Omotenashi is a Japanese concept of hospitality that centres on hosting mindfully. For Monica Nguyen, it means “never [being] overly intrusive, never rushing our customers nor [being] forgetful of them”.

This is the approach Nguyen and her partner William Luu have adopted at their new Melbourne Central cafe, Miyama. The breakfast, lunch and dessert spot is a first foray into the industry for Nguyen, who has a background in physiotherapy, and Luu, a photographer.

The cafe sits in the former Rustica space, which underwent a speedy one-week renovation to change the terracotta-hued tiling to a neutral tone. Otherwise, the existing interiors suited the clean, minimal aesthetic Nguyen envisioned for Miyama.

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The inspiration for the cafe came from dessert spots like Eggless, where all the desserts are vegetarian and most of them are vegan, in Nguyen’s hometown of Adelaide. She was also influenced by recent travels across Japan and Thailand, where many cafes stay open until the early evening so people can enjoy a sweet treat while they unwind after work. She hopes Miyama can be a place for people to get some respite from the CBD bustle.

Made in-house by a team of three pastry chefs, the sweets on offer here are all vegetarian and halal-friendly, thanks to Nguyen’s exclusion of gelatine and alcohol from her recipes. One standout is the beautifully presented strawberry shortcake, which comes in a clear glass cup that puts its meticulous multilayered construction on display. The sponge cake is paired with fresh strawberries and a subtly sweet “cloud-like” cream made from a secret recipe. The banoffee tart sees neat and decadent layers of velvety cream and banana hugged by a biscuit crust.

The savoury menu is focused on “hearty, wholesome brunch food”, says Nguyen, “where people leave feeling really full and satisfied”. A slow-cooked, vegetarian Japanese curry base is made in-house and then paired with protein options like Wagyu beef, chargrilled seasonal vegetables or tofu. The oishi teishoku, meanwhile, is a set meal of rice, miso soup, and small servings of typical Japanese dishes like teriyaki chicken, onigiri, potato salad and seaweed-salad inari.

To drink, there are fruit spritzes in three flavours – yuzu, green grape and grapefruit – and an iced matcha-strawberry latte. More drinks, made with seasonal ingredients, are in the works for summer.

Miyama
Level 2/300 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
No phone

Hours:
Sun to Thurs 10am–5pm
Fri to Sat 10am–6pm

miyamamelbourne.com.au