White Mojo Balwyn
The second carnation of the CBD cafe brings croissant burgers to the suburbs.
It takes balls to open not just one, but two cafes in Melbourne over a matter of weeks. But Ben Luo, creator of the most photo-worthy food on Hardware Lane (that is, the croissant burger), has done just that. Perching on the edge of the Balwyn cinema strip of Whitehorse Road, White Mojo the Second is similar to its Melbourne CBD predecessor. But then, at the same time, it's not.
The menu boasts no notable changes. However, if you've already managed to become familiar with the wacky, highly original offering from Luo, then you can't help but forgive him for not starting entirely from scratch again. The headliners return for an encore to our plates (and Instagram accounts), with the croissant burger of tempura soft-shell crab, cauliflower pannacotta and compressed watermelon running the show. Relief from the rich decadence can be sought from house-roasted coffee, a few select, single origin teas or a matcha latte — infamously sourced from a traditional stone mill in Uji, Japan — served hot or iced.
The interior gives you a reminder – a flash – of the original cafe, but deviates where it matters, making the most of the space and light that floods in through the glass walls and culminating in a more relaxed vibe.
Perhaps coincidentally (or perhaps not) the Balwyn cinema sits directly opposite, the paint flaking off its dilapidated art deco façade — the embodiment of a local, time-worn treasure. Luo may have struck gold with his Hardware Lane venture, but the locals here are the true judges and are not so easily won over with the flashes and fireworks that White Mojo applauds. Only time will tell, as they say, and Luo has as good a chance as any for making that leap true.