For a suburb constantly described by its "leafy streets" or "well-heeled residents", Epsom is surprisingly short on good local cafes.
Hello Friends + Allies seems to be attempting to rectify that. In an unassuming block of shops, it's a good-sized cafe, and that's even before you find the back room with three massive sharing tables. Quirky artwork and mismatched tables create a modern look. It's perfect for larger groups, with bookings available for tables of 10 or more. However, size was the cafe's one downfall the day we visited - a full house and not enough staff.
SUSTENANCE & SWILL
The menu hosts all of the old faithfuls, but with a special twist - for example, the bircher muesli is served with lemon curd, coconut almond milk and poached pear ($13) and the fresh mushroom medley has whipped feta, truffle oil, Thai basil, rye toast and a poached egg ($19).
There are some unusual offerings too, including Malaysian-style sticky black rice ($13) and pea and mascarpone bruschetta ($16). Our previous night's shenanigans necessitated a big breakfest (their spelling), which came with everything you'd expect, plus carrot and parsnip rosti and whipped feta ($21.50).
We also had a breakfast board ($21.50) perfect for anyone prone to food envy - it covered many bases, being comprised of granola, an egg and soldiers, and some halloumi. For anyone still hungry after their decent portions, there's a massive range of cabinet food and sweet treats.
The service was friendly, if frazzled.
Our coffees arrived one by one, kind of like caffeinated tasting plates. The food took half an hour, but we had no complaints about quality when it arrived. There seemed to be an issue matching food with tables, but at least it gave us the chance to check out the beautifully presented dishes on offer.
Since finding Hello Friends, we've also made a few successful weekday visits. It has a good vibe, an interesting menu, and an impressive range of cabinet food - in short, all the makings of a great cafe, in an area screaming out for one. A few more staff helping out during the weekend and they're on to a winner.