When Broadsheet first spoke with Andre Penascoza at his new Brompton cafe Seven Grounds last year, the site was a lofty, empty expanse.
Fast-forward to today, and the cafe is buzzing with activity and the clamour of diners. The centre of the room, where we stood eight months ago, is now home to an espresso bar with a gleaming Synesso machine. The open kitchen and bar fill most of the space, with all the seating situated along the walls and outside (and soon on the mezzanine).
The sprawling space – which can seat 70 people, but is capped at 65 right now with current restrictions – was meant to open late last year, but a series of construction issues delayed the process. Then came coronavirus, but the crew took advantage of the additional delay.
“It was certainly a sort of blessing in disguise,” says Penascoza, who co-owns the cafe with friends Priestian Tudo and George Won. “Prior to Covid, we were in a state of rushing to open before Christmas and the summer holidays. Then, when the pandemic happened, we were able to slow down the build and take off some of that pressure.”
The months of inactivity also meant the team could really home in on what products it wanted to serve and what experience it wanted to provide. It changed its coffee from Five Senses to huge Melbourne player St Ali. (Seven Grounds is now the roaster’s sole SA stockist, and Penascoza wants to develop this relationship further by hosting industry events such as tastings and latte-art competitions.)
The St Ali blends are available as espresso, cold and batch brew, filter and V60. Hardcore coffee-lovers can try the “barista breakfast” ($10), which includes a shot of espresso, a flat white and a filter coffee. There’s also a sweet, nutty taro latte and a coconut iced coffee (“a slushy of coffee and coconut cream”), inspired by Penascoza’s travels to Hanoi.
Opening quietly last week for coffee and pastries (from Market St and The Pastry Templar in nearby Plant 4) only, the team was blown away by the support it received from the community, particularly from local residents.
“During our soft opening, we saw some really good support from the locals, and I think this has been another silver lining of Covid,” says Penascoza, who’s noticed consumers seem more focused on supporting small businesses and producers right now.
The team also enlisted local artist Jasmine Crisp to transform what was once a massive bare wall outside the cafe into a stunning, bright kaleidoscopic mural guaranteed to turn heads.
“We’ve seen a huge response [about] the wall,” says Penascoza. “We’ve noticed people slowing down when they drive past to get a look at it, and it has definitely drawn in passers-by.”
Chef Mark Goode (ex-Electra House) introduced his full brunch menu on the weekend. The Asian-inspired menu includes Hong Kong egg waffles, a staple dish of the region and must-eat for Tudo whenever he travels there.
“Obviously, with all the complications [of travel bans and Hong Kong’s unrest], we can’t go back anytime soon and get them, but it’s a feel-good dish that we’ve grown up with,” says Tudo. “We want to dress them up and give customers a taste of our childhood.”
Also on the menu: bacon-and-egg breakfast dumplings in a smoked-ginger broth; wok-tossed sausage with shimeji mushrooms and a fried egg (served on garlic sourdough); and a chicken-katsu sando (after 11.30am).
Unit 1/28a Hawker Street, Brompton
Mon to Fri 7am–3pm (kitchen closes at 2pm)
Sat & Sun 8am–2pm