It calls itself Mavis the Grocer, but there’s not much on the shelves yet. Olive oil, Changz Hot Sauce, pick ‘n’ mix tubs of nuts and dried fruit. They’re all there, but right now Abbotsford’s newest venue is more about the cafe aspect: coffee, fresh juices and simple, crowd-pleasing food.

It’s a gutsy opening. Mavis is located pretty much halfway between Admiral Cheng-Ho’s six specialty coffee grinders and Three Bags Full, which remains consistently packed with brunch aficionados, five years in.

But until opening at the start of August, competition was the least of worries for owners Maurice Manno and Dan Zeidan, who also run The Grace Darling and Lazerpig in Collingwood.

After clearing town planning, the duo started building in January and encountered just about every hurdle there is, including having to re-build their sewer. Hence the yellow “Opening in April” posters, which blocked out the windows until close to mid-year.

As with their previous venues, Manno and Zeidan didn’t employ architects or designers to redo the old corner milk bar. They made it up as they went along, rescuing an old ticket booth from Her Majesty’s Theatre to use as a bar and lining the interior walls with pale-yellow weatherboards.

While plenty of cafes aspire to be a homey neighbourhood sort of place, few have nailed it as well as Mavis, where the interior feels just like the terrace houses surrounding it and the little side courtyard is like a normal backyard.

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By day this cafe serves Seven Seeds coffee and several cold-pressed smoothies which combine ingredients such as kale, coconut water, tahini and beetroot. There’s also a simple but well-executed menu which takes in porridge, pikelets, bean stew, citrus-cured salmon and sandwiches. All the bread is made in-house.

“What we’re moving towards some time really soon will be the sort of the place where you can buy basic produce; fruit and veggies, organic milk, free-range eggs, bread, the newspaper and take-home meals,” Manno says.

When the sun goes down, the lights are dimmed and the candles come out. You can catch cheese or charcuterie and more substantial mains such as pasta until 8pm, along with a pot of Cooper’s Pale Ale or a glass of Bress shiraz.

Mavis the Grocer
197 Vere Street, Abbotsford
(03) 9419 3900

Daily 8am–8pm