For their latest coffee-fuelled, pastel-hued cafe adventure, brothers Matt and Kael Sahely (Vacation, Square & Compass; ex-Bawa, Touchwood, Pillar of Salt) have gone big – finding a warm-hearted community and a plus-sized dream space in Sydney Road's Arabic food heartland for Lobbs.
"From the time that we started working on the fitout, we just had a steady stream of local shop owners pop in to say gidday and introduce themselves," says Matt. "Some came in offering to help out, others brought us beers. We've never experienced anything quite like it before. It's an incredible community."
Located in a former toy shop on the strip of Sydney Road that is home to Very Good Falafel, Tabet's and the legendary A1 Bakery, the seven-day, licensed operation is named after farmer William Lobb, who settled in the area in the mid-1800s.
Inhabiting around 300 square metres and seating up to 120 (with courtyard seating out the front), the formerly dark, partitioned space has been brought to life with a light-filled fitout by Techne. It features high ceilings, timber flooring and a subtle palette of soft grey, blue and peach. On the walls, a series of striking photographic portraits pays homage to a range of Brunswick identities.
Executive chef and co-owner Jeremy Fraser (Square and Compass) and head chef Kristie Stewart (ex-Barry) have devised a menu that Matt Sahely describes as light, bright, colourful and tasty. "It's not made for Instagram, it's made to taste good."
Highlights include a brown rice porridge with almond milk, poached fruits and date jam; avocado with sunflower tahini, fermented chili, greens and turmeric egg; and a choice of super-healthy salads and bowls. If indulgence is in order, say yes to the fish finger sanga with dill aioli and chips or the brisket and biscuit with fried egg, salted cucumbers and barbecue sauce.
Coffee is their own label (Vacation), smoothies and juices are well done and for those mid-morning cold brew martini moments, the bar is licenced and stocked with plenty of the good stuff. There's a plan to start opening nights once they've settled in, and in mid-2019 an on-site roastery (HQ for their Vacation roasting business) will open in the space at the building's rear.
Open Mon-Fri 7am-4.30pm; Sat-Sun 8am-4.30pm.
581-589 Sydney Road, Brunswick, lobbscafe.com