Brother-and-sister duo James and Cat Laskie had coveted the old milk bar on Barton Street, Hawthorn for eight years before signing the lease in October 2017. Two weeks ago, they finally opened as a cafe under the corner store's original name, Barton Milk Bar.
It's the second milk-bar-cafe conversion for the siblings, who were behind Adeney Milk Bar in Kew. They also opened 30 Mill Espresso in Malvern and Gellibrand Cafe in Reservoir, but have sold all three cafes since.
From the outside, Barton Milk Bar looks the same as always – albeit fresher. But inside, the old fridges, freezers and dusty shelves once stacked with chips and lollies have been replaced with a 35-seat (there are another 20 seats kerbside), multi-room European-style cafe.
The main room features a new polished concrete floor, Tasmanian oak-panelled walls and a curved, marble-topped bar with a gold-rimmed cake display cabinet. As an ode to its origins, there's a shelf packed with lollies, chips and biscuits, spreads, loaves of Ned's Bread and the day's newspapers available to buy.
Past the counter, in what was once a residence attached to the milk bar, there are two rooms with open fireplaces and the original wooden floors (now sanded back).
"Our customers have asked us if the details and fittings are original, which is nice as that's the look we've tried to go for," James says.
On the menu are updated cafe favourites such as eggs benedict with mortadella, and smashed avocado with samphire salsa. For lunch, there's a range of salads such as chickpea and cauliflower, and sandwiches including a roast chicken roll with bread sauce and green-bean chutney. There's also a selection of cakes made by James' wife, Lexi.
Two weeks in, customers are already begging the Laskies to apply for a liquor licence and open nights.
"One of the reasons why we spent so long on the fit out was because we want to be here long term; and long term, it might be that we open a little later," James says. "It'll be interesting to see where it goes."
Open Mon-Fri 6.30am to 4pm; Sat-Sun 7.30am to 4pm at 39 Barton Street, Hawthorn