We're still slightly mourning the early-2017 closure of Fitzroy stalwart Hammer & Tong, so the arrival of Light Years — from the former Fitzroy cafe's executive chef and the owners of Chapel Street's Journeyman — is a welcome one. Given the experience of the people behind it, we're unsurprised that the cafe has shone a beam of light across the developing grey suburban stretch of Camberwell Road.
Everything about it is beautiful. The way the light filters through the yellow glass door and the windows that reach from floor to ceiling. The giant circular light fitting that hangs above the heads of diners. The coffee made using the balanced blend from Dukes Coffee Roasters.
And the food is no exception. The avocado is not smashed, but 'pixelated' (read: diced into tiny squares) and laced with tangy Japanese flavours of pickled radish, nori and lime ($18). The dish also features a poached egg and chilli air-dried kale standing magnificently on a tasty bed of edamame hummus. Asian flavours feature prominently on the menu with the inclusion of miso scrambled eggs ($18) and matcha waffles with dark chocolate sauce and popping candy ($21). A vego ramen ($19) also makes the cut, a welcome reprise of Hammer & Tong's much-loved bacon breakfast ramen.
For something a bit meatier, there's the barbecue duck croquettes with charred broccolini, crunchy snow peas, compressed radicchio, and pickled onions and cucumber are drizzled with five spice jus ($20). If you're really hungry, go for the sweet and sour pork burger with slaw, kewpie mayo, coriander, spring onion and lime ($19) and a side of crispy sweet potato waffle fries ($6).
Importantly, it isn't another of those big, noisy, intimidating cafes; the space is generous with high, industrial ceilings, but the rows of plants and carefully-placed booths create pockets of quiet. The fare is reliable but intriguing enough that you'll return to try something else on the menu. While we're always sad to see cafes close, Light Years proves that good things can come from closure — and Hawthorn East is lucky to reap the rewards of this shake-up.
Images: Kristoffer Paulsen.