cafes including Barry, Dukes Coffee Roasters, Pillar of Salt, Square & Compass and Three Bags Full. With such credentials behind it, and being such a short drive away from home, my curiosity was piqued and I wanted to see if it was worthy of the hype.
The origin of the cafe’s name is an intriguing one. Geoffrey Bawa was an architect hailing from Sri Lanka and is the grandfather of ‘tropical modernism’ – a style that integrates buildings with the natural landscape rather than having them as two separate entities. Bawa Cafe adopts both his name and his design style, featuring lofty ceilings, potted greenery and plants flowing from the large centrepiece lighting fixture. Multi-leveled seating keeps things interesting, and though I didn’t get to sit there, the large tables on the raised platform by the full-height front windows looked perfect for lounging.
Its all-day menu is mostly vegetable based and healthy-sounding, but still includes a range of meats to cover all tastes: fish, pork, chicken, lamb and beef, it’s all there. Perfect for the summery weather that seems to keep teasing us once or twice a week, both hot and cold coffee and drinks are available to order, as well as ‘blended drinks’ and cold pressed juice from Ayomo. There’s a takeaway coffee window for people wanting their Duke’s coffee fix on the go, and sweets and takeaway salads and rolls perfect for office workers.
After a moment of indecisiveness I settled on the pressed lamb shoulder, and what arrived was simply beautiful. A mountain of cauliflower tabbouleh obscured the brick of pressed lamb shoulder. The crispy crust of the pressed lamb was not only on the top, but even at its base, and the juicy meat was just delicious. It was quite large too, with only half of the lamb peeking out from beneath the blanket of tabbouleh.
And oh the pine nuts! I was in pine nut heaven. The tabbouleh was absolutely showered with them. The tartness from the tabbouleh’s lemon-based dressing was balanced by the creamily smooth and subtlely flavoured purple cabbage puree, and the decadent, mellow nuttiness from the pine nuts. There was a bit of kick from the smears of harissa, and tinges of sweetness adopted from the barberries. It was an incredibly colourful and visually appealing dish with an interesting variety of flavours and textures.
I was directly facing the window, but was so enamoured with my lunch I didn’t even notice the windows quietly sliding open to create an open frontage. It’s a nice touch that fits in perfectly with its design philosophy.
The buzz around Bawa is sure to get stronger; I’m pumped that I have another great cafe to add to my shortlist of nearby cafes.
248 Burwood Rd
Hawthorn, VIC, 3122
(03) 9819 6701