While we all weren’t looking, a humble café moved into the backstreets of Fitzroy, and it goes by the name of Café Louis (Bonjour, mon ami).
From the outside, Louis is pretty understated. A simple white wash brick building with no signage, just hand-written cursive on the window, like a polite letter addressed to Melbourne’s brunch club.
The café is a joint venture from business partners and old friends, Avtar Singh and Anoop Lokkur. The pair met 10-years ago, when they worked together in the corporate sector. After losing contact for almost eight years, Singh reached out to Lokkur, asking him to join in the most important business you can launch in Melbourne: a cafe.
Lokkur, who previously worked at Bawa and Square and Compass, had always envisioned his own place, so when the opportunity came up, he grabbed it. As for Singh, his love for food saw him take time off from his old job to study in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu.
The name Louis reflects the French country décor, and the menu and was inspired by Singh’s other great love: his Frenchie. It’s even the name of the custom-made forest-moss wall paint.
“We threw around a few names and none of them really stuck,” says Singh “When we came up with Louis it just made perfect sense.”
The building has been the site for several businesses over the years, including a horse stable for next door’s pub Labour in Vain. There’s exposed beam and sections of tin roof give it an industrial edge but are warmed up by hanging gold bulbs and dark timber furnishings throughout.
Growing up in opposite regions of India (Singh in the north and Lokkur in the south) the menu’s a blend of both, fused to create “very Melbourne dishes.”
For Lokkur, who’s vegetarian, the menu had to offer plenty of vegan and veggo options. The pair also wanted to experiment with bold flavours and spices from their favourite parts of the world, depending on the season.
As a result, most of the menu is either vegan or vegetarian, or can be made upon request. Vegan options include the superfood salad, smashed avo (of course) and the dorayaki pancakes. Dorayaki is a Japanese pancake that is traditionally made with a sweet red bean filling, but they’ve substituted bean for banana butter and coconut pandan whipped cream so it’s vegan-friendly, fluffy and oh so good (seriously).
Other fan favourites include the green chilli scramble, pulled pork benny and surprisingly, the porridge.
“We’ve been really surprised and excited to see the porridge quickly become so popular,” Singh says “Growing up in India, everybody eats porridge. And when I was researching recipes I found that it’s actually eaten everywhere so it’s a universal dish, no matter how you have it.”
Onto the coffee. Local roastery Vacation is their always-on drop, but there’s also revolving imported roasts to keep things fresh. Heading the machine is barista Ki Yong Jung, who Lokkur met when they were at Bawa.
There’s also a Kashaya latte, a type of Ayurveda drink that Lokkur’s grandmother used to make for him when he was sick. Taken from her own recipe, Kashaya is made from herbs and spices, not to be confused with a Turmeric latte. Ayurveda is Sanskrit for life + knowledge, so don’t be surprised if you end up leaving Café Louis more focused, wise and Zen than ever.
Image credit: Sammy Green