Type of Venue: Cafe, Restaurant, Bar
Cuisine: Modern Australian, with some Mediterranean influence
Highly Recommended: Mac & Cheese Croquettes, Pan Seared Saganaki, Tasting Plate (for 2), Bresaola Pizza, Otway Pork Belly, Pina Colada Hotcakes
A suburb that has earned its stripes as an up-and-coming foodie hub, Kew is no longer only known for serving coffee to school mums on weekdays, but it is now a popular destination for lazy weekend brunches and casual weeknight drinks. The newest venue to open in Kew is Dawson – an all-day cafe, restaurant and bar serving breakfast, brunch, lunch, drinks and dinner, 7 days a week. No strangers to the hospitality industry, the owners of Dawson clearly know how to appeal to the Melbourne population with a contemporary venue fit out, cool urban vibe, and a stellar food and drinks menu to match.
Its large-lettered signage is bold enough to draw your attention, whilst still maintaining an air of ‘what you see is what you get‘ that is mirrored in the simply stylish decor and down-to-Earth service and ambience that customers are exposed to as soon as they walk through the front door. More trendy than your local family restaurant, but much less pretentious than some of Melbourne’s most popular social destinations.
For a Sunday lunch time, Dawson fails to fill half of the venue with customers, but this may be due to the fact that it is still fairly new… or perhaps, the hot Summer weather on this day proved too much to handle for some cool-dwelling Melbournians. As a result, the staff service appeared sparse, but remained helpful when present at our table.
With a menu traversing from breakfast through to dinner and late-night drinks, it can be easy for a venue to get lost in trying to excel in everything, with quality of food often compromised. This is not the case for Dawson. An impressive range of dishes are offered within each meal category on the menu without overwhelming the customer with choices, nor eliciting a sense of confusion. And, the quality could not be better. This clever execution is attributed to chefs Emily Wood and Majid Jreige, both of whom demonstrate reputable resumes with experience in some of Melbourne’s best kitchens.
As a shared starter or side dish, you can’t go past the Mac & Cheese Croquettes, whose crisp-fried exterior reveals softly-cooked macaroni and melting cheese, making the mouth water as soon as you break open one of these generously-sized croquettes. Dip the croquette into the accompanying harissa mayo for a perfectly creamy experience.
Mac & Cheese Croquettes (serving of 3) ($9.00)
Pan Seared Saganaki is another cheese-lover’s dream, arriving in a freshly hot skillet, topped with grilled peaches and orange blossom honey. The contrasting flavours of sweet and savoury will never get old, with the stringy saganaki rightly remaining the hero of the dish.
Pan Seared Saganaki ($12.00)
The Tasting Plate is suggested to share between 2 people, however it can easily feed 3-4 people as a starter. Crowded on a round dinner plate sits wild mushroom and leek arancini (a little dry on this occasion), salt and szechuan pepper calamari (enjoyably tender and well-seasoned), Mount Zero olives, prosciutto, bresaola (deliciously salty with a sweet must aroma), beetroot labneh and a sweet chilli salsa. An exciting array of grazing produce to accompany an alcoholic beverage.
Tasting Plate (for 2) ($22.00)
Shoestring Fries ($7.00)
Handmade and cooked in their stone oven, the pizzas exhibit a thin, crisp base with sufficient fluffiness to remain bouncy between your fingers. Topped with San Marzano tomato sauce, bresaola, mozzarella, fior di latte, mushrooms, basil and pecorino, the Bresaola pizza delivers exceptionally high quality ingredients, elevating Dawson’s pizza way above the level of your standard take away pizza joint.
Bresaola Pizza ($18.00)
Proving that you can make friends with salad, the Otway Pork Belly is a must-order, sitting atop a salad of cucumber, carrot, spring onion, bean shoots, radish, crispy shallots and salted peanuts, doused in a Vietnamese nam jim dressing. The crunchy textures and fresh flavours of the various salad ingredients compliment the tender pork belly and its moreishly sweet master stock glaze. Although a crispy-skinned pork belly is often more enjoyable, I assume the slightly gelatinous and chewy texture of this Otway pork belly’s skin is done purposefully to reduce the number of crunchy textures within this dish… though I’m open to corrections if I’m wrong!
Otway Pork Belly ($19.00)
Dawson satisfies the sweet tooth with a handful of delicious-sounding desserts including cheesecake, brownie and pannacotta options, however it is difficult to look past the most photographed sweet dish on their all-day brunch menu. Pina Colada Hotcakes arrive double-stacked, served with grilled pineapple, pineapple curd, coconut ice cream and crumble, and white chocolate ganache. Some of the thickest yet most light and fluffy hotcakes you will ever eat, the buttery rich flavours are balanced by the tropical fruit and coconut components, successfully converting the flavours of a pina colada drink into a must-try food item.
Pina Colada Hotcakes ($19.00)
Although surrounded by a certain level of hype when it first opened, Dawson lives up to expectations with their relaxed atmosphere and well-executed menu. The surrounding neighbourhood of Kew welcomes such a multifunctional venue as Dawson, as it demonstrates how a venue can cater to all meal experiences without faltering in the quality of their product, and instead, augments the customer’s experience to elicit a desire to return, again and again.
Note: I dined as a guest of Dawson. Thank you to the owners, management and staff for their generous hospitality throughout our experience.
241 High Street
Ph: (03) 9852 8000
Hours: Mon-Sat 8am-10:30pm, Sun 8am-10pm.