Fran Roberts and Gabrielle Evans knew the folk of Brighton East would be unforgiving if they got things wrong when they opened their first café together three years ago. But they didn’t anticipate the reverse – an overflow of loyal and grateful customers that now fill their second venture, nine-month-old Primrose Hill Deli in the same strip of shops.
“We decided that we had to take the opportunity when it came up. We thought it was better to be our own competition,” says Roberts, who has worked in hospitality for almost 20 years. Business partner Evans is a chef whose background includes the Belgian Beer Café and Richmond Hill Café & Larder.
There’s an extensive all-day breakfast menu, a lunch menu full of creative choices and fridge windows displaying tempting take-home meals in the deli. The staff are noticeably happy with their lot, and customers – midweek women who lunch and weekend family groups – are relaxed and at ease.
Roberts is a collector and a gardener whose found treasures grace both shops. She created a kitchen garden at the rear of the café and a quaint landscaped courtyard behind the deli.
There’s an undercurrent of friendly competition between the baristas
at mothership Marmalade and its offspring. But head barista Nicki Clark sees the rivalry as positive.
Clark learnt her barista skills on the job and by doing courses in Auckland, New Zealand, moving to Melbourne 10 years ago. She spent time at Orange in Prahran and was the manager at Leroy Espresso in St Kilda, until the Marmalade crew spirited her away.
Five baristas, including co-owner Roberts, operate the La Marzocco machines at the two Hawthorn Road cafés, and both venues use Espresso Syndicate’s organic coffee blend.
Clark says the newer machine at Primrose Hill, which has naked group handles, creates a brew with “a bigger depth of flavour”. It’s not better, she says, just different.
A strong flat white at Marmalade was carefully constructed and intense, with sweet notes of chocolate and toasted walnuts. The same request at Primrose Hill did pack a bigger, more bittersweet punch.
Primrose Hill plans to cater for takeaway caffeine crowds and introduce alternative brewing methods such as cold-drip, syphon and filter coffee.
763 Hawthorn Road,
Phone \ 9593 2244
Barista \ Nicki Clark
Coffee \ Espresso Syndicate
Barista’s choice \ Strong soy latte
Open \ Daily 7.30am-4.30pm
Tucked into an old-fashioned set of shops, this suburban café has created a village atmosphere. The homely feel extends to the textured, earth-toned fabric banquettes that wrap around the walls, cosy matching cushions, country-look furniture and a collection of teapots, old-world prints and cake stands. Tea and coffee is served in mismatched cups, coffee mugs hang on hooks and biscuit jars line the counter. Two doors away, sister café Primrose Hill Deli adds to the community feel and offers a complementary array of take-home meals, gourmet delicacies and pantry staples.