132 Camberwell Road
Hawthorn, VIC 3123
After almost 5 years of loyal service, my ever-faithful camera appears to have finally hit its last legs. It had been coughing and sputtering on me increasingly often in the last year or so, but it took a false alarm a few weeks back for me to seriously start looking into a replacement. So long story short, I’ve now got a newer and fancier camera, courtesy of my camera dealer, K. However that also means that while I’m still trying to work out the best lens and settings to use, everyone will just have to bear with some subpar photos – you have been warned!
Speaking of wonderful things that are no longer around, some of you may remember that I was rather upset when one of my long-time favourite cafes, Hammer and Tong closed. Fortunately, not only has it been replaced by the new and exciting Nomada, the same folks behind Hammer and Tong have gone ahead and set up Light Years – the cafe that’s been widely touted as doing the most exciting new brunch of 2017.
I’ll admit up front that the menu didn’t grab me (spoiler: I loved my meal, so hang tight!), but I was absolutely charmed by the decor. The bright, industrial space had been divided up into cosy little nooks and crannies, and then filled with greenery and subtle touches alluding to the cafe’s space theme. And to be fair, the menu may not have been show-stopping, but there were plenty of things that I would be happy to eat, and the selection of sides was seriously impressive – how about some sweet potato waffle chips with sriracha, or Kentucky-fried haloumi?
But first, the most important meal of the day – coffee. My Skinny Flat White ($4) was made from a blend by Dukes Espresso, and boasted a rich, robust flavour profile with overtones of chocolate and nuts.
I had my eyes on the Miso Scrambled Eggs ($18) from the get-go, and it turned out to be possibly the best brunch dish I’ve had all year. For starters, the scramble was lusciously creamy and fluffy, and would’ve been an absolute treat even just with the sweet, earthy miso butter. But not content to stop there, the chefs build upon it with layers and layers of umami, using everything from nori to shiitake mushrooms to sichimi powder, creating a rich and complex canvas of flavours. As far as brunch dishes go, this was absolute perfection.
Seriously, look at how amazingly fluffy and golden that scramble is! I loved the way how this dish felt simultaneously luxurious yet comfortingly familiar.
The Asian theme continued with the Ox Cheek Black Bean Eggs Benedict ($20). Now, for those of you who haven’t heard me wax lyrical about mum’s cooking, allow me to reiterate: it is generally agreed upon that my mum is an amazing cook. So it was really saying something when I found myself thinking that this ox cheek is as tasty as the braised meats mum would make. Slow-cooked with five-spice and fermented black beans, the ox check was sticky, meltingly tender, and bursting with flavour. Served with thickly sliced sourdough – so you don’t miss a single drop of the delicious meat juices – and house-made radish pickles, it provided a robust, Asian twist on the classic brunch dish.
Despite not seeming hugely exciting on paper, Light Years is (dare I say it) light years beyond most of the cafes around town. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that it straddles so many lines so very carefully – it’s innovative yet accessible, stylish yet familiar, and most importantly, manages not only to look good, but to taste good as well (darn right I’m still upset about The Glass Den). Frankly, I think everyone should just go by the advice that The Good Food Guide gave – bring everyone, order everything, never leave.
Rating: 16/20 – to infinity and beyond!
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Want more proof that I absolutely adore Light Years? Less than a week later, I’m back with family in tow, after mum asked for a brunch recommendation for dad’s birthday. In addition to the miso scramble and ox cheek benedict (because I simply couldn’t let them pass my family by), we also tried a few more things on the menu…
The Matcha Latte ($4.5) was serious business, the base of thickly-frothed milk whisked through with large quantities of invigorating matcha powder. It’s strong and hard-hitting, and definitely one that’ll please the matcha-enthusiasts.
Despite being the poster-child for Light Years cafe, I thought the Pixel Avocado ($18) was a bit gimmicky. Although it looked fantastic, I found that the tiny pieces of avocado made for a rather messy eating experience. With that said however, the accompanying streak of smooth, garlicky edamame hummus was a delicious twist on the classic dip, and the shards of air-dried kale, nori, and sweet potato gave the dish some textural contrast. It was a pretty good avocado dish all up, but frankly I would’ve enjoyed it more if the avocado had been a little more… high-res.
And the other poster child – the Matcha Waffle ($21). Despite looking ridiculously over-the-top, this was actually surprisingly sensible – for a dessert-breakfast anyway. Nothing was overly-sweet, and the matcha infused the entire dish with a mild, clean grassiness. Still, this was an undeniably fun dish; there were tall slivers of green toffee poking out from the waffle, chocolate spheres with fruity fillings, and the ‘space soil’ was mixed through with popping candy. And if that’s still not enough, there’s a pot of warm chocolate sauce on the side to drizzle over everything. This is one you can order for yourself, and not feel bad about not sharing.