Public and Bowlsome owners James Anthony and Danielle Elia are pushing on with their gradual takeover of the eastern end of Franklin Street with the opening of their new espresso bar, Way Back When. The husband and wife team opened the site –their sixth venture – this week in the airy and elegant foyer of the new GPO Exchange office tower.
When Broadsheet stops by on opening day, it’s relatively quiet. But it’s the calm before the storm. Some 260 office workers moved into the building on Monday; that number is set to rise to 2000. The $250 million, 20-storey office tower is the new home for the Attorney General’s office and mining giant BHP, among several other tenants. It’s also the new home for the Adelaide General Post Office, which sits in the adjoining ground-floor tenancy (the former post office site, right next door, will soon be turned into a retail and dining hub, with a 15-storey Westin hotel above it).
“When we came here seven years ago with Public, nothing was down here,” says Elia. “Nothing was even around the corner on [Victoria] Square … I said to James, ‘Do you know what you’re doing here? It’s a pretty quiet street’. Now we’re right in it, and we’ve got Bowlsome next door, and now this … We’re definitely stopping after this!”
Developer Charter Hall (which also owns the neighbouring building that houses Public and Bowlsome) reached out to Elia and Anthony two years ago to consult on the viability of a ground-floor coffee shop. They put it out to tender, and asked the pair to throw their hat in the ring. Elia’s winning concept – a throwback espresso bar reminiscent of those dotted throughout Italy – was inspired by the foyer’s old-world detailing: all aged brass and black marble with a heritage brick wall that remains from the original GPO building.
“I had a tour of the building and saw … how they’ve merged the old building with the new, and I saw some renders and finishes like the bar and the brass, and straight away it evoked an old Italian espresso bar,” says Elia, who designed each of the pair’s other venues.
The spacious lobby by local firm Siren Design (who worked alongside architects Hassell Studio) is warmed with soft furnishing, lights and plenty of greenery. A surprisingly large capacity for 100 is broken into several breakout spaces: a long banquette servicing solo diners or duos, larger bench seating for groups, and more intimate booth seating further along.
The espresso bar is a simple set-up: a single curved black steel bar houses a La Marzocco coffee machine and two glass cases with a selection of bagels, baguettes and European pastries and cakes (sfogliatelle, cannoli, croissants, tarts, galettes and so on). There’s also charcuterie, frittata and a selection of salads available to eat in or takeaway in lunch boxes for $15. It’s a well-trodden formula elevated by the kitchen team at Public, who make everything from scratch next door.
Coffee comes from local roaster Grinders, which also supplies Public and the team’s new North Adelaide eatery, Pippo.