It’s the stuff of culinary fairy tales. Take two of Melbourne’s leading eatery entrepreneurs—Maurice Manno and Dan Zeidan—the men behind the Grace Darling Hotel and Lazerpig Pizza Parlour—and one incredibly visible, vast location with a big old ‘For Lease’ sign on the side. Add a sprinkle of serendipity and —bang—Mavis the Grocer is born.
The perfect hybrid of café meets artisan grocer, Mavis serves up breakfast, lunch and an early dinner (she closes shop at 8pm) amidst shelves and fridges stocked heavily with local artisan produce of the highest quality, chosen based on their sustainability and environmental ethics.
“We are recreating the old corner store with a contemporary twist,” explains Maurice of the Vere and Nicholson Street corner location, “but rather than the regular fare, we have for sale the grocery items that everyone needs such as milk, eggs, butter, flour, salt and olive oil, but with a decidedly organic and artisanal focus.”
At the heart of the old lady is a grand curved wooden bar, which once served as the old ticketing booth from Her Majesty’s Theatre. Now she doles out Seven Seeds coffee for those who hanker for caffeine hit and pressed juices for visitors who prefer their kick served cold.
“Our clientele is a mixture of local residents, nearby office and rag trade workers, and weekend visitors who breakfast a lot!” Maurice tells me. The menu changes weekly, evolving around a culinary axis of sustainable, ethically produced, minimal waste and low food mile ingredients. Therefor, the menu sports the expected abundance of healthy options including hearty brunch, healthy salads and sandwiches—made with homemade bread—alongside home-cooked style meals including pasta and braised meats.
The love continues outside with the courtyard space set for spring following a round of recently completed planting. So expect to see a bloom of herbs, vegetables, teas and fruit that may find a place on your plate at some point come September.
On the once hardened streets of the Hoddle Street outskirt, Mavis The Grocer evokes a melancholy for the community once created by the iconic Australia milk bar. “Mavis just kind of sounded like someone’s name from the 1950’s or 1960’s who might have run the place when it was still a milk bar,” Maurice muses, “one of those old fashioned names that isn’t really heard much anymore.”
Well, Maurice, that may be about to change…
Image credit: Nick West for The Urban List