We were offered a sample from the menu and it was exciting as there is nothing quite like 12's Cafe in the Camberwell surrounds. The menu is a mix of sharing plates, brioches, beautifully plated-up mains. So the following photos show miniature versions of what's on the menu.
First up, we were treated to a selection of nibblies which would serve well over Happy Hour or over a couple of beers in the jaw droppingly amazing Beer Garden. (Yes! There's a Beer Garden - quite a fancy one at that but more on that later).
The breakdown of this platter is as follows: A crispy panko covered potato croquette filled with crab meat, corn and creamy sauce. The dipping sauce was a mix of mayo and BBQ sauce. I've had something similar in a Japanese restaurant. It is comfortingly gooey inside and crispy outside with a hint of the ocean.
Then there was the OMG moment of biting in this cone filled with shards of pork crackling. It was as it should be - crunchy without the grease. Perfect with a beer or two in the aforementioned Beer Garden.
Jack mentioned he had a love of all things yum cha and this "Char Siu So" was 12's Cafe's homage to yum cha. It was BBQ pork encased in a flaky pastry. Also perfect as a tapas or with a drink or two.
Of course being opposite to the Rivoli, one could not possibly go without a cinematic reference. These were PC 007 chips with it's seven secret herbs and spices! Like the Colonel. The spice mix has a tiny hit of heat but very moreish. A nod to 007's billboard from across the street.
Anything featuring dumplings has my vote and these "Gold Stickers" were delectable with its skilfully flaky pastry base and chilli dipping sauce. These were light with a meat base interior. I suspected a chicken filling.
But what 12's Cafe is really known for it's its roast meats fusion. So a house specialty is the Peking Duck served with salad, plum, pickles served either in a wrap or bao. I can understand why it's so popular. The duck is succulent whilst the skin is still crispy with crunchy patina on top of the actual skin. You could tell that Jack learnt the craft of BBQ meats from the land of roast duck, Hong Kong.
Up until now, the fare has been quite tapas style or sharing platter style. We now moved onto the more salady items on the menu. We had miniature versions of the Crispy Hainanese Chicken salad served with soba noodles with a sesame and soy dressing. I really enjoyed this. I love Hainanese chicken for it's silkiness yet this version introduced a crispy skin to it, adding texture as well as taste.
R was very happy with her soft shell crab salad with soba noodles. She reported that the crab was intentionally not overly spiced to allow the crabby flavours to shine.
To sample their more substantial mains, I received a mini slow cooked pork belly. OMG. This was my favourite of the night. It is succulent pork belly cooked in a 80% steam oven so all the fat rendered out of it so one is left with porky tenderness infused with master stock without the grease. It was served on a crispy rice cake and a Thai inspired green apple salad. R fought me for the crunchy salad. I reluctantly gave her a piece of pork to share.
R was pleased with her butterflied chicken fillet marinaded in house blended sweet soy sauce, shitake mushroom rice and wafu salad.
Now onto this Beer Garden, I've been alluding to... It comes replete with al freso dining; lounges; a ping pong table; retro Vespa and retro TV! What a neat space. There's the shade of a palm tree and awning and a decked out sound system. Perfect for Happy Hour or a function or family dining with one's littlies.
If beering and wining isn't your thing, 12's Cafe also serves as a quick coffee drop in kind of a place. I sampled their matcha latte and it was one of the better ones I have tasted.
VerdictWe loved it.
Overall12's Cafe is a refreshing breeze in the Camberwell Junction dining scene. It's fusion is accessible without being polarising. It's BBQ meats are the star here which are lovingly made and well executed. The owner, Jack Kwan is clearly passionate about his business. We will definitely be repeat offenders here.
Find it at12's Cafe
207 Camberwell Road
Hawthorn East 3123
Telephone: 9042 3986