n 2002, when Sergio Grigor opened Gattica on Carlisle Street, it was one of only a handful of cafes in the area. Serving fantastic breakfasts and great coffee in a chic space, Gattica was an instant success and proved a high standard for local cafes to follow.
Grigor helmed Gattica for three years before selling up and heading into the city, where he launched Hard Yak café in Hardware Lane.
A decade later, he has returned to his old stomping ground, launching the decidedly hip Garage Espresso a stone’s throw from Carlisle Street along Chapel, and it looks like the customers have followed.
Using his keen eye and some help from designer Sally White, he gutted the compact, elevated cement and brick digs that for the past 50 years housed a mechanic’s workshop, installing a striking wooden ceiling, splashes of red details, a bamboo wallpaper bar and a shiny silver Synesso coffee machine. A seasoned barista, Grigor knows his way around his machine and, coupled with Merlo beans, the consistently crafted coffee is a standout.
When it comes to the menu, Grigor claims “really fresh, seasonal and wherever possible local food is really important for me”. The proof is in the menu, with local brands like Woodfrog Bakery, Meredith goat’s cheese and Mount Zero pulses scattered throughout. Kids are well catered for too, with fun options like ‘tiger toast’ (melted cheese and Vegemite fingers), egg soldiers and a dish called ‘the mousetrap’.
Fresh pastries and cakes come steaming from the kitchen daily, and if you’re lucky you’ll chance upon Garage Espresso on the day Grigor’s Italian aunty delivers her famous cakes and tarts. Think chocolate, pear and hazelnut or bite-sized amaretti. Belissimo.
126a Chapel Street, St Kilda
(03) 9531 1331