For 5½ hours five days a week, Cameron Lea greets customers by name, recalls their coffee orders and counts down the minutes to the next train’s arrival. It’s all part of the service at this commuter pit stop. Cam and his wife Samantha took over an existing café inside the old ticketing office at Riversdale train station 18 months ago, injecting a breezy enthusiasm and a personal touch.
It’s a first café business for Samantha, a customer who met Cam at a café he owned in Northland eight years ago. He trained her to be a barista and she worked at Grazing Plates and Platters in East Kew four years before the couple bought Platform 1 together. The East Kew café has changed its name to Fat Penguin and is now managed by Cam in the afternoons. Samantha has been working as Platform 1’s main barista, but hung up her apron two weeks ago for impending motherhood.
The couple lives in Diamond Creek and travels into Camberwell in the early hours of the day. “There’s no traffic and the hours are fantastic; this has been the best business Cam has ever had,” says Samantha. “Eighty per cent of our customer base catches the train to work. But we also have locals who drive and call in for a coffee on the way, lots of mums on their morning walks and uni students who come in regularly too. We do a lot of takeaway coffees, but more people are starting to allow time before they catch their train to sit down and enjoy their coffee.”
He began in hospitality more than 20 years ago, but Cameron Lea says he learnt most about coffee and making it during the five years he worked as a sales representative for Map Coffee. Cam uses Map’s Italian-roasted Napoli blend, a traditional combo of 80 per cent arabica and 20 per cent robusta beans that he describes as “a really great morning coffee”.
“It was my favourite blend when I worked for Map. It’s got a really nice cocoa flavor with a nice punch to finish.” Cam will continue to operate the café’s two-group Wega espresso machine and work as its head barista in his wife’s absence. But Samantha says she’ll be “popping in” to check up on him. A Platform 1 short macchiato was nicely extracted, its creamy milk emulsion adding a soothing finish to that robusta punch.
Platform 1 Café
1 Wandin Road, Camberwell
Phone \ 0421 794 436
Barista \ Cameron Lea
Coffee \ Map
Barista’s choice \ Strong flat white
Open \ Monday to Friday, 5.30am-11pm
Energy is centred around the fire engine-red espresso machine at this charming commuter fuel stop: coffee orders, on-the-go breakfasts and banter with the operations team keeping an eye on the approaching train’s arrival.
White walls, polished timber floors, moulded white chairs and darker timber veneer tables provide functional comfort for pre-rail users on the city-bound side of the tracks every weekday morning.
There are splashes of red in a big enamel jug filled with fresh blooms and takeaway coffee cups, and colour in racks holding magazines and newspapers beside an easy-to-read analog clock that ticks away the minutes.