At the ripe old age of two months, The North Fitzroy Social on St Georges Rd in Melbourne is fast becoming the hub of the local neighbourhood — just as owners, David and Dinh, intended.
Renovating a prime, but neglected, corner site in the heart of North Fitzroy, these guys took on a project that required a lot of vision. A run down and obscure record shop has been reborn as what David describes as “a recycled, industrial lounge room.” Although some brick work remains exposed in patches, few of the original bones remain. However, a new aesthetic has been created with timber panelling (charging sockets included), geometric wallpaper and white tiling. The somewhat awkward placement of a staircase in the centre of the café has been made a feature with an AstroTurf lining and a creative multi-level cake display. The final result is very much what they had in mind at the outset. However, when asked about the biggest hurdles he faced while opening the café, David shared a familiar frustration at the amount of red tape involved. Whilst it would appear a fairly simple exercise to fit out and open a new café, unforeseen delays can certainly have a prospective new business owner tearing their hair out. With this out of the way and customers flooding in, it is now at least a fading memory!
More than just a source of food and caffeine, the North Fitzroy Social is set up to be a hub for the local community. David says the people of North Fitzroy are very proud of their suburb and he sees the café becoming a central meeting place and intrinsic neighbourhood destination. With this in mind, the fit out, menu and coffee programme are designed to meet the very diverse interests of the North Fitzroy locals.
Served up on the 3 group Synesso, you can sample some fine Five Senses’ Dark Horse plus a seasonal single origin. At the minute, it is a delicious, natural Ethiopian Sidama. The creative menu features an eclectic mix of some of the more familiar breakfast classics and some show-stopping items such as the Cloud Egg soufflé. You can see the eyes of every customer follow these monuments of towering egg white to the table as the lucky diner is treated to a runny fontina and egg centre, wilted spinach plus sourdough and tomato chutney. As well as this show off dish, the menu also offers a super-seasonal fig saltimbocca, plus the contrasting ‘social breakfast’ (eggs, bacon, thyme mushrooms, spinach) and ‘antisocial breakfast’ (beans, chorizo and red pepper stew). The porridge is made from the super food of the moment, quinoa, and even the salads stretch in some unusual directions like cos heart with pork belly bites. Seeing no point in replicating a menu that already exists elsewhere, this menu helps define the North Fitzroy Social as a unique destination.
As well as a comfortable interior in which to relax and catch up with friends, the guys have opened a side window counter to the street recognising the value of coffee-to-go for folks out walking the dog, mums with prams and commuters headed to the tram. This window offers them the opportunity to grab great food and take advantage of coffee options to go. The window opens directly onto the kitchen and coffee station area allowing customers to engage with the staff and feel part of the North Fitzroy Social community without even having to head inside. Alongside the menu offered inside, takeaway options of made-to-order panini fly out of the window, including a ‘3 day brined and 5 hour roasted pork belly, apple slaw and chipotle mayo’ option and for the less meat-centric customers, ‘artichoke, spinach, pumpkin and fontina’. These are truly ‘next level panini — and they even offer a ’weenie Panini’ menu for younger customers on the run.
This take away option is key in connecting the café to its local environment. Just across the road are the iconic and expansive Edinburgh Gardens which are frequented daily by many locals and neighbourhood visitors. The team at The North Fitzroy Social will even lend customers a blanket to enjoy their picnic in the park. Again, this reinforces the fact that The North Fitzroy Social was never set up to be a ‘could be anywhere café’, but one that embraces the needs of its location and its locals — both inside and out. And yes, it’s already on the way to becoming part of the North Fitzroy landscape.
North Fitzroy Social
189 St Georges Road,
Fitzroy North, Victoria, 3068
Monday — Friday 7:00am — 4:00pm
Saturday — Sunday 7:00am — 5:00pm