Hawker Hall is part of the ever-growing Lucas Group family, and it’s been on my radar for the last couple of years, along with the rest of Melbourne. Based on the name alone, it’s not hard to see where Chris Lucas drew inspiration from when it came to Hawker Hall, the bustling hawker centres that are sprawled across Malaysia and Singapore of course. Being partial to Singaporean food myself, I had high expectations for Hawker Hall’s offerings.
Given my lack of enthusiasm when it comes to lining up in the colder months, we decided to go for lunch on a Sunday, and were able to snag up a couple of seats at the bar in a flash.
Since we were sat at the bar, I expected the drink to be the first thing that landed on the table, so it was a little weird that the milo and coconut crush only arrived after almost all of the savoury dishes.
Timing aside, the drink was a nice twist on the traditional milo dinosaur, and went quite well with the heavier set of dishes we had ordered.
The salt and pepper tofu fries sounded interesting on paper, but it was an unfortunately bland delivery. The tofu themselves were pretty flavourless with none of the salt and pepper promised, the epitome of a subpar tofu dish in my opinion. The batter also left me wishing for more crunchiness. The sesame mayo was average as far as dipping sauces go, but was definitely the best thing on the plate.
I’ve never had Nyonya food myself, but my friend has, and said that acidity was a prominent flavour in the cuisine, which left me feeling a little wary of how the popcorn chicken would taste. They tasted, um, like popcorn chicken I guess? But not the good kind. Again, it didn’t have any particularly strong or unique flavour coming through, and the batter was a little too floury with not enough crispiness to boot.
On another note, for almost $15, I expected more than a barely filled bowl of fried chicken.
The butter chicken curry puffs was another one that sounded interesting on paper. The pastry was quite flakey, and the butter chicken mixture inside was decent enough without any punch per se.
The roti paratha was probably the best of the savoury dishes, but is that really saying much at this point? The flaky pastry was topped off with a tangy eggplant tomato sambal, which could have been elevated by a kick of chilli. The smoked yoghurt tasted a bit like Greek yoghurt, and would have made more sense had the sambal been spicier.
We were quite full by this point, but we had our eyes on the fried apple pie since the beginning, and given the low probability of us returning at this point, we decided to bite the bullet and order the dessert to share.
This turned out to be a great move, as the fried apple pie was hands down the best dish of the day. The large chunks of stewed apples with a good hit of cinnamon was encased in the flakey roti pastry similar to the butter chicken curry puff. The chai ice cream was also a winner, with enough ginger, cardamom and clove flavour coming through and complimenting the sweetness of the apples and the richness of the pastry.
As you can probably tell by this point, I found the whole experience at Hawker Hall to be quite underwhelming. The food was average at best, with the apple pie being the saving price, and none of it could really justify the hefty price tag attached.
I’ve only really heard good things about Hawker Hall, but it all just seemed a little too extra and pretentious to me, exactly the opposite of what comes to mind when I’m thinking of Singaporean and Malaysian street food.Maybe our approach to select some smaller plates to try didn’t work out in our favour? Regardless, I am in absolutely no rush to return.
How to get here:
Hawker Hall is located on Chapel Street, three minutes walk from Windsor Station, or catch tram #6 and get off at High Street/Chapel Street, and you’ll also be three minutes walk away from the restaurant.