The Wall’s original owner, David Sharry, sold his Balaclava tourist attraction late last year after 11 years running one of Melbourne’s best-known cafés.
Two of his employees, Adrian Spano and Nick Devereux (pictured) bought in. They’ve altered little, sticking to a formula that works, but they do have plans to renovate the kitchen and expand into the record store next door, starting in a few weeks.
“But really, we don’t want to change anything that makes the place what it is,” says Devereux. Spano says there’ll be more seating and an extended food menu with a “healthier” focus, “but nothing complicated”.
Both owners have hospitality backgrounds, but most of their coffee-making skill has been learnt at The Wall.
Consistency is the critical factor in the café’s success, they say.
“Eighty per cent of our customers are local,” says Devereux. “They like things as they are and to make major changes would be a huge risk.”
For them, this alternative home is welcoming and familiar, and warm, friendly service seems to be their preserve. If you’re not a regular, the process can be a little confusing and instruction isn’t forthcoming. Is there table service? Do you order at the counter?
The coffee-pumping staff (they don’t like the term barista) at Wall Two 80 are a “rotating bunch”, says Spano. There’s a team of six, three full-timers and three part-timers, who work hard to ensure the quality of the Genovese coffee (the Super Brazil blend with a combination of Arabica and Robusta beans) is consistent.
“We keep an eye on the grind and ensure we are all working with milk and pouring the same way,” says Devereux. “And we make sure we knock out any kinks.” The coffee is dark, strong and not for the faint-hearted; it’s Italian influence is obvious.
There are plenty of other quality cafes in the area serving alternative “new wave” coffee, but regulars prefer The Wall’s style.
And this is a place that aims to please the locals.
Wall Two 80, Rear 280 Carlisle Street, Balaclava
Phone \ 9593 8280
Barista \ Nick Devereux
Coffee \ Genovese
Open \ Daily 6.30am-6pm
Web \ www.wallcoffee.com.au
The grunge factor has worked well at Wall Two 80 for 12 years. There’s an earthy, homely feel to the plain décor that locals have embraced. Recycled timber tables and wall benches are spread around the green-and brown-walled space.
Timber veneer panelling surrounds a generous communal table with a massive tin pot holding fresh flowers, while an old set of industrial sc ales and a kosher butcher’s sign are reflections of the Carlisle Street past.
There’s an ageing Wega machine on the front counter (it’s lost its G and A) that pumps out dark, heart-starting coffee at a rapid pace to the locals, who come to the window for takeaway orders or sit contentedly with their backs to the eponymous graffiti wall.