Friends hooked up Sandra Powell, who had worked in retail, and chef Fletcher Zane, knowing their ambitions and skills would mesh.
The pair renovated the Glenferrie Road shopfront of Life on Mars 18 months ago – achieving their desired homespun, earthy look – and gave the café its name because Powell had always been “interested in the planets”.
She takes care of “the shop, the books and the staff”, while Zane, whose resumé lists Quay, Icebergs, Stokehouse and Giuseppe Arnaldo & Sons, reinvents classic breakfast and lunch dishes.
For the chef, daytime café hours had high appeal after years working in fine-dining venues at night.
His breakfast dishes include french toast with confit peach, mango and macadamia crumble, topped with a white nest of Persian fairy floss.
My bircher muesli was a textural pleasure – lightly soaked grains, grated green apple and plump blueberries, topped with aerated natural yoghurt, a ground LSA topping (liver cleansing linseeds, sunflower seeds and almonds) and decorated with crimson rose petals.
Powell and Zane chose their Allpress coffee blend together, agreeing it would please the locals.
Matt Lawry was completing a double degree in commerce and media and communications at Melbourne University when he started as a kitchen hand and discovered his flair for hospitality. He began barista work, first at the former Marcello’s Delicatessen in Hampton. Following some travelling, he took up his next (and still current two-day-a-week) role at Martin Street Café and Providore in Brighton.
He juggles this with four days a week at Life on Mars – “yes, I’m making coffee six days a week” – where he works wonders with the La Marzocco GB/5 espresso machine and Allpress coffee.
Lawry dabbles with latte art and confidently rattles off the origins and flavour profiles of the Supremo house blend and the rotating selection of popular single-origin brews.
Mine was Colombian Tolima espresso, full of milk chocolate and hazelnut flavours with a nip of dark cherries. It was so good I ordered a second.
“I would love to keep progressing in the industry and learn more about brewing methods and techniques,” Lawry says. “I’m making sure I have all the skills I need to open up my own place in the (near) future.”
Life on Mars
842 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn
Phone \ 9078 8663
Barista \ Matt Lawry
Coffee \ Allpress
Barista’s choice \ Strong long macchiato
Open \ Daily 7.30am-4.30pm
The matte-black ceiling and constellation-style array of downlights suggests life on another planet, and a retro, spaceship-looking gloss-black espresso machine takes it a parsec further, but everything else at this understated café is down to earth.
From rugged concrete floors, timber wall panelling and an open service counter, the decor extends to gumnuts in clear glass jugs atop a hotchpotch of timber table surfaces and rustic shelves holding potted plants and antique teacups and saucers.
High window benches look to the street, while on a rear wall a gaggle of hanging timber chairs appears rather lost in space.