Crabapple Kitchen

Crabapple Kitchen's fit out and menu are inspired by travel.
Crabapple Kitchen's fit out and menu are inspired by travel. Photo: Simon Schluter

659 Glenferrie Road Hawthorn, VIC 3122

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03 9078 5492
Opening hours Sat-Thurs 7am-5pm, Fri 7am-late
Features Outdoor seating
Payments eftpos

HANG ON, CRABAPPLE KITCHEN opened in July, right? So where's the faux-industrial fitout, the polished concrete, the exposed beams? ''We're not cool,'' owner-chef Greg Feck says. ''There are no single-origins, no cold drip filters, nothing like that. I've gone totally the opposite. I'm a bit old-school.''

But Feck is more modern than he thinks. He is part of a growing trend of chefs who work for years in busy hatted restaurants (in Feck's case, Richmond Hill Larder & Cafe, Sapore in St Kilda and - claim to fame - with ''Jamie'' and Ben O'Donoghue in London), then open their own places, transferring fine-dining smarts to more informal cafe settings but with the same level of quality food and service.

At Crabapple, Feck and his partner, Kim Coronica, have a fitout and menu inspired by their travels - a snippet of European countryside on flat-chat Glenferrie Road.

Myrtleford buttermilk pancakes are thick, fluffy and insanely popular. If pancakes are your thing, you'll love these.
Myrtleford buttermilk pancakes are thick, fluffy and insanely popular. If pancakes are your thing, you'll love these. Photo: Wayne Taylor

Out front, a jaunty striped awning from the Basque region is instantly welcoming. The white picket fence and wrought-iron signpost conjure a French village, and the carpeted, brick-wall dining room is a haven. That's the romantic version, anyway; others might just find it a bit dark and poky - potato, patato.

The menu provides plenty of choice. Feck describes his cuisine as ''travel-inspired'', with a Mediterranean base and heavy Italian influence. He and Coronica also run the Food and Travel Co. There is real technique; it's clear there are no shortcuts.

Lamb is baked in the Lacanche oven, slow-cooked with mirepoix and stock, and served with soft, pillowy, cheesy semolina gnocchi, first baked then ever so lightly pan-fried, sprinkled with toasted almonds and crisped sage and served with green beans.

Jalandhar baked eggs are cooked with a subtly spiced north Indian curry with lentils and purple heirloom carrots - on the side is springy, warmed, house-made flatbread for dunking. Myrtleford buttermilk pancakes are thick, fluffy and insanely popular, cooked up with freshly cut banana, salted praline and crowned with a decent dob of whipped mascarpone and a generous slosh of pure Canadian maple syrup. If pancakes are your thing, you'll love these.

''We're a bit of a 'yes' cafe,'' says Feck, who's happy to tweak dishes for customers in accordance with ''old-school hospitality''.

In New Zealand, he would meet his mates under the crabapple tree in the backyard. It was their haven, and his cafe isn't dissimilar.

Do … Check out the Friday-night dinners; this week a Jalandhar theme with curries and biryani and lots for vegetarians; $45 a head for eight courses
Don't … Go looking for polished concrete
Dish … Myrtleford buttermilk pancakes
Vibe … Old-fashioned haven

nrousseau@fairfaxmedia.com.au