Completing the leafy quadrangle opposite a church and aside a community hall, The Grounds at St Columbs café – although only recently opened – offers a certain esteem already. It meshes historical surrounds with contemporary offerings, making it a really fresh – open-spaced – breath of fresh air in the established Melbourne café council.
Part of Jesuit Social Services, The Grounds is as a not-for-profit social enterprise café, part of a program that trains long-term unemployed and disadvantaged, offering real-life hospitality training over six months.
With one façade eyeing Swinburne and the heavy haul of Burwood Road in Hawthorn, and the opposite entrance encased in age old trees dropping dappled sunlight across bright emerald seats and tables, The Grounds at St Columbs may be a place to rub shoulders with your friends, kids and folks, but you will be hard pressed doing so literally, as there is so much wriggle room amidst the communal and solo tables, visitors have room to breathe and just be.
The building – which was once a chapel – still holds a heavenly presence; casting an historical shadow with its dark, weathered bricks, steeped roofline and crisp white windowpanes, it could be a school dormitory or an estate, but inside, the 21st century seeps through via the impeccable, approachable design.
The Grounds at St Columbs is no small space, incorporating a large entrance area, wall to wall serving counter and extended, larger eating area to the side. Imposing roof-height windows offer shards of the outside into the lofty ceiling spaces, which are accessorised with contemporary bulb chandeliers.
A custom made recycled hardwood table sourced from the Appleton Docks – found within an old factory in North Melbourne – is anchored by clusters of circular contemporary stools and crowned with dark glass jars that hold sprigs from The Grounds’ very own produce garden, located right outside the back door.
The walls also offer a well-worn story, with exposed brick in parts and paint in others. Nothing is too precious, and it seems design has been circuitously undertaken to offer varying textural elements – some soft, some solid – to give this established address layers of warmth.
Chef Kevin Dick, formerly of Cutler + Co and St Ali North, and Sous Chef Suzie Wilton from Ora in Kew, serve a full menu with a heavy side-serve of love. For instance, the incredible chai is made on premises, distilled each Monday with herbs from the garden and Indian spices.
In fact, most of the produce is sourced from the garden outside, or one close by that services The Grounds. But even if a light bite is your want, a Code Black coffee and Humble Patisserie pastry – the latter of which is reminiscent of oldschool afterschool treats – service at The Grounds is anything but slap dash. The mood may be laid back, but the attention to detail is straight up.
So next time you’re heading at breakneck speed to Bunnings, swatting on a Saturday at Swinburne, or window shopping whilst walking the dog – drop in and drop out – at The Grounds at St Columbs.
The Grounds at St Columbs
5 St Columbs Street
Hawthorn | 03 9819 0890
Image Credits: Nick West