We were on the search for a meal on the lateish side of brunch on the north side of town, and found ourselves O Hey Cafe. Located in a little strip of shops near a railway crossing, it was a very suburban location. As a clever little pun, it is on O’Hea Street.
The mint green storefront stood out from its surrounds. The outside tables or the sign with the held up palm were other indicators that you had arrived at the eatery.
Once through the doors, the interior was even more eye-catching. The pink ceiling would not be out of place as an installation in a modern art gallery. There were more neon palm signs along the wall, like the sign outside. These could be seen as a greeting “Oh Hey”, or the Buddhist Abhaya mudra. Both are symbolically positive.
We were greeted by staff, and told that we could sit at any available table. We could see that the space extended some way back, and heard staff tell other patrons that they had a courtyard out back as well. We opted for a table near the entrance for the table size and daylight. It had pale pink velour stools that matched other elements of their décor. The seating felt a little low for the table height though. Other tables seemed to have more regular height chairs.
Upbeat pop played over the speakers at not too loud a volume. There was an open kitchen just behind the service counter. They could do with a little more extraction fan power though, as you did get cooking smells coming through to the seating area.
We were brought chilled water and menus. The A4 size laminated sheet had their All day food items on one side, and drinks on the other. In keeping with their colour theme, dish names were printed in pink. The Brisket was labelled their signature dish, so we had to order that, of course. From among the other options, we chose the Baked zucchini fritter, as that looked the next most interesting.
The food actually arrived before drinks. It wasn’t that the food was fast though, but that the drinks were slow.
The Brisket, their signature dish, was described in the menu as spiced smoked hollandaise over potato hash, a poached egg, hickory-smoked twice cooked brisket, pickle and cabbage slaw, served with charred corn. It was quite a theatrical presentation, the dish brought to the table under a glass cloche, the contents veiled by smoke. When the cloche was lifted, a definite smoky aroma escaped, and the stacked components were revealed.
The potato hash at the bottom of the stack had extra smoky flavour infused. The brisket had a coarsely pulled texture, but was tender. It had sweet and slightly zingy flavour notes. The poached egg had a runny yolk. It was a tasty dish all together.
The Baked zucchini fritter was listed as a zucchini, corn, and halloumi fritter, with mint relish and zoodle slaw, pumpkin humus, poached egg, and crispy spiced chickpeas. It was presented as a haphazard heap, the zoodles, carrot strips, and pea shoots making a tangled pile that hid the fritter below. The fritter itself was a tall cylinder, with plenty of corn kernels and diced greens in it. We could detect the mint as a present hint rather than a toothpasty flavour. The fritter was firm, but not quite crisp on the outside as one might get from a fried fritter. The pumpkin puree added a hint of sweetness. It was not bad as a whole, but the Brisket was the tastier dish.
The flat white that eventually arrived was done on a light roast. It had a good milk foam texture. We would have liked the coffee to be stronger though.
We had also ordered a peanut butter smoothie, but unfortunately it never arrived.
That was a symptom of the staffing issues that we could see. Some staff were great at their job, friendly and welcoming to customers coming in. Others were heard frequently complaining that they wanted to go home early, and had to repeatedly be asked to do tasks. This was likely why orders like ours were missed.
O Hey Cafe is certainly a photogenic place, and has no doubt been designed with the social media crowd in mind. The food was pretty good, but their largest stumbling block is their staffing, because it translates to the dining experience.
Service: 0.5/2 (the good staff kept it from being 0)
Price point: $17.50 to $23 for items more substantial than toast and toppings.
Address: 44 O’Hea St, Coburg
Phone: 03 9354 3449
Website: O Hey Cafe