In Short: From the folks that brought you Chin Chin, Hawker Hall introduces diners to Chin Chin’s southern neighbour in Malaysian food. A huge space, that emulates the hawker centres found in Singapore and Malaysia, and a menu that is extensive. Each of the dishes we tried were supremely delicious, but if asked to pick one, it would have to be the Char Kway Teow. Lots of beers on hand to wash the noodles and rice too!
On a hot summer day, as the afternoon heat had melted away our morning pleasures, we ventured out on another food adventure. Parking the car in one of the back lanes of Windsor, I was sure we would find something to nibble on at 3pm. From Union Street, we turned left on Chapel Street, and an almost divine intervention struck (as you would expect on Chapel St!), as before us was the supremely white and clean facade of Hawker Hall which rose up in front of us.
I scurried in to check if they were open, and you can imagine the glee when it was confirmed that their kitchen was firing on all cylinders. It was perfect timing actually. As I call it, ‘witching hour’ had descended upon Melbourne. It is the time of day the city transitions from ravenous office folk looking for a lunch bite to hectic evenings as the night owls ready for a big night out. Hawker Hall comes from good lineage with its sister establishment one of the hottest tables both in Sydney and Melbourne. Chin Chin is as renowned for its rock ‘n’ roll ambience, as its delicious take on Thai street. At Hawker Hall, the Lucas group (owners) have gone with a beer hall type concept to complement the Malaysian style street food cuisine. In many ways it resembles the hawker centres of Singapore with multiple vendors competing to win over diners. Hawker Hall is a generously sized hall that can accommodate 150 people. I can imagine the vibe with the beer flowing and the aromas of Malaysian street food filling the venue.
With four of the crew on hand, we sampled a selection of dishes at Hawker Hall. First out of the kitchen was Char Kway Teow. Having just returned from a quick visit to Malaysia, the flavours of a supremely good Char Kway Teow had not escaped me. Here at Hawker Hall, their version is very impressive. I judge the quality of a Kway Teow on that wok hei, and it delivered at Hawker Hall. I loved the smoky flavours of the stir fried noodle dish. Each strip of noodle had that caramelised golden-brown appearance which signalled a perfectly cooked plate of food. Slices of lap cheong injected sweet, yet porky, flavour and in addition to the plump morsels of prawn. It’s well balanced with the soy sauce injecting that salty umami flavour, yet it did not overpower the palate. Take it from me, at Hawker Hall you get an authentic version of Char Kway Teow, which will save you the thousand dollar airfare to Malaysia!
From rice noodles, it was a rice dish next and Coco and Viner Steve chose to see how the Hainenese BBQ Chicken Rice fared. A decade ago, if we had found a restaurant serving chicken rice, we would have rushed to see if it emulated the flavours of this Singaporean favourite. Now-a-days Hainan Chicken Rice has become ubiquitous. Steve was tempted by the BBQ chicken element which sets this dish apart from the standard steamed rendition. He was not disappointed. Each piece of chicken was moist, yet perfectly cooked through. The broth, which was served separately, was fragrant and not overly seasoned. It was the BBQ flavour that won him over, with the crispy skin adding another layer of flavour and texture. Combined with the requisite chilli sauce which was robust, spicy with hints of garlic and ginger, it added up to a satisfying dish.
If there is brisket on the menu, Mavis will find it. A Yellow Curry Noodle has this comforting, homely look about it. Mavis loved it for its strands of yellow noodles , coated with the delicious and rich curry broth. The star of the dish was a tender beef brisket which was melt-in-your-mouth perfection. She loved the addition of the peanuts, green onions, and coriander which really adds a sublime depth of flavour.
For little Sammi, we ordered her up a plate of the Special Fried Rice with Prawns and Pork. Like the Hainese chicken rice, fried rice is a staple of Asian menus across the continent, and here at Hawker Hall, I loved the care that goes into the cooking of the fried rice. I could literally pick up each grain of rice; it was fragrant and packed with flavour. I really loved how the shrimp and lap cheong imparted an addictive flavour profile into the rice. An empty bowl by meal’s end always means it has received a stamp of approval from Sammi.
Hawker Hall lived up to my expectations and, in many ways, exceeded them. An exciting space, with equally exciting food, that is not hard on the wallet. Each of the dishes we tasted had buckets of flavour and it’s one of the first recommendations to friends who are visiting Melbourne. We just cannot wait to return to try more of their menu.