Light, bright, airy. Those are the words Andy Smith uses to describe Sir Charles, the cafe he and his wife Kat launched on Monday with three other couples: Zoe Delany and Dave Makin (co-owners at Axil Coffee Roasters and previous owners of Petty Officer), chef Tyler Preston and wife George Lee, plus Angela and Stephen McGinness. Together, the group christened it after Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy, the man Melbourne’s oldest suburb is named after.

“There’s a lot of cosy, intimate places nearby with good food and coffee,” Smith says. “We wanted to bring something different to the area and pay homage to it.” In terms of fulfilling that vision, the trio couldn’t have picked a better site.

The building was previously home to Beans and Bagels, which was originally owned and operated by the McGinnesses for the past 13 years. The small retail space hid a sprawling wholesale operation out back, and the team at Sir Charles spent months dismantling the old cool rooms and a monster bagel roaster to reveal the site’s true dimensions. Hint: it’s massive.

The high-ceilinged space is now filled with cinder-block banquettes, lofted sections of narrow brass piping and the occasional bit of plant life. Aqua stripes streak across the floors and walls to converge in a starburst above the coffee counter, nodding vaguely to Asian pop art. Light, bright, airy? Definitely.

Preston’s wife George Lee designed the fit-out, perhaps with her husband’s food at the back of her mind. Because unless your heart is set on plain toast or a salad, something Asian-inspired is likely to fill your plate, be it the sriracha hollandaise on the eggs benedict, the miso stirred through the scrambled eggs, or the Chinese sausage which peppers the mushroom omelette.

Some dishes simply go all out, such as the lunch menu’s Korean-fried-chicken burger, on which kim chi meets wasabi mayo and coleslaw in a glossy, teetering bun. If Mexican is more your fancy, there’s corn fritters with chipotle hollandaise, or jalapeno and mushroom poppers, both available from 7am. From next week the venue will be open for dinner on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Being so new, Sir Charles is still waiting on an EFTPOS terminal (tomorrow, maybe), and a gas connection for the hefty Probat roaster which sits among the back tables. Once that’s up and running, roasting will begin on site, with a house espresso blend and a single origin for black coffees. With Makin’s experience at Axil, plus two national barista championships at his back, you’re in safe hands either way.

Sir Charles
121 Johnston Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9415 7077

Mon to Wed 7am–4pm
Thu to Sat 7am–10pm (dinner hours from next week only)
Sun 7am–4pm