Scorcher reviews: HWKR
137 A’Beckett Street, Melbourne
I have been fortunate enough to visit south-east Asia on a number of occasions, and while in countries like Malaysia and Singapore, I often find myself eating in hawker centres and pondering to whoever will listen, “Why don’t we do this kind of thing in Melbourne? It would be a huge success. Maybe I’ll start a hawker centre myself when I get home.”
Well, someone has beaten me to it. And, I might add, they have done an infinitely better job than anything I could have come up with.
Opened earlier this year, HWKR (because vowels are very unfashionable nowadays) is a hawker-style concept comprising a quintet of rotating Asian street food-focused restaurants. Rotating on a three-month basis, that is. The restaurants don’t spin about, because that would be annoying.
Melbourne’s DNA has certainly seeped into the style and feel of HWKR; this is more of a modern interpretation of a hawker centre as opposed to the fast and furious, beautifully mucky joints you find in Asia.
HWKR is a super spot to grab a quick and tasty bite to eat in the city when you’re done with shopping at DJs or JD Sport. And it’s cheap as all heck, with most dishes well under $20.
Current vendors include Chanteen, a tour of Malaysian and Singaporean street food by former Masterchef winner Diana Chan; Khao, an offshoot of much-loved Melbourne favourite Rice Paper Sister; Bread and Beast, an Aussie outpost of the popular Hong Kong sandwich joint; and tag-team duo of Messina and Wonderbao.
If you’re someone who is vulnerable to the stupefying effects of analysis paralysis, you may want to strategise before fronting up to the flashy electronic menus adjacent to each of the outlets. The choice can be overwhelming, especially if you’re hangry.
Can I suggest you grab a mate or two, order of number of dishes and share? Some of the dishes to look out are as follows: the Filipino roasted lamb ribs with burnt coconut sauce on jasmine rice at Khao are soft and filling. The pork belly and pate banh mi is snackily satisfying as well.
At Chanteen, I’m a fan of Chan’s silky char kway teow, and her lobster rolls with chilli crab sauce are a crowd favourite.
And at Wonderbao I’m all about the DIY bao kits – roast duck leg with homemade XO sauce and pickles or the crackling pork belly with hoisin. But I would say that, as I’m easily seduced by the pillowy parcels. I’m a big bao boy.
So while this isn’t the rough and ready, homespun hawker stall model that you find in the back alleys of Borneo, where vendors make one thing and make it well, HWKR still borrows that pacey charm you see in its Asian counterparts. HWKR is a buzzy blend of what Melbourne does well and the street food scene of south-east Asia. And with restaurants rotating every three months you’ll have reason to go back again and again.