MELBOURNE | Age of Sail Hawthorn East has all of the hallmarks of an inner city cafe in a very unexpected location. It’s located at the back entrance of Tooronga Shopping Centre, a spot that’s passed by locals doing their grocery shopping and the thousand plus workers at the Coles Supermarkets head office next door. Having been to the Coles building several times over the past few years, we’d accepted the fact that this part of town was a wasteland for good food and coffee so were very surprised, excited and cautious when we saw the “For Lease” signs that had been up for over 4 years replaced with a cafe that looked like something straight out inner Melbourne.
Co- Owners Julien Moussi, Eamon Sheahan and Dan Dick opened Age of Sail with the aim of bringing all of the things Melburnians love about their inner city cafes to the suburbs, and wanted to make sure that the spot they chose wasn’t somewhere that was already saturated with cafes. The interior is a smart mixture of copper and timber furnishings with standing room only booths to one side, bench seating facing the large windows and proper tables and seats outside. It’s designed for both the individual who wants to have something to eat and drink and stay a while, or the office worker who wants a quick bite or some takeaway.
Age of Sail take their coffee very seriously too. Co-owner Dan, who’s also the cafe’s operations manager knows his coffee having worked at Dead Man Espresso and St Ali amongst other Melbourne coffee institutions. Veneziano Coffee’s Estate is the house blend, and a range of rotating guest blends and single origins are also on offer. Filter and espresso based are the 2 methods of brewing on offer. Food-wise, the menu is concise and offers a range of classics and on-trend breakfast and lunch items, along with some cakes and sweet treats. Think bao, roti wraps, toasted sandwiches salads and chia bowls.
Single Origin Filter Coffee ($4.00)
The single origin filter was exactly what you’d expect from a place that takes its coffee seriously. Smooth with nice complexities in the flavours.
Prana Chai ($4.50)
The prana chai is brewed in milk on stovetop and only slightly sweetened, allowing the tea’s spices to come through nicely.
Bao ($3.80 each)
There are 3 bao options on offer, and they are great individually as a snack or combined for a proper lunch. The braised pork with hoisin sauce and kimchi and beef bulgogi with Korean BBQ sauce are the 2 standouts, with the subtle Korean flavours working well together. The BBQ tofu with satay sauce & pickled salad was the least exciting of the 3 options, lacking that “bite” that the other 2 have. Not bad, just not as good.
Salmon Tataki ($10.00)
With cold soba noodle salad and ponzu dressing, the salmon tataki is one of the highlights on the menu. It’s light, very tasty and has a nice level of kick to it with real chilies scattered throughout. The tataki is cooked just the way it should be and everything in the dish works well together and individually. Definitely one not to miss.
Smashed Avocado ($10.00)
The smashed avocado with herb and lemon infused feta on sourdough with salsa verde is not the most adventurous thing on the menu but it delivers exactly what it promises. Nicely toasted sourdough, good quality avocado, tasty feta and a slight twist with the salsa verde. When you order the ubiqutous smashed avocado in Melbourne you know what you want, and Age of Sail’s version hits exactly the right spot.
Age of Sail is a great spot that would be at home anywhere in Melbourne’s inner suburbs – in this part of town its a revelation. The food and coffee is excellent, the staff passionate and friendly and the atmosphere relaxed, helped along by a constant stream of 1990s and 2000s R&B and Hip-Hop tunes. Rumour has it that a liquor license is in the works for Fridays, which could make evenings in this part of town more appealing too.
Age of Sail
766 Toorak Road
Mon – Fri: 7:00am to 4:00pm