An enormous heraldic shield mounted on a towering brick wall announces the beautiful courtyard space in front of new Elsternwick café, Glovers Station on Glen Eira Road. The Tudor revival beauty, ringed by brick box planters, was a former service station and then a mechanic’s garage, but it has been stripped right back and the history of the Tudor period referenced, bringing warmth to the beauty of its bare bones.
Glovers Station co-owners, Jim Marinis and Mary-Jane Daffy, were the brains behind Bentleigh’s local hero café, Little Tommy Tucker, but when they spotted this fantastic spot, they knew it was time to think bigger. Tucker’s chef Brett Hobbs, formerly of the Millswyn, Morris Jones and The Woods of Windsor, has come on board as a business partner, too.
Both the stunning courtyard and the cafe beyond vast steel doors daubed with ‘breakfast + lunch + goodtimes,’ take their cues from the gothic font of the great Glovers Service Station sign. Herringbone bluestone tiles sit side-by-side a recycled brick pathway, with wooden benches built around two established jacaranda trees.
‘We could have packed the courtyard full of seating and made it feel quite cold, but we decided less is more, so we’ve bought these two amazing four-and-a-half-metres tall trees and designed all of the seating around these focal points,’ Marinis says. ‘We want people to come and sit here and linger under them, eat a beautiful breakfast or lunch and watch the world go by.’
Inside the new Melbourne cafe, the vast Glovers Station space has been transformed by local designer, Claire Larritt-Evans, working closely with Marinis and co. ‘It was a delight to take the cues from the building and re-interpret that to give these guys something distinctive,’ she says. ‘We researched architectural features of the Tudor period and adopted the mortise and tenon joints. It would have been very easy for us to go down an industrial fit-out route, as it was a car garage previously, but we didn’t want to do that.’
Herringbone tiles indoors spark with a metallic sheen, while a striking black granite bar that feels like leather to touch has a sweeping feature panel of curved brass. That detail is picked up in the hand-made strip lighting in wood with brass edges, crafted by Earl Pinto, who also designed the custom tables and service station cabinetry, all of which show off the sleek joinery work. The unique chairs are the only items not made in Melbourne, having been shipped in from Design House Stockholm.
Banquette seating skirting the edges is upholstered with tartan patterns that pick out bright flashes of magenta, purple and aqua blue, popping against whitewashed brick walls. ‘In winter we want people to come here and feel cosy,’ Marinis says. ‘It’s all about beautiful the craftsmanship and joinery.’
Marinis says this love of the finer details will carry through to the food offering at Glovers Station. ‘It’s beautiful, seasonal raw produce from the ground, the sea and the land that hasn’t been touched by chemicals, but it’s contemporised, not with too much trickery, just with beautiful technique in the kitchen and that will shine through on the plates.’
There’s even a kitchen garden out back of Glovers Station that will do more than pay lip service to sustainability. ‘We’re not planting heaps of vegetables, just lettuce, herbs, and nasturtiums, so we can actually use them regularly, rather than having one leek a day,’ Marinis says.
Marinis says Glovers Station’s drinks list will stand out from the crowd. Dukes will once again supply the coffee, with pour overs and bottomless batch brews on the go, so you can enjoy as many single origin cups as you like for a flat $4. There will also be speciality teas from Impala & Peacock, Greenwood Orchards’ pear and apple juice, Strangelove Elixir’s soft drinks sourced from Byron Bay, and Tassie’s Cape Grimm mineral water.
Hobbs will hold court from an open kitchen with white marble counter that punctuates a curving wall of vertical tiles dotted with bold lighting fixtures. ‘We wanted it to be a step up from Bentleigh,’ he says. ‘That was more home style, carefree and simple. It was my first cafe job and I didn’t know how far I could push the limits. With Glovers, we want to show off our technique.’
Glovers Station’s opening menu will feature breakfasts with a twist, like eggs benedict served with Otway ham hock and compressed apple. A deep orange-hued pine mushroom dish on sourdough toast dazzles on the plate and on the palate, with silky mushroom puree, zing from juicy grapes and toasted wild rice puffs. An heirloom tomato salad is a riot of colour emboldened by smoked curd and a rich basil dressing. Baked beans with seasonal potatoes are transformed by the sneaky inclusion of creamy buffalo mozzarella and corn puree.
‘I’m excited about the poached ocean trout dish with goji berry, quinoa, broccoli and kale salad served with avocado puree, and the braised lamb shoulder with cauliflower, barley and pea salad.’ Hobbs says. ‘I need to keep learning because I get bored very easy. Glovers will keep me interested.’
There are plans afoot for weekend dinners at Glovers Station down the track. ‘We had fantastic support in Bentleigh,’ Marinis says. ‘We just hit the right area at the right time and we’d love to do that here. This building drew us in. There aren’t many like it in Melbourne, and we have the space to be able to really achieve something spectacular.’
Image Credits: Simon Shiff