11 Malop Street
Geelong VIC 3220
+61 3 5223 1228
On Saturday, Adam shoved me into the car and forced me to sit in the passenger seat and listen to his ‘Mowbray playlist’ as he drove down the M1, to Torquay. His destination was a line of surf stores where he would, hopefully, find the perfect pair of Arnettes. Of course, I was not going to endure the 1.5 hour drive to Surf Coast City if there was nothing in it for me so I made sure he exited left at Ballarat Road/Midland Hwy when it was time for lunch. After a very quick stop at La Madre bakery (there was no one I was leaving Geelong without half a dozen sourdough hot cross breads and some Danishes), we drove a further five minutes to Geelong proper.
At the very end of normally thriving Malop Street, there stands an opulent heritage-listed building. Formerly a bank, it is now known as Geelong’s favourite Cheap Eats three-starrred cafe-slash-restaurant-slash-restaurant, Mr Hyde.
Walking into the spacious restaurant, I can sort of see why the owners decided to call it Mr Hyde. The light-filled main dining room is airy and pristine while there are little rooms scattered to your right that are darker, and more intimate, not dissimilar to a typical Melbourne laneway bar in the early hours of a Saturday evening. To your left, a marble counter fronts an espresso machine and a team of hot young things whipping up Bloody Marys to the awesome-but-sooo-not-Geelong-cafe-appropriate sounds of deadmau5.
Other trimmings also include grand chandeliers and defaced copies of Geelong FC yearbooks.
The grind of the day was a single origin bean from Rwanda. I predictably ordered a latte and Adam, predictably of course, a long macchiato. Both our coffees were beautiful: creamy and velvety, and sweet all over. Apparently their coffee beans are supplied by St Ali in Melbourne so it’s no wonder, really.
The breakfast menu looked awfully good but unfortunately, we were too late for breakfast. Not to worry, they had a decent-sounding lunch menu which consisted of everything from salads to Wagyu steak sandwiches to Turkish pizzas. We shared our food, like all good people. First up, a roast lamb panini ($12). The lamb had been slow-roasted for 12 hours and according to the menu, served with tomato salsa and tahini. What we got, however, was something slightly different.
We got the soft, tender slow-roasted lamb, yes, but where were the tomato salsa and the tahini? All we got (per half a panini) were a handful of baby spinach leaves, two paltry slices of tomato and sliced raw onions. As for the tahini… hah, what tahini? Tzatziki, more like it! All that was good about the bread was the deliciously soft and chewy La Madre ciabatta bread that sandwiched the pathetic fillings, and I suppose the lamb was okay. Vietnamese people say that what makes a pork roll good is the bread, not so much the filling. Here, though, not even excellent bread could save the panini for it was horrible and not worth the $12. Additionally, cafe-extraordinaire Adam likened the panini to one of those stodgy Sandwich Group ones, you know, the sandwiches they serve at Hudson’s Coffee et al and are also available at your local Coles supermarket.
Far better was the Istra chorizo Turkish pizza ($17). I’m a sucker for a good lahmacun so I was looking forward to eating this beauty. While I thought the pizza was a tad small given the $17 price tag and the dough a little too dry and tasteless, I thought the topping was decent. The chorizo and cranberries may sound like an odd couple on paper but they worked extremely well together - the saltiness of the chorizo was gently diffused by the sweet dried cranberries. I couldn’t see any chickpeas, until I realised that they were pureed, mixed with parmesan cheese and spread all over the base. Not bad.
They even gave us a pizza cutter, too!
Finally, we shared a serving of za’atar-spiced chips with harissa mayonnaise ($7), probably one of the better-sounding version of the humble potato chip I’ve come across. Unfortunately, they didn’t really taste as good as they sounded. While I give props for the cute presentation and the lovely
hannis harissa mayo (hi Shirley!), the chips were soggy as effk thus ruining everything.
In a town where everyone worships the same footy team, I’m surprised that haters do exist. Even if Mr Ling isn’t actually Mr Hot Stuff himself.
After the disaster that was our lamb panini, Adam ruled out a further visit (gosh, sometimes the nonchalant dining companion is harsher than the food blogger!). While I can’t disagree with him about the panini, I reckon Mr Hyde is worth trying out again. Okay, sure, the lahmacun wasn’t perfect and you don’t make friends with soggy chips but their coffee was excellent and their service extremely efficient and friendly. I must also admit that their breakfast menu sounds better than their lunch menu and ditto their dinner menu so perhaps the next time Adam forces me to accompany him for a drive down the Bellarine, I’ll be sure to avoid Mr Hyde at lunch but make every effort to duck in for a morning coffee or dinner and cocktails.