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The Herbert Cafe

For those of you that follow us on Instagram you would have noticed that back in July we installed (what we like to call) an outpost at The Herbert. We originally found the cafe after stumbling off the train one morning at the Northcote station.

Nestled on the far side of a large block that straddles the corner of Herbert Street and Arthurton Road one of The Herbert's distinctive characteristics is immediately obvious; a huge carpark. I can't think of many other cafes with a dedicated carpark. Given that Arthurton Road is a very busy thoroughfare this feature makes the cafe easily accessible.

The Herbert

Outside, the block is partitioned from the neighbours yard by a fence built from recycled wood shaped like the silhouette of factory roofs. Bordering the fence line and the entry to the cafe is a range of raised garden beds and seating areas. The garden beds hold both decorative and productive plants, forming a green buffer around the cafe perimeter also supplying the cafe with herbs and other fresh edible plants.

Inside (what was once a cabinet makers workshop) the building now houses the cafe, architects office and carpenters workshop, forming a micro community on-site. Like the outside, the interior of The Herbert cafe features the use of recycled timber, combined with repurposed industrial materials and new bespoke furniture, creating an informal, relaxed hangout.

 Interior

The Cafe serves a considered menu of dishes backed up with coffee from Brunswick's finest roasters, Padre Coffee .

Behind superior projects like The Herbert Partnership there are special people, this story is an excuse for us to talk to Sophie Gandar, the brains and the brawn behind the cafe.

The Boroughs - We understand, that you have a background in writing, could you give us some insight into your work in that area?

Sophie - I was rotund and nerdy in primary school. I loved writing, and excelled in creative writing until going wayward as a teenager. My mum encouraged me by fabricating a ‘writing fairy’, who I’d submit stories to, and in the dead of night the fairy would come and appraise my work in infinitesimal handwriting, and leave small ceramics as recompense. I should thank her for this – it is truly amazing.

When I left New Zealand to live abroad, I found freelance work including creating copy for an artisan food directory. I helped friends with submissions, press releases and music biographies, and wrote for a few digital publications that shall remain secret.

 

B - How, if at all, does your previous professional experience influence what you are doing at The Herbert?

S - I don’t know if it does. I’ve always preferred ghost-writing or aliases, and I struggle to promote my own work. Some people are really good at selling themselves; I find it difficult to write earnestly, and a warped sense of humour and self-deprecating cynicism overshadow what would be a nice social media post. I prefer to have someone else handle Instagram – it’s more light-hearted.

I know how to get things done, and I think my previous work means I’m just as capable front of house as I am in administration and accounting. I’m extremely impatient, and want everything done immediately. I’m known to respond to emails instantly, as though it were a verbal conversation. I’m learning not to check work email after hours.

 

B - What inspired the move into food and hospitality?

I’d been working in documentation and infrastructural software until 2011, and in my second year living in London, I picked up some work at my housemates café on Portobello Road. I then took a full-time job at a small café in Hackney – both roles comprised front of house cooking and I realised I was okay at it? I’ve always enjoyed making food for people, and it was a lightbulb moment that that’s what I should do for a living.

My first year in London I worked on the Olympic 2012 build – I may have overstimulated myself and suffered a couple of seizure-type episodes. Working under fluorescent lights and staring at monitors all day wasn’t feasible anymore and while running a café can be extreme pressurised, it is the best most rewarding thing.

B -The Herbert is curious little enclave, there are architects, a cabinet maker and cafe on site, this is hardly the typical high street cafe. Were you attracted to this community set up?

 

S - My business partners are an architect and builder. They’d been working together on myriad projects and three years ago really needed a space to make frequent meetings easier. The building was a cabinetmaker’s commercial residence in a past life, but it’s been sectioned off to house the café, an architectural studio, and a workshop – where the café furniture is built/repaired and all manner of bespoke things are built. There’s a gentle air of self-sustainability on site, but we don’t run around nude after hours.

I was definitely attracted to the workshop – I stripped and rebuilt a vintage Apollo II road bike (okay, with a little help) – and I’m nuts for sanding. I’ll sand anything. Most of the furniture in my house is sanded and oiled. I dunno. Sanding steel is cool too. Oh, sanding.

 

B - How did you get involved?

S - I used to cycle past at dawn and wonder what the hell it was. There was no signage back then – just a graffiti slathered building and a giant carpark. I’d been looking for a management opportunity after landing in Melbourne and wandered in one day. James (the builder) was cashing up indignantly and gave me the third degree about whether I’d be able to cash up. I thought he was a jerk, but I assured him I was capable, started the next week and set about turning it into a well-functioning but relaxing space to eat and drink. The coffee was always wonderful – Padre are killer roasters, and St David’s in Fitzroy bottle the best boutique milk in all the land.

I bought out a third original partner at the end of 2014 and have cried myself to sleep every night since.

Just kidding. Not every night. And I’m very proud of the café.

 

B - Describe the interior aesthetic for us?

S - I guess it’s industrial? But warm. It’s literally a bang-up job – most of the materials were sourced through inorganic scouring, and all the timber on the walls and tables are leftovers from building sites. I concede this makes my partners very clever – people always comment on the aesthetic, the light fittings and features. James and Tobias have done a superb job with space-management and acoustics.

The concrete bench was set in the workshop, and Tobias is a raving lunatic for building steel-framed furniture.

We take great care to provide a visually appealing environment and I’d hope people considered the space inviting, a bit design-y, but uncontrived.

Main table

 

B -Your menu at The Herbert is concise, tell us about your approach/direction to food in the cafe context?

S - The approach is very much dictated by the space. Our wee tiny long-suffering grill cooks every single meal and has only been ill once. We can’t do poached eggs in the 1 square metre bench space, so instead we focus on using seasonal produce, high-end gluten free breads, and free-range meats and dairy, to make meals that are fresh and simple and not-overworked. We season well. The menu is short but with specials, I think it caters for the varying degrees of hunger and preference and weather.

I can’t even remember designing the menu – there was so much to do at the time. Some people eat our roast vegetable sandwich or avocado chickpea smash every day. Changing the menu gives me intense extra-workload fear, but I also couldn’t rob those people of their daily rituals.

Salads are cool – they’re probably where I get to be most inventive.

I think spending a little more on organic, artisan products pays dividends down the line – they’re nicer to work with and it’s really evident on the plate.

 

BAre you trying to cater to a specific dietary requirement or philosophy?

If your kitchen was larger, would this influence your menu?

S - Everything we serve is easily adapted to the dietary nuances of 21st century man.

If the kitchen were larger it would totally influence my menu! I’d experiment much more and maybe one day create The Perfect Meal as voted by readers of The Guinness Book of World Records.

 

B - We love your garden - tell us about what the garden means to you. It looks like a mixture of productive and decorative plantings, did you set out to supply the cafe with a kitchen garden? Do have plans for how the garden might evolve?

S - I love it too. Watering a garden is a great stress relief. It should in theory grow things we can use in the kitchen – but it is also a giant basket of toys for small hands. As such, it’s best not to rely on anything growing long enough to be more than decorative. I propagate a lot, and love growing culinary plants, but the aesthetic is more important to me at the end of the day, and I don’t like harvesting to a bare patch.

We do use the herbs, and the lavender makes a beautiful tea. I eat all the strawberries before anyone gets a look in.

A couple of times I’ve arrived at work to find the garden’s been vandalised – so I’m not making any grand plans except to establish the new natives, and find something that will grow up our steel lattice to hide the water tank. Passionfruit?

 

B - Community is important to the Boroughs, sharing, working together with the people and businesses around us, is this a philosophy that you also embrace?

 

S - Of course. I think boosting your professional cohorts and listening to people and building relationships with other companies that care less about the dollar and more about the moment makes a very smart businessperson in 2015. Is that idiosyncratic?

I don’t know. I’m proud of all the people I know in small business and like friends, I’d want the best for them. If you can help a brother out, why wouldn’t you?

Don't take our word for it folks;  pop along to The Herbert, you'll eat and drink well and have the opportunity to pick up a selection of Boroughs products too.

 

 

Meet the Maker - Henty

Hello again from The Boroughs! This week we chatted with one of our most popular makers: Jeremy Grey of Henty! Since introducing us to their incredible WINGMAN utility bag a couple of years ago we've been hooked on Henty's functional yet stylish design. We decided to catch up with Jeremy from his home across the Bass Strait to find out about all things Wingman, Tassie and what's next for Henty...

T.B.S: Can you tell us about the place that inspired the name Henty?

J: Henty is a region on the west coast of Tasmania. It's rugged and remote. The region is named after early settlers who came to Tasmania when it was called Van Diemens Land. Interestingly, they left Tasmania and were some of the first settlers in Port Phillip Bay.

Your wingman bag is incredibly popular! What was the 2 year long design process like?

The design process was an interesting period. The idea came about because I needed the solution for myself. The product design was only one part in a much larger process which allow us to launch Henty. Other areas we needed to focus on were branding, production, marketing and logistics. The two year period also included a period where our interest waxed and waned before we decided to commit and go flat out to make it happen.

The Wingman is now used by cyclists around the world, are you a keen cyclist and traveller yourself?

I get out on the bike as often as I can, but it's more mountain biking now than commuting. My business partner Jon Gourlay circumnavigated the Mediterranean on his bicycle. Working on Henty full-time means I get to travel (with my wingman) for work, and I also try and bring the family along when I can.

You're based in Tasmania, what spots would Henty recommend to anyone visiting from the Boroughs side of the Bass Strait?

Tasmania is a fantastic place to visit. My top picks would be: 1) climb Mount Amos (Coles Bay), 2) Bruny Island for a day trip, 3) Walk the zig-zag track to the summit of Mount Wellington, 4) Take the ferry to MONA, 5) Visit us at Salamanca Markets!

What's next for Henty?

We've got several new designs we've been working on and we hope to release them soon. Our story has started with the Wingman, but we've identified some other exciting opportunities in the luggage space which we hope our customers will appreciate.

Come and visit us at the shop and see the amazing features the Henty Wingman offers!

Written by Claudia Long @ClaudiaLongsays — Images courtesy Henty

Winter is here

 

It's official: Winter is here. Luckily we only mean the passing of the 1st of June not a Game of Thrones level freeze but you could easily be mistaken seeing as we've had some of the coldest days in years! Seriously, just ask the Bureau of Meteorology. But despite the grey skies, rain and winds to rival an overzealous fan on a fashion shoot, Melbourne in winter is still rather lovely. The Winter Masterpieces exhibition series will be returning featuring the not-at-all dull David Bowie Is exhibition, mulled wine is on virtually every menu and we're well and truly in the swing of the footy season (carn' North!). The fantastic Light in Winter Festival will be making it's return in Federation Square from the 1st to the 30th of June featuring it's renowned light sculptures and we at the Boroughs are rather keen to head along! Although with the temperature continuing to drop outside you may want to rug up a bit before going to Fed Square or even just stay in with some of our favourite winter picks:

Otto and Spike Scarves:

We're not kidding when we say that the best scarves in town come from Otto and Spike, they're literally designed and produced right here in the 3057! Made with premium surplus lambswool Otto and Spike's scarves will not only keep you toasty on the go (or inside if you so choose) but stylish too. Informed by a distinctively retro aesthetic, just take your pick of of something more Mondrian or perhaps checkered to match the McFayden picnic rug.

Happy Socks:

The skies may be dull but the same doesn't have to be said for your feet! Swedish sock and tight makers Happy Socks have something to warm the feet of both the big and little people in your life in every patten from paisley to polka dot. You'll struggle to find a boring pair of Happy Socks but you'll definitely be the envy of onlookers as you show them off on the ride to work!

Penelope Durston Gloves:

It would be remiss of us to leave gloves out of this list after the attention paid to socks and scarves! Do your mitts a favour this winter and pick up a pair of Penelope Durston fingerless gloves from The Boroughs. Made from NZ possum fur, where the animal is a pest, and produced just down the road in Fitzroy by local maker Penelope Durston these guys will keep your digits warm without the bother of being unable to use your phone or do anything requiring dexterity.

The Boroughs x Monsieur Truffe:

Winter isn't just about warming yourself, sometimes you need a little something to warm the soul too. The Boroughs x Monsieur Truffe chocolate is just the ticket! Made in collaboration with our next door neighbours and wrapped in with the artwork of some of our favourite designers, Boroughs x Monsieur Truffe chocolate will definitely bring a bit of a spark to your day (if you choose the popping candy that is)! You can shop them online here.

If you'd like information of the designers, people and events mentioned, follow the links below.

Otto & Spike, Happy Socks, Penelope Durston, Monsieur Truffe

Written by Claudia Long @ClaudiaLongsays — Images courtesy Otto & Spike, The Boroughs

Embracing 3057



Hello again! A lot has happened since our last update and as you may have noticed our look has changed a little. The 3057 community is central to everything we do at the shop and now it's part of our new name and new look. Boroughs owner Alasdair MacKinnon approached local graphic designers 'The Contenders’ and the process of developing our new Boroughs identity begun! Among the team was Ruby MacKinnon: Designer, former Boroughs assistant manager and, as you may have guessed, Alasdair's daughter. Who better to help develop our new style! But why the change? Well, let's go straight to the source to find out...

ALASDAIR MACKINNON, OWNER OF THE BOROUGHS

You've recently changed the name of the shop, how come?
The name was changed for a number of reasons, most importantly our old name Five Boroughs refers to the 5 areas of the state of New York, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Today The Boroughs is a reflection of the community that surrounds it, (a borough being a term for a town or district area) the designers, artists, makers, writers, photographers, and manufacturers. Over the last 30 years, Brunswick East has been transformed from a humble working class suburb where people lived close to the factories they worked in, to an area characterised by a mixture of creativity and sustainability. It's such an exciting place, where there are wonderful cafes, bars, restaurants, coffee roasters, chocolatiers, bakers, brewers, provenders, bike builders and venues all bearing the idiosyncratic imprint of their owners. Our new name is a reflection of our sense of place.

There is a snazzy new logo to match! How did you decide on the new Boroughs look?
Originally we approached The Contenders with the idea of incorporating The Boroughs store name into the existing logo. Once we had briefed them and they understood our connection to 3057, they built this sense of place into the final result. Initially Ruby showed us three directions, one was the new name in the old logo, the second took elements from the old logo to make a new one, and the third, is the one we chose which was a totally new direction. We're really excited about how it looks, what it means, and how the logo functions.

The shop is very much linked to the goings on of the 3057, did this inspire the new branding?
We're very connected to what's going on, from the stock we sell to the events we hold and our engagement with the larger community. Community was a huge influence on our branding. The inclusion of the postcode is the clearest indication of this connection.


RUBY MACKINNON, DESIGNER AND FRIEND OF THE BOROUGHS

Tell us a little bit about your work with The Contenders!
The Contenders is a Melbourne based creative agency. We help build new brands by creating the brand identity and story, strengthen existing brands with new visual or marketing strategies, and all the in between bits and pieces to make our clients' brands the strongest contenders in their respective markets. I got the opportunity to be lead designer on the rebrand of The Boroughs but actually I'm the littlest fish in this team, lucky enough to be working with some really accomplished and experienced designers and brand strategists. 

What inspired your choice of colours for the new logo?
Previously, Five Boroughs had been designed with the primary colours of vintage blue/green and charcoal. We loved the old brand and wanted to carry some of it's features over to the new brand and colour seemed like a great way to do that.

We kept those colours as the primary colours for the logo but added in some new colours to the brand palette to give it a bit of playfulness and something new and fresh.

How did you decide on the new look for The Boroughs? What was it about the 3057 you wanted to capture?
When Alasdair came to The Contenders wanting a new logo to go with the new brand name 'The Boroughs' we felt like we could add something to really tell the story of the shop at 345 Lygon St. A sense of place.

A passionate love for the area of East Brunswick and it's people and produce is shared by the store and its customers and we wanted to make that the focus of the brand, showing The Boroughs within the community of '3057' in the brand mark.

Another really important and developing aspect of the Boroughs brand is its involvement with local makers in collaborative events and products. An important factor in designing this brand was working out how to incorporate collaborators in the brand's communications and product packaging.

We developed a visual system that highlights collaborators, front and centre to show how proud The Boroughs is to work with great local and international talent. 

So there you have it, we're pretty excited about the new name and look for the shop so do pop in to check it out! And be sure to stay tuned to this blog for upcoming interviews and posts about the latest Boroughs news.

If you'd like information of the designers, people and events mentioned, follow the links below.

Ruby MacKinnon, The Contenders

 Written by Claudia Long @ClaudiaLongsays — Video courtesy of Andrew McDowell

Meet the Maker - Wirely Home + Zin & Bert

AND WE'RE BACK! We have been MIA for a while but rest assured we are back and ready to start things off with a bang. We're very excited to kick off a brand new series on The Boroughs blog today with our first post of 'Meet the Maker'!

Every fortnight we'll be bringing you interviews, updates and reviews from some of our favourite, designers, collaborators and craftspeople as we find out how they came to create their products and what the future may have in store for them.

This week, we'll be meeting not one, but two designers who have come together to create a special collaboration just for The Boroughs!

The Brunswick based ladies from Wirely Home, Anne Davies and Emer Diviney, have joined forces with Erin Devenish of Zin + Bert to transform their signature plant stands with a spray painted twist.

If you were inspired to have a bit more greenery in your life after a recent visit to the International Flower and Garden Show then you ought to pay us a visit and The Boroughs and check out one of our 'SPRAY' plant stands! First though, let's meet the makers…

ANNE DAVIES, WIRELY HOME

Your wire plant stands are popular at The Boroughs, what drew you to designing them in the first place?
The plant stands started because Emer was stocking a store at the inaugural 'Supergraph' and she wanted some plant stands as shop props and I have a couple of vintage ones that were my grandmother's. We noticed that they went really well so we thought 'why don't we start a business?' 

How did your collaboration with Zin + Bert come to fruition?
We love Zin+Bert's stuff and it's urban feel, that looks like it's been inspired by urban architecture. We've been wanting to do some collaborations for a while and at a market Alasdair, after seeing both of the products separately, had the idea to sort of put it all together in celebration of the International Flower and Garden Show.

As a local designer, what do you think makes the 3057 such a great place for creatives?
Well I think real estate prices were the main reason that everyone moved to the area, it's bit less expensive up here! The concentration of creatives in the area is great, I love the architectural mix too because you've still got the old brick veneers and newer stuff as well.

Which plants do you like to see with the Wirely? Any recommendations?
Anything with a drapey aesthetic really to complement the design of the stand. We're inspired by mid-century design, particularly mid-century Danish design and we've found that anything that's a bit drapey looks quite good. Succulents and cacti also look nice!

Lastly, who are some of your favourite designers at The Boroughs?
I really like Emily Green and also the ceramics from Ingrid Tufts, Cone 11 and Tara Shackell.

ERIN DEVENISH, ZIN + BERT

What inspired you to create your signature paint spray style?
I grew up in west of Melbourne spent my teens involved in the graffiti/ stencil scene before going off to University and getting my degree in Graphic Design. When painting up a piece ‘overspray’ was something which sometimes was such a negative element for me and was a painting technique I couldn’t visually master. When I first started Zin + Bert I worked with many different effects and ‘overspray’ through painting seemed to be a reoccurring theme throughout my pieces. ‘Overspray’ which was a thorn inside some years ago has now become my signature whenever I create pieces.

What are your favourite colours to spray your products in? (I notice you use some lovely metallics!) 
All the colours I have chosen for my pieces have been favourites in some way due to the emotions which are attached to them.
I'm a huge fan of metallic's at the moment and everyone seems to be loving it. Sorbet and Neon Orange will always be my favourite due to that fact it was the first colours I choose when I first started Zin + Bert and they represent some memorable times. 

Which plants do you think complement the style of your collaboration with Wirely? Are there any you'd recommend?
I have always loved any type of plants from the succulent/cacti family as they are visually stunning and very hardy. However for the collaboration Wirely has introduced me some alternative's which look beautiful and compliment our collection well such as Cordyline from the Asparagaceae family or Birdsnest Fern.

Can you tell us a little bit about your process in creating vases, wall hangings and bowls?
To get an item to the finish line is quite long because once the idea is in my head I have to research first all the issues that may arise. Sometimes the item cannot be created due to too many road blocks or its just not physically possible. Then once I have formed my piece through mould designing such as bowls and artworks, setting and sanding the colour process starts and decorating e.g: Artworks which is always fun times!

Who are some of your favourite Boroughs designers (apart from yourself of course!)? 
Wirely home are designers who I admire and getting to work with them has been a fun time, The Hungry Workshop I have been following through social media since they set up in Melbourne and find their story very inspiring along with their work which is amazing. All the designers within the boroughs family are so unique in every way and all their works are amazing its always hard to single out just a few. 

If you'd like information of the designers, people and events mentioned, follow the links below.

Wirely HomeZin + BertInternational Flower and Garden ShowEmily GreenIngrid Tufts, Cone 11, Tara ShackellHungry WorkshopSupergraph

Written by Claudia Long @ClaudiaLongsays — Images courtesy the Wirely, Zin&Bert