Former nightclub owner Daniel Zalcberg took months to name his café standing solo on a corner opposite Elsternwick station and the Classic Cinema when he took it over in late 2009. Until a friend pointed out that it was an orphan. “Like the Artful Dodger, we were standing on the corner, always on the lookout for people. The name fitted and it seemed like a bit of fun.”
After a renovation, and the naming process, it opened in January last year. The local landmark, formerly Gunter’s and known for its hearty, wholesome food, has always had a ready audience – locals, commuters, shoppers and cinema traffic. But under Zalcberg, it’s developing a reputation for its coffee, too.
The café serves Di Bella’s Ali blend (a Golden Bean Australian coffee-roasting award winner in 2009-2010) as its standard house blend and regularly offers the darker-roasted Felici blend. There’s also a monthly single-origin coffee running through the grinder.
“We want to educate our customers and we like to rotate our flavour profiles, but we don’t take it too seriously, either,” Zalcberg says. “If our morning commuters want their caffe latte with two sugars, that’s fine with us.
But on weekday mornings, or on the weekends, people like to try something different.”
Alessia Heuberger’s rich accent is the secret to her love of coffee – she was taught to make espresso by her Italian grandmother. Her skills were refined by former head barista Hannam Brun when she arrived at The Artful Dodger slightly more than 12 months ago, but it’s her instincts and love of the bean that guide her. “I’ve learnt more about making the grind perfect and getting an excellent extraction, and this makes it more interesting for me,” she says. Heuberger (pictured) is a cappuccino drinker first thing in the morning, but her second cup is usually an espresso. “Our customers who only drink one cup of coffee a day are starting to order a second cup when they learn we have different types.”
The Artful Dodger, 267 Glen Huntly Road, Elsternwick
Phone \ 9523 5541
Barista \ Alessia Heuberger
Coffee \ Di Bella
Barista’s choice \ Cappuccino
Open \ Monday to Thursday 7am-5pm; Friday to Sunday 7am-7pm
Web \ www.theartfuldodger.com.au
There’s no missing this well-signed suburban café. Its corner location, opposite the cinema and the station, are clues to the table turnover, but it’s a local hangout, too. Mothers catching up for morning coffee after school drop-offs and local office workers pausing for a caffeine fix share space with the transient crowd. Space-age lights, geometric wallpaper and an image of its namesake etched in black on the door are original and quaintly appealing. Opaque fibreglass wall panelling features graphics that suggest a whimsical view of the sinister world inhabited by Charles Dickens’ shady pickpocket, Jack Dawkins.