“It sounds like hallelujah, but in Japanese it means ‘sunny shop’,” says Kantaro Okada of Hareruya Pantry, his perfectly named, sun-drenched eatery – a new addition to Carlton.

Behind a red-brick frontage (and roller door), it looks out onto the playground in Lincoln Square, which is exactly where Okada (who’s also behind cafes Le Bajo and 279) imagined his customers perching with the jam-packed bento boxes, baked goods and gelato he’s selling at the already wildly popular Hareruya.

While the menu here is decidedly simple – made up of Japanese classics with some inventive flourishes – it almost always sells out, so get in early. There are three beautiful bentos on offer; the house option has soboro (or ground) beef and egg on rice, with a soft-boiled egg and various osouzai (side dishes) like pickled veggies. “The osouzai is less traditional,” says Okada. “Some are more vinaigrette-based, which could be a bit more European.” There’s also an osakana (fish) bento and a vegetarian alternative with inari. Sweets-wise, there’s a rotating menu of house-baked goods – including a killer miso brownie, matcha cookies and delicate cup-sized castella (honey sponge cake).

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There’s also a gelato station, which has contributed to some of the buzz around Hareruya. There are eight flavours available to take away in a cup or tub, wrapped in mochi in daifuku style, or sandwiched by rice wafers in monaka style. The offering is focused on Japanese-inspired flavours like matcha, Calpis (an uncarbonated Japanese soft drink) and yuzu, and avocado yoghurt, made by chef Ayano Suzuki.

The fit-out is every bit as thoughtfully restrained as the menu. Okada was drawn to the blanket of sunlight that fills the former construction office – and didn’t want the furnishings to be too distracting. He got chatting with a customer at one of his other cafes, who made all the joinery for the space. “The techniques he used reminded me of all the Japanese shops: very minimal, adhesive, no nails, timber on timber,” says Okada.

“Hareruya’s vision was more based around the location,” he adds. “We built Hareruya so people at the park could enjoy the park a bit more.” But it’s drawing people from all corners of the city – with a queue regularly spilling out of the shop and down the hill.

Hareruya Pantry
15–17 Lincoln Square South, Carlton

Daily 10.30am–10.30pm