Housed in a surprisingly funky space and with a menu packed full of innovative dishes, plated with flare, Shanklin Cafe deserves all its rave reviews and devotion of its loyal customer base.
Location: 500 Tooronga Rd, Hawthorn East, VIC 3123 Ph: (03) 9882 7549
This breakfast, lunch and brunch spot had to make it on to our ‘must-try’ list. Why? Because Shanklin Cafe confidently states that it is ‘the highest rated cafe in Melbourne’.
Now we’ve eaten a lot of Poached Eggs and Acai Bowls in our time. And we’ve also traipsed far and wide to give you our firsthand take on all kinds of cafes, coffee houses and restaurants. So obviously, we had to check out a claim like that for ourselves.
Read all about the next level, self-serve acai bowls at Blitz Bar in our review
Set on the edge of an upmarket row of shops in leafy Hawthorn East, the Shanklin Cafe looks tiny from the outside. But first impressions can often be misleading.
Go in through the charmingly narrow, old workers cottage front and you find you’re in an interesting enclosed space that feels like a courtyard. Amble past the tables and nattering diners and you’re in the cafe proper.
To the left, there’s a serving counter with a barrista filling coffee orders and another member of staff blitzing fruit in a blender. The rest of the room is full of packed tables. The wall backing the counter is bare bricks and the one facing it is lined with interesting fretted wood.
However, the feature wall at the back is the real talking point. This is a glitzy mosaic of silvery, pale blue and mauve tiles. The effect is iridescent – like mother of pearl. It’s unusual, and I really like it. Set into this unique surface there’s a rectangular window giving a glimpse of the kitchen inside.
The ceiling is also striking. Long panels of timber run the length of the room.
The result is a cafe that feels quite different from the industrial chic/warehouse interiors that seem to be so fashionable at present. The attention to specific design choices makes the space pleasingly surprising and unique, without being unwelcoming. In fact, it’s a chilly day when we visit and the ambience at the Shanklin Cafe is warm and cosseting.
Smartly, Shanklin Cafe does an All Day Menu which opens with clear Breakfast options and moves into dishes which might be better for Lunch. Though really, it all depends on how hungry you are and what you fancy. And as someone who is quite partial to a Chicken Burger to start the day, who am I to quibble?
We arrive late morning and so all decide to settle for the middle ground of Brunch.
I am in the mood for a classic and choose the Potato Rosti ($25). My order comes quickly and I get a pretty plate containing a couple of Rosti, 2 Poached Eggs, Grilled Asparagus & House Chipotle Hollandaise – plus Bacon (I could have Smoked Salmon). Although it doesn’t look big when it lands on the table, it’s rich and tasty – and deceptively filling.
I have to make quick mention of the Beirut Breakfast ($28). I almost committed to it, but decided that I’d struggle to do it justice. This is the eatery’s take on a big breakfast. With 2 Poached Eggs on Turkish Seeded Bread, Spicy Sujuk, Bacon, Buttered Thyme Mushroom, Grilled Halloumi, Rocket Pecorino Salad & Tomato, it sounds like a feast and a half. Next time, maybe.
Talking of Halloumi, one of my companions has the Halloumi Avo Stack ($24). A tottering mound of Grilled Halloumi, Asparagus, Dukkah, Goats Cheese and Chunky Avocado balanced on Sourdough Toast, all dressed with Pomegranate Molasses and a verdant splodge of Fresh Basil Pesto. She loves the sweet/sour lick of the Pomegranate Molasses against the salty Cheeses.
If you love the flavours of dukkah, halloumi and hummus, see our piece on the Best Middle Eastern Food and Restaurants in Melbourne
Another beautiful plateful that catches our eyes as it passes by is the Lebanese Cous Cous Salad ($24). A rainbow-hued selection of Buttered Cous Cous, Grilled Prawns, Pistachio Dukkah, Raisins, Roasted Seasonal Root Veg, Fetta Cheese, Semi-dried Tomatoes & Beetroot Hummus. It also smells divine.
One of the common themes at Shanklin Cafe is how good the food looks. Clearly, someone in the kitchen adheres to the belief that we eat with our eyes.
Sadly, we are all a little boring when it comes to our drink choices. A couple of us finish our meal with a very good Coffee whilst the other sticks to water. And when I say ‘very goof Coffee’, I mean it. These people have their own signature roast, after all.
See our guide to the Best Coffee Shops in Melbourne
I say sadly, as Shanklin Cafe makes some very special hot beverages. The Velvet Beetroot Latte ($6) is a life-affirming shade of magenta, whilst the Golden Latte ($6) is a glowing glass of sunshine. However, the warming brew that all the Instagrammers covet is the glorious Turkish Delatte ($6). Sweet and fragrant with Rose, this Milk-based drink comes with Chocolate Whipped Cream and is actually one of the venues Signature Dishes. It’s as pretty as it sounds, but a little to sugary for us coffee-addicts.
Lastly, if you fancy an Espresso Martini ($15) or glass of Sparkling ($15) with your Sweet Corn Fritters ($22), Shanklin Cafe has the paperwork to pour you a tipple. Result!
For exciting cocktails and sophisticated vibes, see our article on Nick & Nora’s Melbourne
So the big question is: Is the Shanklin Cafe worth the hype?
Well, in an area where good cafes seem to be around every corner, Shanklin Cafe still manages to stand-out.
The building itself has its own character and the staff are super friendly and accommodating. And the menu is innovative and carefully considered. Moreover, everything tastes as good as it looks – and it all looks gorgeous.
And then there are the cut above drinks.
Yep. Shanklin Cafe deserves its reputation. We’ll be back soon to try that awesome-sounding Beirut Breakfast soon.
For more of the Best Cafes in Camberwell (and nearby), click here.