While folks in North America are deep in the throes of sweaty summer build-outs, those on the southern hemisphere are layering up, and the team at Slater St. Bench is celebrating the success of their winter fit-out. The cafe opened its doors earlier this week on St. Kilda Road, in the eponymous beachside district of Melbourne.
Jared Lawler of Clement Coffee, and one fourth of the team behind SSB described St. Kilda to us as “a bit of a wasteland for good coffee.” Lawler explains, “There is a run of very cold, old corporate style cafes that litter the area and we wanted to create a space that was a complete juxtaposition to this.”
It’s a long time coming for the neighborhood, home to some of Melbourne’s most lovely homes and designer mansions, but strangely one of the few areas of the city not yet saturated with good coffee.
Of course that was going to change; the madness of Melbourne’s retail coffee boom can ignore no post code. Soon they’ll be serving great coffee at the bloody zoo! Cafe culture is overtaking the entirety of this city’s urban landscape, while Melbourne baristas radiate outwards to run coffee bars in Berlin, London, Brooklyn, and who knows where next (listen for phrases like “no worries” at your neighborhood bar).
The inertia of Melbourne’s coffee primacy is dizzying. Future moon colonists will receive grants based on their “Melbourne-style lunar cafe modules”, which will serve better food than most of American brick and mortar cafes do right now. Where will it end? What if it doesn’t? Until then, here’s St. Kilda and Slater St. Bench.
An early sketch.
Earlier this week.
As told by Jared Lawler to Sprudge. Photos provided by Noel Smyth.
Can you tell us a bit about your new space?
When we formed the company, we really wanted to focus on transparency so we decided we needed to be involved in every aspect from designing and building the site ourselves by hand. My business partner, Josh Crasti, who is mid-way through an Architecture degree at Monash University, has designed the space and we together with Pat and Frankie have built the space ourselves overseen of Josh’s father, Elio Crasti (just to make sure things don’t fall over).
The space was conceived with the narrative of sitting at the “kitchen bench” chatting with mum and dad as dinner was being prepared and the sensibilities as to what make makes those memories so fond as a child. We wanted the space to a feel sense of transparency, informalness and also a sense of side-by-side service rather than an us-and-them, over a big high counter which populates the entire St. Kilda Road. We have kept the entire space open for people to enjoy and interact and engage with the us. You can sit alongside the barista making your coffee, or stand behind and watch as Frankie, Josh, and Pat prepare your coffee.
What’s your approach to serving coffee?
Our core focus is to serve the highest quality in the area. Our approach to origins is to not have a hundred different single origins, but rather have a selection of high quality origins and see where we can take each one individually and serve it in multiple styles, either espresso, coffee shot or filter.
We are going to run two Mazzer Robur grinders for different dose settings; as a large component of our trade will be takeaway coffee, we dose according to drink size so we have the strength and flavour consistent across different volumes.
What kind of equipment will you be working off of?
Are you working with craftspeople you’d like to mention?
Elio Crasti, Josh’s father, is a highly regarded furniture maker in regional New South Wales. He was pivotal in the sourcing of some amazing wood, e.g. 100-year-old Oregon timber from an old regional fire station. We assisted alongside his careful crafting of the space.