With West End fast approaching a critical mass of cafes and casual restaurants, it was only a matter of time before entrepreneurial coffee lovers starting looking towards its quieter neighbour, Highgate Hill.
People such as Cam Milne and Alex Kathage, two friends and long-time housemates who are behind Gladstone Road’s Vvaldmeer. According to Milne the name comes from a German term meaning "forest sea": "When you’re looking over a huge expanse of trees and it looks like a great green ocean,” he says. The Germanic vibe is certainly there in the cafe – in the light-filled minimalist fit-out, but also the confident precision that hums underneath Vvaldmeer’s relaxed and friendly service.
With Vvaldmeer’s food menu, Milne says they wanted to make something “short, simple but special”. The Forrester’s Delight is a straightforward mix of mushrooms and asparagus on toast. The huevos rancheros pares down an often overly rich breakfast to its deliciously simple components: good eggs, spicy tomato sauce, corn tortillas and queso fresco. Vvaldmeer’s chef Amos Ilett recently spent time working at vegan hotspot Netherworld in the Valley, and vegetarian and vegan options such as sticky black rice pudding with goji berries and pandan crumble make up more than half the menu.
Pastries are from Danny’s Bread, with the rest of the sweets made in-house (including one culinary contribution from Milne – a Scando-inspired cheesecake recipe made with Quark).
When it came to choosing which roasters to stock, more than a decade of barista work taught Milne bigger was almost never better. In the end, both Cleanskin and First Fruits roasters fit the bill, with Cleanskin’s crowd-pleasing Saint blend being the main milk espresso coffee, and the signature Forest Sea from First Fruits giving the filter and cold brew a more subtle flavour of dried fruit and nutmeg.
There aren’t many un-caffeinated beverage options at the moment, but plans are afoot for some fresh-squeezed orange juice and a selection of cold presses.