For so many of us, the local cafe isn’t just a source of essential caffeine – it’s a daily dose of connection as well. Feeling part of your local community can raise your spirits and fill your cup – but what about the lovely people behind the counter? In this very special series, we take a look at six beautiful cafes both in Australia and beyond – speaking to the owners and staff to find out what their cafes and communities mean to them, and how they manage to fill their own cups. Next up is Daniel Lewis of Napier Quarter – a European-inspired bar and cafe that aims to encourage its customers to savour the ritual that is eating and drinking.
When did you open Napier Quarter?
We started Napier Quarter three years ago – before that, I owned a small restaurant in Brisbane called Pearl Cafe, which I ran for nine years. Moving to Melbourne’s Fitzroy, I saw the need for a small neighbourhood bar that would be open all day, every day. We aim to create a warm, welcoming environment with a nod to the classic espresso and wine bars of Europe.
What’s your ethos?
Every decision we make is based on three simple things: a dedication to quality, our community and the artisan who has produced the ingredients.
What kind of food do you serve?
We are influenced mainly by European sensibility, and we serve food and drink all day everyday. Our anchovy toast is one of our most popular dishes – it’s a great example of the foundation for our menu in its simplest form: wonderful organic rye bread by our local baker Loafer; delicious free range eggs from ethical family business GreenEggs; Olasagasti anchovies from the Cantabrian sea, caught and preserved the traditional way; and our green sauce, made with finesse.
Where do you source your ingredients?
Free-range eggs and poultry, ethical meat and sustainable seafood are sourced at all times. We source our ingredients from small, local producers, as well as local businesses that import quality products. Most of our vegetables come from two organic local farms: Somerset Heritage and Day’s Walk Farm. Our citrus is from Citrus Prime, and other fruit and veg comes from our local distributor, Northside Fruit & Veg. The majority of our producers are Victorian, as we endeavour to have a connection to the land we share, however, we love to showcase artisanal producers from other parts of the world too.
In what ways do you operate sustainably?
We don’t offer straws or use most single-use plastics, and we’ve stopped offering takeaway coffee as an option. Our food wastage is always minimal as we believe in offering concise menu options, but anything we do have left over is either pickled or fermented. It’s an ongoing mission for us, and every small change is important. We feel strongly about starting somewhere, but we also know there’s so much more we can do!
Why did you decide to stop offering takeaway coffee to customers – and what’s the response been like?
After much deliberation, at the end of 2018, we made the decision to put an end to offering takeaway coffee. Considering our size, nature, but most of all, our philosophy, we felt this offering wasn’t consistent with who we are or where we sat within the industry’s landscape.
News that Australians dispose of an estimated one billion coffee cups per year (lined up, that’s enough to wrap around the earth twice!) had a profound impact on the way we see things. More importantly, it has ignited the discussion of how we can create change. We believe in taking the time to stop and savour the moment while being nourished (and caffeinated!), and we wanted to encourage our customers to appreciate their daily coffee in this way. For us, drinking a cup of coffee is one of the simple pleasures of one’s day – a ritual that should be encouraged, nurtured and never compromised.
For us, drinking a cup of coffee is one of the simple pleasures of one’s day – a ritual that should be encouraged, nurtured and never compromised.
What type of ambience do you aim to create?
We offer a place where any one of our neighbours at any time of the day may enjoy the simple rituals of eating and drinking. We love the Gertrude Stein quote: “The world keeps turning round and round, but you have to sit somewhere.”
What do you love most about what you do?
Knowing that it’s honest hard work. I also love being able to tell the story of the other honest hardworking producers behind the wine you’re drinking or the food you’re eating. And, of course the relationships you create, the connectivity to the land, the people you meet and the friendships made along the way.
How do you fill your own cup?
I get to the country regularly, and I also love gardening.
Finally, what’s your coffee order?