There’s something vaguely spacey about Light Years, the new Camberwell caff from Simon Ward, owner of Fitzroy’s (dearly departed) Hammer & Tong. It might be the way the morning light blasts in through the huge floor-to-ceiling windows, like the arrival scene from Spielberg’s Close Encounters. It might be the interior styling: a Southside mash of brushed concrete and ovoid golden curves, arcing through the ceiling like some ancient solar map.
The food looks futuristic too. Take the ‘Pixel Avocado’. An 8-bit av’, cut into a landscape of undulating pixelated cubes, smack bang next to an extra-terrestrial forest of chilli air-dried kale, growing from a bed of luminous edamame hummus. Your standard smashed avocado, this thing is not.
It’s an ambitious new venture, with more than a touch of high-concept cuisine (Ward spent three years working with Shannon Bennett at Vue de Monde). The presentation is absolutely stunning. Exhibit A: The matcha waffles with lemon cheesecake and popping candy, covered with a gooey dark chocolate sauce, which your waiter pours at the table. Same goes for the delicate dashi on the vegetarian ramen.
Big night last night? Go the ox cheek black bean eggs benedict. A generous portion of melt-in-your-mouth ox cheek, thick-cut pillowy sourdough, poached googies and a slurp of creamy hollandaise, served with pickled kohlrabi and dehydrated peas.
The drinks list has a futuristic feel to it too. You’ve got excellent espresso, courtesy of Dukes, but there’s also organic artisan tea and Liberty organic kombucha with Kakadu plums and ginger. Even a Kreol apple cider vinegar, spiked with passionfruit and orange. Zingy.
In terms of tone, Ward has got it bang on. This place practically breathes Hawthorn and Camberwell. The atmosphere is 30% rose gold, with a hint of BMW. But you’ve got to applaud the audacity. Anyone who can surprise us with a smashed av’ deserves very close watching indeed.
Image credit: Light Years