Julien Moussi is a familiar name in the Melbourne hospitality scene – in the past decade, he’s launched twelve cafes across the city.
“I’ve got a very short attention span and always have these grand ideas,” Moussi says. “You need money to pay for these big projects so I have to sell older cafes to make the next one happen.”
Moussi has held onto several of them though, including Northcote’s Tinker, and Penta in Elsternwick. His latest cafe Bentwood opened recently in Fitzroy, with another to come in Mount Waverley called Stanley.
“Fitzroy is saturated with really good cafes so you’ve got to invest a lot more in your venue and assert your identity if you want to stand out,” says Moussi. “What I think a really good cafe comes down to now is its atmosphere. You want people to feel an electric energy when they walk in the door and take pleasure just being in the space.”
Bentwood, with its vast brick, stucco façade and near floor-to-ceiling windows, occupies a large corner site on Fitzroy’s leafy Napier Street. Melbourne’s Ritz & Ghougassian designed the fit-out, which makes use of rich tones of burgundy, brown and orange. It’s warm but luxe, with soft leather banquettes, blonde-timber Bentwood chairs and exposed brick.
The building was once home to the Thonet furniture showroom – coincidentally where Moussi bought chairs for his first cafe – and Moussi “wanted to pay homage to the landmark site and champion its charm and history with considered interior design”.
Little brass plates remain in the brickwork floor referring to different chair models, such as Le Corbusier and Bresso.
Look up: you’ll see a tessellating pattern of red-steel squares filled with a subtle amber glow.
“It’s beautiful and still reflects that raw and authentic industrial feel we were going for,” says Moussi.
The spacious cafe seats 115 people and is filled with natural light. Coffee comes from Moussi’s Inglewood Coffee Roasters, and the menu features cafe classics with some twists.
“The dishes are fun, flavoursome and colourful with exciting additions,” Moussi says. The chia pudding is an example. It’s made with a with a so-called “butterfly blue” tea that changes colour when you add lemon.
237 Napier Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9419 1614
Mon to Fri 7am–4pm
Sat & Sun 7.30am–5pm