I do like the excuse to go food exploring in suburbs that I normally rarely visit. So the decision of our brunching group to move our focus from cafes around Melbourne Uni to cafes around Swinburne (wise move, since most of us don’t even go to Melbourne anymore!) was very much welcomed by me, as Hawthorn is a bit of a dark shadow on the map of my foodie knowledge.
Axil Coffee Roasters sits solidly on busy Burwood Road. It is a big, deep space, surfaces all decked out in a palette of dark greens and blacks, with splashes of exposed wood and vertical racks filled with pot plants (some of whom seemed to be struggling in the hot weather). The clientele is eclectic, with the requisite number of students, business folk and even some of Hawthorn’s genteel older guard. Axil clearly ticks a lot of bases for people.
The main base is, obviously, coffee. There’s a crazy amount of bean choices, drip coffee, filter thingies, and probably a whole heap of other crazy coffee options that are completely wasted on me. Overwhelmed by all this coffee new-fanglery, I retreated to the tea menu to see of there was anything to spark my interest. There’s a small selection of teas by Victorian tea company Larsen and Thompson, and I decided to go with the most interesting and unusual option, the white peony tea. While it didn’t have the light orange colouring promised by the menu notes, it had been properly brewed before reaching my table, meaning there were no tea leaves left to stew in the pot and sour the second cup. It was a subtle blend, starting off very quiet yet building up flavour with each sip. It wasn’t quite as floral as I’d expected (though floral notes are definitely present, beware floral loathers), but all in all a very satisfying brew worth trying.
Food-wise, it was a bit hard to single myself down to one dish, but I ended up going with the savoury French toast with spinach, sauteed wild mushrooms and truffled pecorino cheese, plus I added a side of haloumi that came with a lemon wedge. This was a good solid meal, everything was cooked well, the bread of the toast wasn’t soggy and was liberally coated in egg, and I was pleased to see that wild mushrooms meant a variety of mushrooms. I couldn’t help feeling though that, without the inclusion of the haloumi, it was all a touch bland. My suspicions were confirmed by Alison, who had ordered the same without haloumi, and opined that the dish as a whole lacked something. Perhaps next time I’ll order the corn fritters instead, Jess and Kim both had these and they looked colourfully fabulous.
It’s sometimes interesting to see how staff in a place react when things go wrong, rather than experiencing service where everything goes right. Towards the end of our eating, and just when some of us were getting a second beverage, a harried waiter came up to us and apologetically requested whether we would mind moving to a table outside. None of us were quite sure at this stage exactly why we were being asked to move, but we are nothing if not amiable folks and all pottered out to go sit in the sun. Once we were settled the harried waiter returned and explained that someone had taken a booking and not informed the other staff. He was very sorry that we’d had to move (we weren’t! We were in the sunshine!), and insisted on striking the price for all the drinks we’d had. We protested, but he won out, and in the end he not only didn’t charge for drinks but rounded down our bill as well. Crisis well averted, young man, and very happy customers you made in us!
Axil was for the most part an enjoyable place to spend a afternoon eating and chatting happily with friends. I might need to try a few more items on the menu to be entirely sold on the food options, but the beverages are good, the service more than obliging, and it’s just a nice spot to hang out.
Axil Coffee Roasters
322 Burwood Road, Hawthorn
Ph: 9819 0091