Hazel Espresso, the fusion of cultures

Hazel Espresso, the fusion of cultures

Hazel Nguyen’s eponymous café, Hazel Espresso, is a place of passion. Named after Hazel by her partner and co-owner, Long Tran, Hazel Espresso is dedicated to a fusion of cultures, flavours and colours. In fact, that’s exactly what gets our attention.

Co-owner of Hazel Espresso, Long Tran

Having left their jobs as hospitality managers in Melbourne, Hazel and Long have opened their first café in the Chinatown precinct of Davenport Street, Southport.

Like people, every café must have its point of difference. It’s not enough to be a good reflector, to give everyone what they like. It’s more important to be yourself, individual and unique.

Truffled mushrooms

Hazel Espresso is just that. From its elegant buff-coloured décor (the colour of Hazel’s eyes, Long tells us) to its fusion menu, Hazel is flavoured by its fusion of European and Asian cultures, from the French who colonised Vietnam to the multi-Asian influences of Vietnamese and Japanese, as well as the Colombian and Australian staff who all add to the mix of a modern-Australian café.

Chilli Crab Scrambled

Being only a small café, Hazel Espresso offers a short all-day breakfast and lunch menu. It comprises basic standard café brunch fare, such as Eggs on toast, Smashed avo (served on Burleigh Baker sourdough), or an acai bowl, boosted by more exciting classic internationally-influenced dishes, such as the Banh Mi Breakfast Board and Chilli Crab Scrambled.

Tamago Sando

All-day lunch continues in the same vein with a range of Japanese sandos on offer (the Tamago or egg sando being the best we’ve ever eaten), an Asian salad as well as Truffled mushrooms on hash. For those with a sweeter tooth, French Toast Forever is a favourite treat.

View of Chinatown, Southport, from Hazel Espresso

The criticism that fusion ends up ‘confused’ certainly does not apply to Hazel Espresso’s menu. There’s no adulteration or misappropriation of dishes here. If anything, they are cleaner and fresher than dishes we tried in Vietnam.

Buoyed by passionate enthusiasm and a fine eye for detail, presentation and service are also outstanding.

Banh Mi Breakfast Board

The Banh Mi roll is soft with a crisp top, the lemongrass grilled pork stunningly fresh accompanied by pâté, mayo butter, vibrant herbs and picked vegetables; a great example of the art. The Chilli crab scrambled eggs is also a cracker of a dish with flaked crab spiced up with zingy house made Shiracha mayo, red cayenne chilli, fresh coriander and fried shallots piled into a fresh croissant.

Cappuccino, ST ALi. coffee

The drinks menu is as substantial as the food. Its everyday axis is the well-respected ST Ali. coffee. Roasted in Melbourne from Colombian and Brazilian beans, this espresso coffee shows notes of butterscotch and dark chocolate.

Vietnamese coffee

But let’s not stop there! It’s fabulous to also see a range of Vietnamese coffees and teas on offer, such as the Iced lemongrass peach tea.

Coffee Sphere

There are two coffees which fall into the ‘must try’ category: the Coffee Sphere (a frozen sphere of coffee melted with the addition of hot milk foam) which is simply entrancing, and the Northern Vietnamese delicacy, Hanoi egg coffee. Both coffees are signatures of Hazel Espresso, the only ones we know of on the Gold Coast.

Hanoi Egg Coffee

Served in a latte glass sitting in its own hot water bath, Hanoi egg coffee is comprised of two layers: rich Robusta coffee topped by a creamy foam of egg yolk, caramel syrup, condensed milk and honey. It’s beautiful but raises the dilemma on how to drink it. Our choice is to draw up the coffee through the deliciously rich textured foam (which we do) rather than to mix the layers together. It’s sensational, lingering on the lips like sweet velvet, the plushest coffee we’ve ever tasted.

French Toast Forever – credit Hazel Espresso

At a time when physical travel is unlikely, it’s refreshing to travel through our senses.

Hazel Espresso represents the lives of young migrants who straddle two worlds, bringing their much-loved cuisine to us, blended with ours, in a modern café. In this crucible of cultures, we can enjoy the best of both worlds.

‘Hazel’, not ‘vanilla’, Hazel Espresso brings us a unique dining experience, one the owners hope to expand on in the near future.

Co-owner Hazel with an Iced lemongrass peach tea

Hazel Espresso, 9 Davenport St, Southport Ph: 0415 953 469

Open: Mon – Fri 7am – 3pm, Sat – Sun 7am – 2pm

Open: Mon – Fri 7am – 3pm, Sat – Sun 7am – 2pm
9 Davenport St, Southport QLD 4215