Box Hill is a hub of multiculturalism, known for its array of Asian dining experiences. Look under the surface, and you’ll find there’s more to it. Here’s how to spend a day out in Box Hill.
Start your day off at the oh-so-cool Penny Drop [913 Whitehorse Road] that brings the slickness of an inner-city cafe to the eastern suburbs. It started out as a pop-up coffee shop but proved so popular with coffee-loving locals and morning commuters, that the owners decided to branch out. They saw a need for something different to the Korean barbecue hotspots, Vietnamese eateries and dumpling houses of the area (we’ll get to those later). The Penny Drop adds to the mix modern Australian fare — some dishes with an Asian twist — paired with expertly brewed coffee. Plus, it’s fully licensed. For your morning meal though, we recommend something sweet (and non-alcoholic). The avocado semifreddo will have the Insta addicts in food-selfie bliss; it’s topped with fairy floss, strawberry soup, pistachio and Canadian maple. If you’re after something more substantial, try The Penny Drop Breakfast that comes with bacon, eggs, sausage, confit tomato, mushrooms, relish, hash browns and kale. It’s a tasty big brekkie that is sure to fill you up. The chic interior, with neutral colours accented with contemporary copper lighting, gives the cafe an ultra-modern feel. The floor to ceiling front windows allow plenty of natural light to come through, plus it’s the ideal setup to watch the world go by while enjoying a tasty meal.
Image credit: instagram.com/thepennydrop
Take a stroll across Whitehorse Road to Box Hill Central [1 Main Street], where you’ll find a plethora of Asian specialty stores and boutiques selling everything from food and cooking equipment, to fashion and phone cases. The fresh food market here is always abuzz with vendors selling quality fish, meats and produce, as well as Asian delicacies that you’re unlikely to find at your everyday grocer. Take stock of the things that require refrigeration; you might like to pick these up just before heading home because there’s still plenty of fun to be had. Why not pick up some delicious goodies from the Asian grocer you might like to enjoy with your lunch — nuts, crackers or maybe something sweet like Pocky. Next, head to the Asian-style self-serve bakeries like BonBons [71/1 Main Street], Breadtop [40 Main Street] and Grand Taipei Bakery [594 Station Street] and pick up something you’ve never tried before to add to your spread. Prefer something freshly cooked? Order some dumplings to-go at one of the top-notch dumpling houses that surround the shopping centre. DC Dumpling [590 Station Street] and Luyang Dumpling House [617 Station Street] come highly recommended, both offering excellent boiled and fried pork, beef or vegetable varieties.
Once you’re stocked up with lunchtime goodies, make a beeline towards Box Hill Gardens [Irving Avenue] and enjoy a picnic-style lunch by the duck pond. Set up at one of the picnic tables, or BYO picnic blanket to lay out under one of the lush trees, and tuck into your feast. Following your lunch, if you have the kids with you let them run wild in the park’s open green space, go nuts on one of the playgrounds or shoot some hoops on the funky multi-purpose court. It also has table tennis tables, and areas to practice your soccer or cricket skills. If you feel so inclined, take a stroll along the paved walking path that hugs the park, to walk off your feast. Otherwise, sit back, relax and let the world pass you by as you enjoy the serene surrounds — a welcome change from the liveliness of Box Hill’s popular shopping precinct.
Now that you’ve gotten your fix of the outdoors, it’s time to take things inside for a different kind of fun. Take a 10-minute walk along Whitehorse Road to Box Hill Town Hall [1022 Whitehorse Road]. Inside you’ll find Whitehorse Artspace — a free gallery that showcases paintings, sculptures and photography from a range of local and emerging artists. Past exhibitions have included works by Australian photographer Rennie Ellis, local papercut artist Roma McLaughlin and photojournalist Francis Reiss. Get your creative inspiration as you take your time walking through the gallery, enjoying the works of talented artists, all at different stages of their careers. Be sure to track down Frederick McCubbin’s painting, Box Hill Railway Station. Painted in 1890, it will give you a good indication of how much Box Hill has evolved to become the multicultural area, full-of-life, that it is today.
For an indulgent end to your day in Box Hill, treat yourself to something sweet from one of Melbourne’s newest vegan hotspots — Ms Bean [Box Hill Central, 1 Main Street]. It only opened last year, but it’s already making waves with its freshly churned ice cream. It’s attracting vegans (and non-vegans) from all over Melbourne because it’s product is just as creamy as non-vegan varieties. Popular flavours here include the black sesame and watermelon, topped with crunchy delights and served in your choice of waffle cone — plain, black sesame or green tea. If you’re not in the mood for an ice-cream treat, try one of Ms Bean’s soy drinks that can be served cold or warm — great during any season of the year.