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Posts tagged ‘coffee’

A cafe full of personality: The Grub Food Van, Melbourne

Fitzroy used to have a pub on every corner in the 19th century; in the 1980s, these pubs became live music venues; today Fitzroy is probably more famous for its cafe scene. Yet it is a sad fact that many serve dismal coffee and uninspiring food. Not so with the wonderful Grub Food Van which sprung to life earlier this year in the front yard of long-time Fitzroy residents, Tim Mann and Mark Murphy. The van was born out of necessity: finding a way to pay the bills. After they bought a 1965 Airstream on eBay and somehow got it all the way from Iowa to Australia, they turned it into a kitchen, with outdoor seating on an unsealed patch of dirt, albeit covered with rugs and outdoor seating on fine days. On sunny days, the camouflage netting above creates wonderful dappled light. This is design at its best: finding innovative ways to create atmosphere on a tight budget.

They serve simple wholesome food and when I visited in early autumn, on a bright crisp day, I wondered how they’d manage Melbourne’s colder (and rainier) months. Tim told me there’s a green house that’s being fitted out with a small kitchen and a wine bar inside the adjacent disused warehouse. It won’t be streamlined deco-inspired Americana, but like so many Fitzroy icons, it will no doubt be unique and attract a crowd.

Now the weather is cooler the Grub Food Van still is open for business and you can sit outside (as long as it isn’t raining). And for those of us who feel the cold, there are crocheted ‘nanny’ blankets for our knees.

All photos by me (Kate Challis)


London Calling: V&A Reading Room

 On one of my first days in London I headed to the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is in the library of that museum I spent years writing and researching my doctoral thesis. So, as I arrived at  South Kensingston tube station I felt that mix of feelings just before meeting a dear friend after many years apart: how have they changed, how have I changed, will we still like each other?

Pondering these thoughts, I strolled down Exhibition St, now a pedestrian mall, and stumbled across the sweetest little bookshop-bar-cafe-gallery: the V&A Reading Rooms.

An adjunct to the actual museum, the V&A Reading Rooms is a small super-stylish place to read, chat, have a coffee or even something a little stronger (there were times when I was writing my thesis that I would have greatly benefited from a stiff drink). Carefully selected and affordable art hangs on the walls while the well-selected stock of books centres around the theme of art and design. The shop boasts that there are “no three-for-two offers on books you didn’t really want to read”.

What’s not to love about that?

Photos by me (Kate Challis)

London calling: Columbia Rd and more coffee

Every Sunday morning rain, hail or shine flower and plant sellers set up in Columbia Rd. My last day in London happened to be a Sunday and just before leaving I snuck in a visit between photographing a very cool London apartment and packing my now over-flowing bags.

Apart from the flowers what attracted me there was a coffee stand recommended by a reader (thanks Lizzie!), but which was no longer there. The legendary Gwilym Davies has moved onto other things and is now part of the Prufrock Coffee team in Leather Lane, Camden. Instead I happened across another: Start Coffee. Only as wide as a doorway the long queue was encouraging and gave me a moment to pause and reflect. The pastry was delicious and the coffee was pretty good too.

Walking past Columbia Cafe with their window filled with trays of bagels bursting with scrumptious fillings made me regret having just eaten.

Unfortunately, I ran out of time to explore and photograph the shops along Columbia Rd, but what I did see delighted me: a mix of vintage, retro, hand-made, quirky and well-selected second-hand items. Columbia Rd is on the top of my list for my next visit.

Photos by me (Kate Challis)

London calling: In search for a great coffee

I live one hundred metres from one of the best cafes in Melbourne. This is great when I am at home, but when I’m not, it’s hard. I am not a coffee addict: even worse, I am a fully-fledged coffee snob. I prefer to go without than have a bad or even so-so one.

There are thousands of coffee shops in London and while there are many things I love about this incredible city the coffee on offer is pretty dismal. So, I was delighted to discover that one of my favourite cafes in Melbourne, St Ali, is now operating in London. Named the Workshop, Clerkenwell they take their coffee seriously and roast their own on premises.

I went there for breakfast. It was totally out of my way and totally worth it.

All photos by me (Kate Challis)

Escape to Seniman Kopi, Ubud, Bali

Nestled in a side street, Seniman Kopi in Ubud, Bali is a place for coffee connoisseurs but also for people who just love good service in well-designed surroundings.

Seniman takes pride in serving organic single-origin beans from throughout Indonesia: Sumatra, Sulawesi, Bali, Papua and Flores. They use the siphon method of brewing, considered by those in  the know as the way of extracting the best flavours. The cup comes on a brightly coloured wooden tray with a glass of water and a Balinese sweet. You can enjoy a cup from the little cart set up on the side of the street or inside the charming cafe decorated with antiques and vintage objects.

What is not to love about a little cafe which serves exceptional coffee, as well as vintage bicycles and a motto which encourages everyone to “Imagine you know what you are doing”?



All photographs by Kate Challis (me).