A light year measures approximately 9.5 trillion kilometres, which is no small trot. Happily, you only have to set the GPS to Hawthorn to enjoy the delights of Light Years café. The owners of Windsor’s Journeyman café opened Light Years in August 2017, and head chef Simon Ward (formerly of the now-closed Hammer & Tong) is kicking serious goals. The breakfast and lunch menu – eggs scrambled or benedict, bircher muesli, burgers or fish and chips – may sound standard; its execution is anything but. Ward’s love of Asian food is evident, and ingredients such as edamame, sriracha, miso and nori are put to tasteful use.
His version of scrambled eggs and toast is a treat. Creamy eggs are topped with a mop of wakame (seaweed), tiny clusters of sweet corn and torn nori sheets. Roasted mushrooms encircle the plate and a trio of ‘milk bread sticks’ are placed atop. These rectangular sticks of fried bread are wonderfully buttery – the only downside is that there are just three.
It’s a dangerous time to be a soft-shell crab in Melbourne, and Light Years’ excellent soft-shell crab burger isn’t doing anything to increase these creatures’ life expectancy. A warm and springy brioche bun is spread with peppy sriracha mayonnaise. There’s thinly shredded cabbage ’slaw, plenty of fresh coriander and a whole fried crab (pincers poking out of the bun in surrender). It’s all at once crunchy, creamy and light. Sago chips accompany the burger. Slim, crisp and dusted with green nori salt, they’re like a much-tastier rice cake.
Do order the broccoli and quinoa balls. A cross between the Japanese takoyaki (octopus balls) and the arancini ball, what a glorious mash-up they make. These four fried orbs, dabbed with an unagi- (eel) flavoured mayonnaise, have a crisp shell that contrasts perfectly with their velvety innards.
Light Years’ interior matches the deft precision of its fare. There’s floor-to-ceiling windows (bring sunglasses), plenty of grey marble, a striking yellow door and huge circular lights which, chiming with the space theme, hover like Saturn’s rings. On a weekday, workers are popping in for a quality lunch and gossip (“IT is taking on too much!”), while solo diners sit at the bar nibbling chocolate chip cookies and sipping silky Duke’s espresso.
With food that boldly goes to some pleasingly original places – we haven’t even mentioned their ‘pixel avocado’ which is, intriguing, diced rather than smashed – and staff who are brimming with the right stuff, Light Years has the star quality of a superior café offering.