There’s a new diner doing interesting things in Hampton, and its name is Canoe Canoe. The good vibes start the moment you walk in and see the Life Aquatic-style portraits on the walls. The old mid-century prints and photographs. The pulp mystery books that hold your bill. There’s a definite streak of Wes Anderson whimsy running through this place, like you’re going to push through into the beer garden and discover some pastel-coloured Narnia, a bizarro world where you and Bill Murray get into surreal yet melancholy adventures. It also does bloody good food.
Canoe Canoe is the latest venture from coffee pro, Harley Anderson. The name comes from an old Dad joke from his childhood (“Can you canoe?”) and you can see the love that’s gone into the space. Anderson recruited a bunch of local painters, like Justine McAllister and graffiti artist Resio, to hand-sketch huge mountain murals, sculpt original typography and create a cast of Canoe Canoe characters on the wall. “They’re going to be an ongoing theme,” he says. “The adventures of Canoe Canoe”.
At 4pm this place is an after-school, parent-packed coffee spot, but by night it morphs into a casual eatery and diner with a pumping beer garden out back. Hampton has plenty of mid-morning cafes and Italian restaurants, but it doesn’t really have anywhere like this.
The menu is unpretentious and fun, designed by consulting chef Ben McMenamin (Top Paddock, Supernormal). Start the night with a cheeky board of crispy calamari with preserved lemon mayo, oozy pea-and-feta Arancini balls and a few slices of Japanese-style buttermilk-fried chicken, served on a yuzu mayo (they’re ridiculously, disgustingly good). For mains, it’s hard to go past the house-crumbed chicken schnitzel, but the pumpkin gnocchi with crispy sage gives it a damn good shake. Wash it all down with Holgate on tap, or boutique coffee blends from Small Batch. Top draw stuff.