A cafe on a traffic island? Sure, why the hell not? This is Melbourne after all. Guys, meet Parco. It’s a super cute brunch bar that’s popped up next to Carlton's Argyle Square.
The building was once a power substation, but it looks more like a cottage for pixies. There’s a gabled roof, decked out in faded shingle tiles, rippling green marble beneath the bar, red bricks and a pint-sized al fresco courtyard. Everything you need for a smashing Saturday morning.
Jarrod Balme and Adrian Pagano are the guys behind Parco. You might know the faces from their nomadic hotdog cart, Juan Fiddy (always a welcome sight at markets and festivals). This time they’ve gone bricks and mortar—literally.
Therefore Studio handled the conversion of the old power station. The insides needed some work, but the exterior hasn’t changed much (the marble was the boys’ one luxury). The whole thing was designed to blend into Argyle Square nextdoor.
Argyle Square is an interesting one. It used to be home to the old Carlton Bowling Club, which closed down in 1995. The land was vacant until super ex-Mayor John So turned it into an Italian-inspired park in 2006 (the pavers are Porphyry stone, shipped in from Italy).
Parco’s menu isn’t strictly Italian. In fact it doesn’t fit neatly into any category. You’ve got an all-day brekky selection, spiked with a few Asian flourishes (Kewpie mayo on the BLT, and a breakfast banh mi with maple bacon and Miso mayo).
If you swing by after 11am, you can get a few heftier lunch plates. Think crispy confit duck salad with a finger-licking chilli caramel, or our personal favourite, the Porchetta ciabatta with Italian slaw. That thing should come with a pleasure warning.
Coffee comes strong and hot and courtesy of the guys at Abbotsford’s Supreme. Koko Deluxe is handling the hot chocolate. If you just want a nibble, take a look inside the sweets counter—it’s stocked with the latest goodies from Dench.
Welcome to the neighbourhood, boys. You're easily one of our Top 10 favourite traffic islands.
Image credit: Jenna Fahey-White