Michael Cotton had been eyeing the site at 114 East Avenue, Clarence Park – formerly Rise & Grind Cafe – ever since he moved into the neighbourhood four years ago. He kept busy in the meantime, opening Semaphore cafe High Tide last year. But his dream of opening a local for residents of the inner south pocket remained.

“We’re desperate in the area for something along these lines,” Cotton tells Broadsheet. “We’ve got the amazing Good Gilbert nearby … OFP [Our Food Project] and a few others. Head a little bit further east to Unley Park and King William Road, there’s a couple of things happening around there, but down in this pocket there’s nothing happening.”

His patience (and persistence) finally paid off, with the corner spot now in his care following the closure of Rise & Grind earlier this year. Come November, it’ll reopen as Our Boy Roy, a 100-seat cafe, deli and general store.

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“I’m a local, I know it’s in a good spot, I know it can work … but I didn’t want to do what everyone else has done,” says Cotton. “We’ve got the Middle Store down the road – that’s a nice cafe, it does its thing and does it well. There’s a couple of other places but they all look the same, they’re just a different spin on the same offering that everyone else does, and it gets tired.”

Our Boy Roy will serve panini and sandwiches (including a meatball and sugo ciabatta and, if Cotton gets his way, a Chicago-style beef roll inspired by TV show The Bear) alongside dine-in options like Davidson’s plum hotcakes with lemon myrtle sugar syrup, bacon and eggs, and other lighter, more vegetable-driven dishes.

In addition to a deli section, where you’ll be able to take home sliced-to-order mortadella, fresh loaves of bread, bunches of flowers and more, there’ll be a range of specialty products on the shelves including sauces and condiments from Pizzateca’s Oztalia offshoot, relishes and jams from Drunken Sailor and Melbourne Bushfood, yuzu hot sauce, brandy salted caramel, gin mayo, and The Sugar Man chocolates.

“If you want to stand up at a bench and just knock an email out, smash a coffee or a meatball sub, you don’t have to go through the whole formal dining experience,” says Cotton. “Or you can go to the next section and have the more formalised sit-down experience, with full table service. Or if you’ve got the dog waiting outside and you want to get moving and the kids are at home, you can quickly grab a loaf of bread, grab a carton of eggs, grab a coffee and off you go.”

As for the coffee, Cotton currently has an exclusive deal (within SA) with pioneering Sydney roaster Single O, which also supplies his Semaphore cafe. Beyond the usual espresso options, it’ll be available as batch-brew filter coffee via a self-serve tap. “If you want to save time and not have to wait for a long black or cappuccino, you just walk in, tap the screen and out you go … you can have the whole transaction done in 30 seconds,” says Cotton.

For the fit-out, he's brought on Rad design studio (who worked on Madre) to create a seamless flow between each area, in a “really approachable and really relaxed” open space.

“It was a bit of a circus. At one point it was four separate businesses … and you could tell. All four floors were different,” says Cotton. “We knew that the building had a bit of history, it’s changed hands multiple times, it’s done a few things, we just wanted to strip it right back and find the bones, and find the beauty in those bones.”

He’s also in the process of converting the large outdoor area into a laid back park-like setting. “The outdoor space is really unique here … because it used to be residential, it is effectively [the size of] someone’s backyard.” Expect planter boxes (growing herbs and edible flowers for the chefs) with bench seating around them, tables and chairs, a feature tree, and a large grass area for kids (and dogs) to run around, or to lay out a picnic rug.

Our Boy Roy will open in late-November at 114 East Avenue, Clarence Park.

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