The Counter, Hawthorn

4/24/2016 , 0 Comments

The Counter is a cosy cafe/bakery in Hawthorn, just opposite Auburn Station on the Belgrave/Lilydale/Alamein lines. The front window is lined with an assortment of baked goods, and there's also an extensive menu of breakfast and lunch dishes, as well as specials of the day.

Upon entering the cafe, it doesn't look very big, as the counter and display takes up about half of the space. However, there's also an outdoor area that expands into quite an open, spacious sitting space, which is great for the warmer weather. The decor in the outdoor/garden area is quite simple, but with lots of plants and wooden benches that makes you feel like you're in your own backyard. Upbeat music plays in the background, and the general atmosphere of the place is lively. We chose to sit outside, and I was quite surprised at the attentiveness of the staff; there was almost always someone in the back area, so we didn't have to wait for ages to get their attention, just because we weren't in the main cafe area.

There's a good range of breakfast and lunch dishes at The Counter, as well as salads and deli items that you can choose from the display cabinets at the front. Both my friend and I went with breakfast dishes; the chilli folded eggs with extra salmon ($15 + 6) and the baked eggs ($18), and also got an ice coffee and a fresh orange juice ($5 each). The ice coffee came with ice cream on top, which made for a good balance of flavours to the natural bitter taste of the coffee itself. The orange juice was very refreshing and full of pulp, though surprisingly didn't become too much to drink by the end. It wasn't as sweet as what I'm usually used to, but still made for a great balance to the heavier flavours of the breakfast dish.

The chilli folded eggs came with house made minted labne (yoghurt), and grilled roti on the side, and you could have it with Tasmanian Smoked Salmon or Istra bacon on the side. The eggs weren't too spicy, so even if you can't really take spicy dishes, this would've been an okay option to go with. There was a generous portion of salmon which bought the whole dish together to make it more filling, and the natural sourness of the labne helped balance out the heat from the eggs. The roti however was a little on the dry side, and the omelette itself had a bit of an oily liquid/residue down the bottom that was a little unpleasant. Raw bean shoots were also in the dish which added a nice crunchy texture, though the rawness may not be to everyone's liking.

The shakshouka Moroccan baked eggs came with chorizo, meredith goat's cheese and a pistachio dukkah. There was a really good, strong tomato and capsicum flavour, and the chorizo was also really flavoursome, though a little on the dry side. The eggs weren't as runny as I would've liked but still delicious, and there was four pieces of bread on the side that was perfect for soaking up the sauce, yet remained crunchy at the same time. I couldn't really taste the pistachio dukkah flavour in the dish; it was perhaps overpowered by the tomato/capsicum flavours in the baked eggs, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

A cute little cafe in the Hawthorn area, I'd like to come back again to try some of their other dishes, or maybe something from the counter.

Ambience: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Food: 7.5/10
Price: $$

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