SET UP & SITE
Six new eateries opening in Sylvia Park! Such is the excitement at the news that less than a week later I was negotiating contractors' vans and steel barricades to check out the new dining precinct so breathlessly announced. "Now open!" said the press release. Not open for another month, said Birdie's, my first choice. Luckily, Hawker & Roll across the promenade was open. It would be unfair to discuss ambience in a restaurant days after its opening – besides, you wouldn't be able to hear a word I said above the sound of the contractors' power tools as Sylvia Park undergoes a $200 million expansion around it. But Hawker & Roll is trying to recreate the environment of a Malaysian street stall, which is probably the inspiration for the particular table setting at the back of the eatery. Does it achieve it? Well, Hawker & Roll has considerably more class than the Malaysian street stalls I have eaten at, power tools notwithstanding.
SUSTENANCE & SWILL
You would visit Hawker & Roll for breakfast if you were totally – as in 100 per cent — determined to experience something different. No eggs. No bacon. No granola, nor waffles. What you get is exactly what it says on the packet: Malaysian street food. (But classier, remember.) My pulled sticky pork in a crunchy roti ($14) was more filling than it looked. It came in a small plastic dish with a healthy side of cabbage salad, which didn't leave me full to bursting although, at my age and girth, that is not a bad thing. My teenage companion ordered prawn and pork dumplings ($18). No smooshed balls of prawn and pork meat here: each dumpling seemed to have a whole prawn within. And not a word of complaint came from her lips.
SERVICE & OTHER STUFF
This is the kind of place where you order at the counter and pay beforehand. Kind of like a Malaysian street-food stall. So don't expect hovering waitstaff to be checking if "everything is okay" or to ask if you would like another coffee. What we also didn't expect was to see a genuine celebrity behind the bar: Even my companion recognised MasterChef's Josh Emett hard at work with a bamboo steamer. So it should not surprise those who know these things that the receipt came back with a "Madam Woo" reference, the five-restaurant chain co-owned by the celebrity chef.