It has been almost five years since Tom Crowe and Lauren Bieber turned a furniture restoration workshop on Queens Parade into a daytime café, getting the mix part of their mixed business so right that their much-loved
local quickly became a weekend destination café.
The agreeable, relaxed service they pride themselves on has been a big part of that success. Crowe says the pair built and designed the “completely blank space” themselves and have added subtle improvements, such as new stoves, over the years.
He’s in charge of the kitchen and the weekly food market shop, which always includes a visit to his favourite butcher at Preston Market.
Before starting out with Bieber in their first business venture, he had cooked in cafés around Melbourne, including Kanteen in South Yarra and the former The Kitchen in Flemington.
His menu is short and sweet, with offerings such as gingerbread waffles and a coddled egg with toast, silverbeet, potato and spiced dukkah for breakfast, or soups and gourmet bread-based combinations for lunch.
Bieber is in charge of the coffee and the café’s constantly blossoming garden.
Three months ago, she extended her hobby, putting herself through
an evening florist’s course and taking on the lease next door and opening Fowler’s Flowers. Now she shops at the markets regularly too – for the season’s freshest blooms.
Lauren Bieber had made coffee in chain-style cafés in Brisbane, but quickly latched onto Melbourne’s love of specialty coffee when she began at Small Block Café in Brunswick East about eight years ago.
She followed that experience with stints at A Minor Place in Brunswick and Café Rosamond in Fitzroy.
Mixed Business was one of the earliest cafés to use St Ali Coffee (when it was owned by Mark Dundon and Bridget Amor) and kept its trade with the original owners when they set up Seven Seeds in Carlton. The café uses the roaster’s direct-trade seasonal blend and has stuck to espresso coffee.
“Our focus is on having good coffee, good service and great food,” Bieber says. “And I would prefer to do those simple things, and do them well.”
An espresso will be syrupy, sweet and nutty, with a fine golden crema and subtle notes of caramelised oranges and vanilla-roasted pears.
486 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill
Phone \ 9486 1606
Barista \ Lauren Bieber
Coffee \ Seven Seeds
Barista’s choice \ Long black
Open \ Tuesday to Saturday 7.30am-5pm; Sunday 8am-5pm
Enter through the faded-blue timber doors that release with a nudge and a squeak.
The feeling of countrified charm continues, miles away from the relentless traffic outside, with white metal chairs and stools that surround timber-topped, white-legged tables, a retro milk-bar poster and the sturdy, ageing church bench at the worn communal table.
There’s a cheery buzz and hum in the open rear kitchen, beside the fruit-laden lemon tree in the daffodil-filled courtyard.
A battle-scarred industrial workbench graces the front counter and, above it, three green-enamel dome lights in mismatched shapes hang above a huge glass vase of cherry blossom.