At 15, Jimmy Williams moved from Byron Bay to Melbourne as an apprentice chef to try his hand at fine-dining cooking. The long hours slaving away in highfalutin restaurants led to two things: an appreciation of good quality coffee, and eventually part ownership in a string of cafes.
Now Williams is back north, settling in Brisbane and bringing fresh eyes to 726 Brunswick Street, New Farm – a space that former owners, The Long Road and Gaslight Bistro, struggled to make work.
Williams reckons the secret is getting back to basics. “The first thing we did was gut the whole interior to start again,” he says. “It’s a beautiful big space but it never really changed. It was quite dark and moody – not really suited to a cafe.”
Designing and constructing the fit-out himself, Williams’ vision is of a vibrant, clean space of white walls and raw wood flooring detailed with copper and rose gold. He’s also opened up the kitchen, and says he wants to create a totally equal vibe between the staff and the customers. “I want people to feel like, if they love something they’ve eaten, they can go and ask the chefs for the recipe,” he says. “It’s hospitality in the old-fashioned sense of making people feel at home.”
Despite his fine-dining background, Williams has little desire to reinvent the wheel in cafe cooking, keeping the breakfast and lunch menu simple. “The three things that people always want on cafe menus are French toast, baked eggs and avo on toast,” he says. “That’s the kind of stuff we’ll be doing, no tricks or deconstructions, just super fresh, tasty food so people always get what they want.”
The Brunswick Project will be serving coffee from Melbourne’s Rosso Roasting Co, as well as white, red and rose wine on tap for afternoon tipples.
The Brunswick Project will be open at 726 Brunswick Street in late August.