Wednesday, February 21, 2024

A Cafe Called Kevin opens in New Farm

It’s serving fancy breakfasts such as ’nduja scramble, roasted forest-floor mushrooms, and a fancy spin on eggs Benedict. Just make sure you arrive early.

Matt Shea

A full-service cafe opening is a rare and precious thing these days – particularly in the inner suburbs. Perhaps that explains the “monstrous” reception for A Cafe Called Kevin.

“I was slightly caught off guard,” co-owner Sam Holman says about the New Farm eatery’s late-January opening. “We’ve had lines down the street on the weekend. That’s a great problem to have, but it’s been a bit of a curveball for us.”

A Cafe Called Kevin opened in New Farm in late January.
A Cafe Called Kevin opened in New Farm in late January.Markus Ravik

Full-service cafes are hard. The pandemic locked in a trend for smaller, more specialised pre-lunch venues. Maybe it’s a bakery. Maybe it’s a coffee machine in the window. But the rationale is, keep your offering focused and your overheads under control. A post-pandemic environment of high inflation and high interest rates hasn’t made it any easier.

Holman and regular business partner Eli Rami (who’s not involved in A Cafe Called Kevin) are a good example. Outside of Noir, their Paddington wine bar, the duo’s venues are tightly run coffee spots, such as Black Out, also in Paddington, and St Lucia’s If You Say So. They also dabbled with a bakery in 2022 with Misspelt.

And yet, nothing’s changed: folks really, really like going out for breakfast, particularly in an early-rising city like Brisbane.

“The model we’ve stuck to over the previous two years has been that COVID- and recession-proof model,” Holman says. “Because it’s easily adaptable and easy to pivot. This is definitely more of a sit-down spot – enjoy yourself, take your time.”

But Holman and A Cafe Called Kevin co-owner Yolanda Van Houtte (who owns Drip at Haven in Newstead) are careful to have a point of difference. The vast majority of the produce used at the cafe comes from Van Houtte’s farm in North Lakes. And much of its waste is going back to the farm to be used as compost.

A Cafe Called Kevin has been an enormous hit with New Farm locals.
A Cafe Called Kevin has been an enormous hit with New Farm locals.Markus Ravik

“We get everything from the farm except the eggs and mushrooms, at this stage,” Holman says. “We’re taking all the coffee grounds and all the organics, and we’re shredding all the boxes and taking it back to the farm – all that kind of stuff. So it’s kind of a closed-loop system that we’re trying to operate within.”

It means the cafe’s ambitious breakfast restaurant-style menu will change regularly.

At the time of writing, you can order avocado, zucchini, yuzu, goat’s cheese and seven-spice pepitas on rye; ’nduja scrambled eggs with soft herbs, smoked yoghurt, macadamia and a biang biang sauce; or lemon and thyme-roasted forest-floor mushrooms with a sumac tahini, macadamias and poached eggs.

There’s also a breakfast burger, a variation on an eggs Benedict called an eggs Benjamin, which uses kaiserfleisch bacon and kimchi hollandaise; and, for those arriving later in the day, a grilled swordfish burger with broccoli pesto, house tartare and kipfler potato crisps.

Eggs Benjamin with kaiserfleisch bacon and kimchi hollandaise, and ’nduja scrambled eggs with soft herbs, smoked yoghurt, macadamia, and a biang biang sauce.
Eggs Benjamin with kaiserfleisch bacon and kimchi hollandaise, and ’nduja scrambled eggs with soft herbs, smoked yoghurt, macadamia, and a biang biang sauce.Markus Ravik

For drinks, A Cafe Called Kevin keeps it simple with specialty coffee by Dibs, Holman and Rami’s recently rebranded coffee business (previously The Black Lab), backed by a menu of fresh juices and smoothies.

Much of the appeal, though, is the venue itself: a lovely old character-listed Queenslander on Brunswick Street opposite New Farm’s Five Star Cinemas. Pre-pandemic, it changed hands numerous times, and is perhaps best known for its time as The Brunswick Project, itself a brunch spot.

There has been a lengthy fit-out process and the addition of a white picket fence, but the building has retained its eye-catching red-tin roof and expansive deck, both completely refurbished after extensive fire damage in 2019. In the window is Kevin’s charming hand-painted and gold-leaf-guilded branding, courtesy of Bowen Hills’ Barker Signs.

A Cafe Called Kevin’s premises have been refurbished after being damaged by fire in 2019.
A Cafe Called Kevin’s premises have been refurbished after being damaged by fire in 2019.Markus Ravik

“It’s a new take on brekkie,” Holman says. “There’s not much along this strip.

“Our menu is pretty up there in terms of price because of our overheads and electricity, and staff costs aren’t what they used to be. Everything’s going up. So we are at the higher price point, but the feedback has been great so far and people are supporting us.”

Open daily 7am-2pm.

726 Brunswick Street, New Farm.

instagram.com/acafecalledkevin

Matt SheaMatt Shea is Food and Culture Editor at Brisbane Times. He is a former editor and editor-at-large at Broadsheet Brisbane, and has written for Escape, Qantas Magazine, the Guardian, Jetstar Magazine and SilverKris, among many others.

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