We all know that job hunting is tough. How much tougher, then, when you’re a refugee on a temporary visa and with less-than-perfect English? Eager to do something to address the daunting inequalities that face such people, Jane and François Marx decided to open a café where they could employ and train refugees. Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, the pair have recently opened their social enterprise venture, Long Street Coffee.
You’ll find it down Little Hoddle Street, a one-way lane with graffiti art featuring car wrecks, chickens and goldfish. The former garage space has had a facelift and is now light, bright and spacious. The café’s layout is relaxed, providing simple timber classroom chairs, clusters of cacti, and a basketball hoop on the wall outside. A brass band version of ‘Sexual Healing’ squawks from the speakers.
Long Street Coffee had been serving food for three weeks when we stopped by – all-day breakfasts for sleepy heads (eggs Benedict, granola, hotcakes) and lunch from midday with salads and sandwiches. You’ll find a definite sense of care and quality to the composition of the dishes: a drizzle of truffle oil, a dash of celery salt, apricot in the mayonnaise – details that add something special without overworking their refreshing simplicity.
The quinoa-dotted poached eggs come in a slate-blue pottery bowl. Pierce the eggs and let the yolk dribble over the charred asparagus spears, big meaty flat mushrooms and sweet tomato confit. There’s also a little jumble of fetta and rocket. It’s exactly how an egg breakfast should be.
The gloriously photogenic wholemeal hotcakes will be a crowd fave. Two fat and fluffy maple-soaked hotcakes are scattered with yellow and purple edible flower petals, blueberries and strawberries. The clincher is the serious dollop of creamy mascarpone on top: pace yourself so you can have a rich little blob with every mouthful.
The dessert special is equally good looking. Three raw mini cheesecakes are arranged around the curve of a plate. Not quite as creamy as their cooked and dairy-fuelled counterparts, these cheesecakes are nuttier in flavour and denser in texture thanks to the walnut and cashew milk and shredded coconut. A strawberry sorbet adds a burst of refreshing sweetness.
For beverages, the café stocks Proud Mary beans, organic Tielka tea (served in transparent teapots) and juices. On the marble bench sits a display cabinet of Aunty Peg’s winsome-looking brownies and doughnuts. The staff are sincere, welcoming and efficient, regularly replenishing water carafes and explaining menu items.
Long Street Coffee offers very good café fare. So shoot some hoops, then pull up a chair next to a friendly cactus and be prepared to eat well. Happily, and equally importantly, it’s all in a good cause, too.