Hobba is a cafe that I’m well acquainted with, having been there to eat several times when I worked in the area. The food was always decent, and the atmosphere in the space that used to hour a tyre factory always had a great feel about it. That was a while back, so when The City Lane was invited to sample Hobba’s new autumn menu I was keen to get myself down to Prahran to see what had changed.
Head chef Rhys Hunter is the man behind the new menu at Hobba, and has drawn upon influences from the kitchens he has worked in across Sydney and Melbourne (and even a stint in Brazil) as well as what’s happening now in the Melbourne food scene. Accordingly the menu isn’t wedded to a single style of cooking or cuisine, and Hunter has quite a bit of freedom to do his own thing.
Hobba’s take on the traditional Vietnamese Banh Mi is anything but traditional. Served in an “open sandwich” style, it contains lemongrass, ginger, marinated cooked pork loin, Asian vegetables, chicken liver pâté, pork crackling crumb and radish, wombok and slaw salad, in a sweet and buttery brioche bun. As I said, not traditional and I don’t know if I’d call it a Banh Mi but what I can say is that it was a very tasty sandwich. I also loved that they didn’t cut back on the chilli inside – I’ve had so called authentic Banh Mi that have had less of a kick than this.
The wild mushrooms were woodear, enoki and oyster mushrooms, served with sherry jus, green chives and a slow poached egg (65 degrees Celsius). A really tasty dish that was elevated by the egg.
Pan Seared Snapper
The pan seared snapper was served with with cauliflower puree, potato gratin, asparagus and heirloom beets and purple cauliflower. A quite light and simple dish really that, while evoking spring more than autumn, was spot on in terms of flavour and textural balance. A lot of guests at the menu launch commented that this was their favourite dish of the night, and I’d have to agree. The entire menu in fact, was at its strongest when the focus was on simplicity.
Chilli Con Carne
The chilli con carne didn’t really resonate with me. It was served with 10-hour confit brisket and goats cheese croquette, topped with a slow poached egg (65 degree Celsius) and shaved dark chocolate. There were a lot of flavours here which weren’t really balanced and the dish was surprisingly sweet. I really enjoyed the croquette but think the chilli con carne needs more work, and question the need for the egg.
This Hobba staple of Southern style slow cooked pulled pork served with fried eggs, fresh alfalfa salad and pear cider reduction hollandaise was a very tasty dish. The sauce was an unexpected butterscotch sauce which really changed the balance of flavour in a good way. A bit fresh, a bit dirty, a bit casual, a bit fancy but it works.
Along with the snapper this was the other highlight of the night. The hotcakes were very big and fluffy and served with seasonal berries, whipped mascarpone, honeycomb and vanilla bean and house-made maple syrup. The table was at its most silent when this came out and for good reason – it was utterly divine.
The place isn’t usually this empty – it’s normally closed in the evenings and those in attendance at the launch were seated in the communal table in the private dining room at the back.
I was impressed with the new menu at Hobba and in many ways in reinforced the opinion I had of the place when I was last here. A lot of good dishes, a few real standouts and a dish that required some reworking. Overall Hobba offers good food in a great space, cooked up and served by a genuinely passionate team – much in the same way as it always has.
428 Malvern Road
Mon – Sun: 7:00am to 4:00pm