21 Nov 12’s Cafe & Co, Hawthorn
12’s Cafe and Co opened just a few weeks ago, and though its main focus is Chinese BBQ, 12’s offers Chinese fusion; something less commonly found compared to other Asian cuisines. Owner Jack Kwan spent a year learning how to roast meat in his native Hong Kong, then had to learn how to adapt those techniques to a commercial kitchen, and its flavours to suit local palates and create his own take on fusion cuisine.
It’s cosy and relaxed both inside and out. Antique books near the entrance are a tribute to the book shop that formerly occupied the site, and touches of greenery enhance its friendly, casual ambiance. A ping pong table in the beer garden is perfect for passing time, perhaps for hanging out before or after a movie at Rivoli. Reclaimed timber has been used to create handmade furniture to complement the vibe.
The night began with a board featuring a variety of goodies. The Potato Pocket was a potato croquette with crab, corn and creamy sauce. The crab was not easily discernable, though it still had a satisfying, pillowy texture. PC 007, almost perfectly timed with the release of Spectre a week prior, were cryptically named potato chips seasoned with a nice combination of seven herbs and spices. The Crackling Crackle (roast pork crackling chips) were a little too hard for me, but they weren’t very greasy and I know some others absolutely loved them. My favourite from this selection was the tasty panko crumbed, and super crunchy chicken spare ribs.
We then tried mini versions of some of the larger menu items. Peking Duck Twister rolls came with greens, pickles, and cucumber served with plum sauce. The Peking duck skin was crisp, and much of the fat had been rendered out nicely. It was a nice…twist on the traditional Peking Duck wrap.
The Gold Stickers were gingery and juicy pan-fried dumplings with a large disc of crispy flake attached to the base.
We were offered two different salads, the crispy Hainanese chicken and tempura soft shell crab, each coming with the same accompaniment of cold soba with a subtle sesame dressing.
Grilled butterfly chicken fillet was braised with house blended sweet soy sauce then served with shiitake mushroom rice and wafu salad, and the slow-cooked pork belly in master stock was served on a half-crispy half-chewy rice cake, and accompanied by a Thai green apple salad. The succulent pork belly was flavoursome and melt-in-your-mouth, having been cooked in an 80% steam oven. All the fat had been rendered out, leaving delicate meat behind.
12’s Cafe brings something different to the Camberwell dining scene, and its location and beer garden will make it a great hang out spot.
Disclaimer: I was invited to 12s Cafe & Co as a guest, however, opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.
12’s Cafe & Co
207 Camberwell Rd
Camberwell, VIC, 3123
(03) 9042 3986