Dakdak Cafe

1-3 Bignell Road, Moorabbin, Victoria

Idle a wile: Dakdak's interior evokes a hip collectibles bazaar.
Idle a while: Dakdak's interior evokes a hip collectibles bazaar. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

Matt Holden

It's the kind of neighbourhood that's the backbone of Melbourne's economy: so many square kilometres of breeze-block factory and red-brick warehouse, a zone that deals in fasteners and struts, where you might go to practise or obtain panel-beating and spray-painting, where you'll catch a glimpse through half-raised roller doors of cardboard cartons of those Chinese-made rubber ducks.

At these light-industrial-slash-commercial zones breakfast, lunch and everything in between for local workers usually comes out of a lunch box, a deep fryer or the back of a sandwich truck, and the coffee is, well, hot and coffee-cup flavoured.

But not in Moorabbin, where Ben Cowen - a one-time film and TV prop guy who studied set design at VCA - has installed a whole lot of Volkswagen memorabilia, loads of op-shop furniture, a kitchen in a vintage Viscount Ambassador caravan and a massive collection of old Eskies in what was once the Sass steering wheel factory on a corner surrounded by said auto workshops and rubber-duck warehouses - as well as more interesting establishments like the Two Brothers craft brewery and Lucky 13 Garage, a workshop-turned-bar that caused a rumpus in 2013 by hiring topless waitresses to pull lunch trade.

Dakdak burger with hand-cut wedges.
Dakdak burger with hand-cut wedges. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

Dakdak doesn't need that. Instead, chefs Anna Higgins (who worked at Half Moon in Brighton) and Manjula Walker (ex-Tuck Shop Take Away) are busy in the caravan turning out food that is a kind of hipster-tradie hybrid for fluoro-trimmed warehouse managers, brown-slacked front-office guys and gals and dudes in custom Beetles: a big breakfast plate of eggs, bacon, chipolata sausages, roesti and mushrooms, or that staple of the early morning smoko, a bacon and egg sandwich (for just $6, zhooshed up with rocket and house tomato relish), as well as some less, er, blokey options like the vegorama (roesti with avo, poached eggs, truffled hollandaise) and coconut-almond muesli with poached fruit. There are even tasty red velvet cupcakes with a VW logo atop.

The hot lunch order is the Dakdak burger. It's big and juicy (no baby brioche buns here), with a clean-tasting patty that needed just a touch more grill smoke, plus a nice melt of Swiss cheese, some vinegary-sweet pickle, tomato and a pile of mixed leaves.

It comes with a generous tin of hand-cut wedges on a wooden board; it's a lunch bargain at $10, and the "sold-out" sign goes up on the blackboard menu early. Also served with the wedges is pulled pork and coleslaw in a burger bun: tender pork, fresh, crunchy coleslaw and a slather of tangy house-made barbecue sauce.

Vegorama includes potato rosti and truffled hollandaise.
Vegorama includes potato roesti and truffled hollandaise. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones

Coffee comes courtesy of Elsternwick's Fayale - a nice espresso roast that is dark and fruity in a short black but that went MIA in a long black. (Lattes and long blacks are served in mugs your uncle used to drink tea from.)

The food is a fresh, nicely done and affordable cafe riff on the lunch shop and the food truck, served in what feels like a Smith Street second-hand bazaar.

And Dakdak? Obvious: the sound of those famous German air-cooled engines, idling.

Do … Bring your Volksie. Ben Cowen is a fan.

Don't … Come on a Sunday - like the rest of the neighbourhood, it's closed.

Dish … Dakdak burger with hand-cut wedges.

Vibe … Hipster-tradie lunch bar.

The Age Good Food Under $30 is available at selected bookshops and newsagents and online at theageshop.com.au for $9.99.

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1-3 Bignell Road, Moorabbin, Victoria

  • Cuisine - Modern Australian
  • Prices - Breakfasts, $2.50-$14; lunches, $7.50-$10
  • Cards accepted - Mastercard, Visa, EFTPOS
  • Opening Hours - Mon-Fri, 7am-3pm; Sat, 8am-noon
  • Author - Matt Holden
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