Hello Sailor

Ahoy there: Inside Hello Sailor.
Ahoy there: Inside Hello Sailor. Photo: Luis Ascui

89 Auburn Road Hawthorn, Victoria 3122

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Opening hours Mon-Fri 7am-4pm; Sat-Sun 8am-4pm
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, eftpos
Phone 03 9813 5560

The words "porridge" and "connoisseur" are odd bedfellows but I do appreciate a well-made bowl of oats. On winter mornings when my fingers feel like brittle shards and I'm worried my eyelashes will snap when I blink, there is nothing like porridge to warm me from the inside. It must be creamy not gluey, hot but not volcanic, and any extra ingredients should work within a comforting and toasty palate.

The porridge at Hello Sailor solves the oaty equation, served in a tactile oval bowl with finger-warming curves, stirred through with cinnamon, hazelnuts, berry compote and enough sweetness to make it syrupy but not cloying.

Hello Sailor is owned by an actual sailor: Wade Nicholson-Doyle, an ex-navy medic, who also honours his sailor grandfather here. Paddy Doyle’s portrait overlooks the communal table and his birds-and-bunting tattoo is the cafe’s logo.

Satisfying: Brioche bun breakfast burger.
Satisfying: Brioche bun breakfast burger. Photo: Luis Ascui

The fit-out is clean and stylish, nautical if you squint, with concrete, copper and timber used in classy ways. Banquettes are at a sensible height and there’s a display of op-shop crockery, spray-painted in Yves Klein blue, that takes bric-a-brac to a beautiful new place.

The success of the menu lies in its combination of good sourcing and adept, simple cooking. The satisfying breakfast burger comprises a brioche bun, splayed beef sausage (from free range local butcher Cannings), fried egg and piquant relish.

Brioche features in the golden, fluffy French toast too, dolloped with tart rhubarb and mascarpone.

Fluffy French toast dolloped with rhubarb and mascarpone.
Fluffy French toast dolloped with rhubarb and mascarpone. Photo: Luis Ascui

Coffee and tea is taken seriously but the sweet and spicy gingerbread milkshake is even more fun, and the kids’ menu is respectful, junk-free and cheap.

Lunch offerings include a rich and warming bowl of tomato soup stacked with soft, flavourful pork and fennel meatballs, and a fancy winter salad with pear, walnuts and blue cheese.

My previous visions of on-water gourmandising featured dry biscuits, rum, scurvy and seawater. Hello Sailor is not only redeeming, it’s also welcoming, bright and delicious.

Rating: Three and a half stars (out of five)