Salford Lads Club
Barista Tom Singer.
It could be the immaculate lawn. I spotted owner Greg Saunders watering one obsessively Sunday when his fab new place opened in early September. It’s lush and green now. Or the tyre swing hanging from the front tree. (Today tested for strength by a golden-haired lad, who eventually ran out of steam.) But mostly likely the atmosphere and the edge at the Salford Lads Club should be attributed to its visionary owner and his energetic team.
Saunders puts it simply: “The people coming here, and some of them come from right across town, really get what we are into. They really seem to dig it.” The “what” is a combination of nostalgia, respect for time out, good food and coffee – and a touch of old-fashioned charm. Saunders, a bricklayer for 25 years, has transformed this former factory, named after an English club founded for working-class boys in the early 1900s and featured on a Smiths’ album cover, into a secluded, self-contained haven in the backblocks of Port Melbourne. Cyclists, factory workers and local families soak up the atmosphere and appreciate the passionately extracted espressos with notes of berries, roasted hazelnuts and a creamy, toffee finish.
Tom Singer arrived in Melbourne from Perth in April last year. He trained with the Five Senses coffee company and was working in another café in Port Melbourne when Saunders “found” him. Just two months after this laid-back café opened, he’s already at home. Singer’s visibly happy with his place of employment. “I get to hang out with great people all day and focus on making coffee. There’s no huge stress. It’s all pretty good,” he says. He likes the regulars and has enjoyed working the Coffee Supreme “South” blend the café is using. The Salford Lads Club is busy. There’s a growing band of regulars through the week and a transient, interested crowd on weekends to challenge his coffee-making skills.
Salford Lads Club, 1 Fennell Street, Port Melbourne
Barista \ Tom Singer
Coffee \ Coffee Supreme
Barista’s choice \ Espresso
Open \ Monday-Friday: 7am-4pm; Saturday: 8am-3pm; Sunday: Opening soon
Phone \ 8534 9957
There’s attention to detail in every aspect of the nonchalant “look” at this carefully created café from the herringbone-pattern paved concrete floors to the pre-loved timber chairs and the specially built tables. One communal table was made by a shipbuilder, another by a carpenter mate and the black window panels in the front door were designed to reflect the size and shape of the original factory-issue white ones. Recycled timber panelling lines the front counter, “fixie” bikes and memorabilia hang from the walls. Boys'-own blue shelves add yang to the kitchen, while a custom-made vivid-pink espresso machine adds the balancing yin. The music is upbeat and mostly retro and every cup of coffee arrives paired with a sweet old-fashioned spoon from the house’s quirky collection.