With Batch Espresso, Balaclava's much-loved kiwi outpost, coming up on ten years in the business, co-owner Jason Chan, who runs the joint with his sister Marie, decided it was time to build a new cafe from the ground up.
Settling on Windsor, which has undergone something of a transformation of late, he recognised some of the same energy he saw in Carlisle Street almost a decade ago. "It's still a bit raw, a bit up-and-coming," he says. "It's a good opportunity."
Chan has dubbed the new place Plenty Food, or Plenty for short, in recognition of the rich produce of Australia. "We're so lucky to be on this island. We want to showcase the idea of the plenty of this earth."
Taking over the shopfront formerly inhabited by vintage store Fat Helen's, the venue is a much bigger affair than Batch, with soaring ceilings, an arch inset on one wall and a courtyard out back, through a unique three-metre tall sliding partition that looks like a cool room door.
The many drawers of a wooden former Chinese medicine cabinet hold the Habana cigar box-backed menus, cutlery and will showcase arrangements from Chan's regular collaborator, Joost Bakker. "We wanted to make use of it as well, rather than it being there just for looks," Chan says. "I like the idea of putting things in cubbyholes."
There's a sleekness to Plenty that manages to carry off a fresh take on industrial-inspired design. "With Batch I did a lot of soft lighting, brown leather and pale wood," Chan says. "Ten years on there are a lot of places that look like that now, so I wanted to get away from it. This is a lot less cluttered than the organised chaos of Batch. A bit more raw."
The bar, with roughly textured concrete top sitting on exposed chipboard, is held aloft by a galvanised steel structure. Chan's pride and joy, his second custom-designed Slayer espresso machine, perches on top and it's a thing of beauty in stainless-steel with white oak handles, paddles and panels. "It looks like a weapon," Chan beams. "You notice it as soon as you walk in."
Chan will share espresso duties with former Morris Jones restaurant manager, Ray Bennett. They'll be sticking with long-time suppliers, Coffee Supreme, and are sourcing their milk from Schulz Organic Farms in South West Victoria. It will be delivered in refillable 25-litre containers to boost the sustainability factor. They're also importing bottled water from Cape Grim in Tassie, the only outfit to harvest rainwater.
Chan says the food offering will be a bit more serious, with English chef Darren Daley in the kitchen, whose CV includes a spell at Terrence Conran's Bibendum in London, before stints at Sud and then Livingroom in Australia.
His fruit pot, playfully served up in a flowerpot, is a delightful creation bursting with fresh berries, apples and a dehydrated dark sponge that looks suspiciously like soil until a dollop of strained yoghurt reintroduces the succulence. A smoky brisket bun is a big feed loaded with cos and tomatoes, while the cheese-crumbed truffle and prosciutto sandwich is a wicked indulgence.
A space upstairs will play host to private dinners and there are plans afoot to launch a cocktail bar, with front of house manager, Chris Stock, handling the beverage side of things and Chan on board too. West Winds Gin is another of Chan's endeavours, after all, so there really is Plenty to look forward to with the latest effortlessly cool addition to the Windsor-end of Chapel Street.
Plenty Food | 78 Chapel Street in Windsor
Image Credits: Tash Sorensen for The Urban List.