469 Whitehorse Road
Balwyn, VIC 3103
After 50-odd years of never having had brunch before, and not caring one whit about it, my mum suddenly started whinging to me a few months back about how she’s never ever even had brunch, and basically hassling me to take her out. To be fair, I was all too happy to comply, especially now that I’m earning a good wage. So on a crisp, sunny Winter morning, we all packed into the car and drove to Mr Hendricks Cafe.
We walked into the cafe at 11am, and everyone was crammed elbow to elbow; there was barely room to move around, and definitely nowhere to sit. Luckily, we didn’t count on the cafe having an enormous courtyard. Spread out over 3 levels, there was greenery galore, dogs at every other table, and plenty of heaters to keep us toasty. I think I would’ve preferred to sit out here, even if there was space inside.
Drinks were ordered all ‘round, with Flat Whites ($3.7) for my sister and myself, a Latte ($3.7) for dad, and a pot of Green Tea ($4) for mum. The Padre Coffee blend here is mellow and chocolatey with a hint of berry, and the green tea was a lovely, herbal Buddha’s Tears.
Mum isn’t a super heavy eater, so her first brunch dish ever was the Mushroom Scramble ($19.5). This was a spot-on, gourmet rendition of the traditional breakfast, with creamy eggs hiding pockets of salty feta and flecks of lardon (that’s pork fat to you!), topped with a medley of beautifully cooked mushrooms and a handful of aromatic fried scallions.
My order of Crispy Eggs ($20) was like no brunch I’ve never had before. The namesake of the dish was 2 gooey poached eggs, briefly fried for a golden shell and a runny centre. The eggs were served on top of sweet potato puree, and a side of tender ham hock on toast. Balanced on top of the ham hock were 3 crispy lettuce leaves, holding a filling of bacon crumb, chopped eggs, and ranch dressing. It’s like the bizarre lovechild of a Caesar salad and a roast dinner, and it works like you would not believe. If you’re sick of traditional brunch dishes, give this one a go, and prepare to have your socks blown off.
Dad’s order of Salmon Breakfast ($23) was significantly less exciting. But that’s not to say this wasn’t good. Elegant and healthy, this dish consisted of a pink, flaky salmon fillet, served with béarnaise sauce and slices of dark, anise-heavy rye bread. Finished off with a garden-fresh salad of crispy sugarsnap peas, broccolini florets, and shaved asparagus tendrils, this is a taste of luxury without breaking the calorie bank.
But all of the other dishes, no matter how delicious they were – and they were very delicious – had nothing on the Chocolate Brioche French Toast ($19.5). Crispy and flaky on the outside with a soft, buttery centre that dissolved on the tongue with a sugary cocoa rush, this was absolute heaven on a plate. And that’s not even taking into account the pears poached in blueberries, or the thick vanilla custard. Although mum and dad swore black and blue they didn’t want any of this because it looked too sweet, one bite and they unanimously decided that this was their favourite dish for the day.
I have to admit, Mr Hendricks really blew me away with just how good it was in pretty much every single way. The food was inventive and delicious, the service was friendly and prompt, and the courtyard is just about the prettiest place to eat on a sunny morning. Now I no longer have to be jealous of Chris living down the road from Jackson Dodds.
Rating: 15.5/20 – so as it turns out, Mr Hendricks is the name of the family staffie; can this place get any better?
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.