Good grub showing its sophisticated side – Juliana Mare previewed the sweet and savoury fare at this quirky new Bayswater restaurant.
Don’t worry, there’s no sneaky Cheshire Cat lurking in the rafters at The Hatter & the Hare. Instead, what you’ll find is an open and airy space with an industrial-meets-botanical vibe.
Hanging terrariums contrast beautifully with exposed brickwork painted a lush mint green colour. It’s an altogether impressive space, surpassed only by a fantastic and diverse menu.
Sweet and savoury, the menu features dishes that Melbournians know and love but with an elegant and subtly whimsical edge.
Epitomising this uniqueness was the Hatter’s take on the age-old classic, chicken and waffles.
An ultra thick waffle with caramelised banana, cream, bacon bits and syrup, served with fried chicken drizzled with a spicy hot sauce.
The flavours are tried-and-tested and the textures offset each other wonderfully. So what did Hatter do differently? It’s a few minor elements that make a world of difference.
The banana, with its gooey and golden edge, gave another layer of sweetness. This contrasted cleverly with the splash of vibrant orange hot sauce, which was drizzled over the chicken.
To nudge the presentation onto the classy side, a small swirl of cream is piped onto the waffle and there’s a sprinkling of extra crunchy bacon bits on the plate. More than just for looks though, these also compliment the crunchy chicken skin and help to balance the sugary syrup.
The Hatter has two kitchens on site; one for breakfast and lunch while the other is devoted entirely to desserts.
With a floor-to-ceiling window, it’s something special to step through the door and see the pastries and cakes you’ll soon be eating, being baked before your eyes.
Of all the desserts, the one that most deserves a place at the Mad Hatter’s tea party is the humble croissant.
There are bakeries within Melbourne’s CBD and surrounding suburbs, which have built a reputation for having outstanding croissants. But when it comes to Melbourne’s outer suburbs, the croissants at the Hatter reign as supreme as Queen of Hearts.
The beautiful golden pastry had a flaky exterior that gave an audible little crunch upon your first bite. With an intense buttery flavour, the croissant tore apart easily, unravelling the softer inside layers.
Wickedly decadent and indulgent, if you can get your hands on one that’s still warm from the oven, it’s guaranteed to forever up your croissant expectations.
We also sampled three slider burgers; prawn, chicken and cheeseburger. With most of the savoury menu options containing a fried component, it was a shame that none of the burgers offered a healthier alternative by incorporating a grilled protein.
A piece of grilled chicken or butterflied prawns would have been preferential to the battered and deep fried options that were offered. That being said, we’ve already established that the Hatter sure do know how to fry their chicken!
The breast piece in the burger, like the drumstick served in the Chicken & Waffles dish, was impeccably succulent and juicy, with a subtly spicy seasoning on the skin.
The simple additions of iceberg lettuce and a creamy dressing ensured the chicken was the star of the burger.
The cheeseburger too was leaning toward the greasy side but the flavours were again, faultless.
Fluffy bun, char-grilled flavour on the patty, gooey cheese, condiments aplenty and thinly sliced pickles to provide a vinegary relief. This had all the elements of a classic American burger, down to the last sesame seed on the bun.
They nailed these classic flavours but by presenting this standard diner meal as a neatly stacked slider, it felt more refined and maintained the overall theme of the restaurant.
With donuts, fish ‘n chips, macarons, corn fritters and canelés, the Hatter is showcasing a menu that truly covers all the bases. The attention to detail is impressive, with thought given to even the smallest elements on the plate.
Everything at The Hatter & the Hare is on trend, from the immaculate plating to the venue’s contemporary interior design. It’s a welcome sight to see a new foodie haunt that epitomises the essence of Melbourne’s hip food scene, but in the outer ‘burbs.
But at the end of the day, the Hatter’s wonderful menu is full of food that’s worth travelling (even down the rabbit hole) for.