Cafes

The Verdict | Hibiki

By James Shackell - 09 Aug 2018

“Hibiki actually means ‘echo’,” says owner Reiji Honour. “Which is weird, because the acoustics in here are f*cking great.”

You might not think acoustic fidelity matters for a new Japanese cafe in Camberwell, but right from the start, Reiji wanted Hibiki to combine his two passions: brunch and beats. To that end, there’s a sweet Bose sound system installed in the ceiling, and the fit-out makes use of soft, blonde timber wherever possible.

“Eventually I want to open it up at night,” Reiji says. “We’ll get a DJ set-up over there and people can drink whisky and hang out. I’m even thinking Hibiki Spotify playlists for people to download what’s playing in the cafe.”

That sounds like a brilliant idea, Reiji. Please please do that. In the meantime, we’ll keep rocking up here for brunch on Saturdays...along with half of the Eastern Suburbs.

Seriously, we dropped by Hibiki again last weekend, and there was a queue out the door. The guys have almost been turning people away, and an hour wait for brekky isn’t uncommon. Our tip? Set your alarm and get in early.

Hibiki popped up on Toorak Rd about a month ago. Technically this is Camberwell, but the shadowy, elephant-graveyard part of Camberwell that almost slips into Burwood. There isn’t much on this strip—the old Shutterbug store is turning into an Accountancy office, and there’s a couple of old cafes that’ve been going strong since the invention of the focaccia. R&B Japanese brunch bars? Not so much.

When you are seated (phew) take a look at the menu. We doubt you’ve seen anything like it in Melbourne before.

You can play it safe, of course—maybe some poached eggs, Largos bacon and fresh avo on Japanese milk toast (an exclusive drop from Brioche By Phillip). But why not go large? We went straight for the Middle Meets East, one of Reiji’s own inventions. It’s a buttery mix of garlic shiso labne, burnt sage and chilli, topped with poached eggs, seeded sourdough and fluffy parmesan korokke croquettes.

“The beef brisket benedict is also popular,” says Reiji. “We’ve been selling out some mornings.”

This thing ain’t your typical bene, guys. We’re talking 12-hour slow-cooked brisket in Reiji’s housemade wafu sauce, sitting on yaki onigiri rice, with poached eggs and shichimi hollandaise. This one’s best enjoyed out on the back courtyard, with the sun on your face and a strong Industry Beans latte in your hand (or a cheeky matcha milkshake).

The back courtyard is a nice touch—soaked in northside sun, with enough room for kids (if you’ve got ‘em). You walk past the kitchen too, which gives an interesting whiff of things to come...

Hibiki takes its coffee pretty seriously, and the flat cap-wearing baristas behind the concrete bar look like caffeine alchemists. You can get the Fitzroy St blend from Industry Beans at the moment, but the guys will be stocking an interesting range of single origins and cold drips.

This is the sort of experience you get in Tokyo: minimalist design, lots of brushed concrete, amazing attention to detail (Google ‘shokunin’ and you’ll know what we’re talking about), and truly banging food. The smooth beats are really just a bonus. 

If you found this place down a zig-zag alley in Shinjuku, you’d be telling your mates about it for months. Lucky for us, we can get it on Toorak Rd.

Fingers crossed those DJs and whisky bottles get here soon...   

Want to learn more about Hibiki? Check out our Directory page

Image credit: Griffin Simm

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