Ho Ho's Canteen
Delivering a much-needed break from the sausage sizzles and bain-maries that have long characterised on-campus dining, Ho Ho’s Canteen at Melbourne University is turning over a fresh leaf on the fast food model. The absence of any canteen-like qualities begins with the carefully selected coffee (by Wide Open Road) and milk (from Jonesys). From there you can grab a golden pastry by Noisette or cakes and cookies courtesy of Little Bertha.
But it’s lunch service where Ho Ho’s really shakes things up. Owner and head chef Fabian Calabrese (who trained under Pierre Garnaire at Sketch in London, before stints at Melbourne establishments Sarti and Embrasse) turns the spoils of daily market trips into a seasonal rotation of fresh sandwiches, salads, soups and made-to-order pastas that taste ‘as close to home as possible’.
For Calabrese, that means pastrami, pickles and sauerkraut sandwiches, spaghetti with tuna capers and olives, the occasional smoked beef brisket, and even Nonna’s closely guarded recipe for a frittelli di zucchini. There are also plenty of vegan-friendly options like burgul and lentils with cucumber, dried cranberries, almonds and soft herbs, a caponata of cabbage, red onion and zucchini, and vigorous lentil soups – all for under $11.
With an open door to great coffee, music and an evolving, seasonal menu, Ho Ho’s brings a modern cafe sensibility to a tired canteen tradition.