Some cyclists I know tell me they have found a new coffee pitstop, but the priority for owners David Cox and Jeffrey Wong, locals themselves, are the St Kilda residents.
Cox says there’s “a bit of deal” with the locals to retain the atmosphere and they are determined to honour that. Cox and Wong took over the café two years ago and did the fit-out themselves.
Wong and his team create most of the food on-site in the petite kitchen. The smell of garlic, toast and coffee fill the space and the music, the mood and the food are comforting and relaxed. Well-thumbed magazines and colourful cushions invite a leisurely stay. Staff members fold the laundry, discuss the shopping and tidy up without concern.
Customers, on weekday mornings anyway, are mostly regulars of all ages, keen for a chat. Many arrive fresh from a stroll around the nearby Peanut Farm park, or nip in from nearby businesses for a chat and a fresh, bright caffeine hit.
Nineteen Squares might be a tiny space but its heart and St Kilda soul, like the patrons on the footpath, are overflowing.
David Cox is a smooth operator. He holds conversations, discusses his Facebook profile, proffers change for parking meters, kisses customers and smiles at their babies ... all the while turning out excellently extracted coffees with smooth, elegantly etched rosettas, from an ageing La San Marco espresso machine tucked on the squeezy counter. He’s using a creamy, nutty organic blend by Coffee Supreme. Cox credits the company with much of his skill, although he trained in other cafes before beginning his own. But the obvious joy with which he practices his craft surely has something to do with the quality of the coffee.
Nineteen Squares, 31 Blessington Street, St Kilda
Phone \ 8598 9919
Barista \ David Cox
Coffee \ Coffee Supreme
Barista's choice \ ¾ soy caffe latte
Open \ Monday-Friday 6.30am-5pm; Saturday 7am-5pm; Sunday 7am-5pm
The dark timber counter and panelling, the care-worn wooden floors and the tiny space cosset and soothe. The owners have recreated an old-world mood, with plenty of St Kilda-style touches, in this heritage-listed building.
Hessian-topped metal stools are tucked in one corner, teeny Moroccan tables sit in the window and a collection of antique teaspoons hang from the wall. Outside, timber furniture and inverted milk crates rest on the gravel.
The menu is short and simple – one-pot eggs, muesli, porridge and toasties – and the Supreme Coffee is an honest, clean hit. It’s nutty, mellow and topped with gossamer microfoam and is sure to please most. And, like the general mood at Nineteen Squares, it’s not trying too hard impress.