If you’re walking along Tooronga Road in Hawthorn East, Mr & Mrs Anderson – the new cafe by Roulla Saisanas and James Limneos (Black Squirrel) – is hard to miss. Aside from the fact it’s one of the only cafes on this quiet strip, the space’s slick, modern design stands out among the tree-lined residential streets, which are also home to several schools.
The combination of young families and low cafe density in the area is what drew Saisanas and Limneos to open there. The pair, old family friends, wanted to open a cafe for years. But it wasn’t until executive chef Lasse “GD” Povlsen came on board that the concept came together.
“I’ve owned Black Squirrel for five years now,” Limneos says of his Sandringham cafe. “I met GD through my vegetable supplier. I was talking to him [about opening a new cafe] and he said, ‘Mate, you need GD’.”
Povlsen trained in Denmark in classical Danish and French cuisine, then worked at Michelin-level restaurants in Copenhagen – including Nimb Louise and Retour – before moving into some of Melbourne’s best known kitchens; he was commis chef at Attica, then development chef for Andrew McConnell, for whom he created menus for Supernormal, Cumulus Inc. and Cutler & Co.
“I approached GD and I said, ‘If you could do whatever you liked, and got access to a farm you could visit whenever you liked, would that bring you on board?’” says Limneos. “He wasn’t interested in getting back into the kitchen, but that won him over.”
The menu nods to both Nordic and South East Asian cuisine, and what can’t be grown on Mrs & Mrs Anderson’s private farm in Gippsland comes from local producers including Woodfrog Bakery bread and Penny For Pound pastries.
“They let me do what I wanted,” Povlsen says, laughing. That has led to dishes such as caramelised white chocolate brioche with matcha truffles, chamomile and apple Bircher, and an avocado smash with kale, quinoa, radish and cucumber from the Gippsland farm, with toasted seeds and a sesame ponzu dressing.
“Japanese cuisine I find to be very matchable to the new Nordic cuisine I’m trained in,” Povlsen says. “Simplicity with a very, very high level of execution is crucial to both types of cuisine. And although many cafes are claiming a Scandinavian influence, we do have an actual Scandinavian,” he says, pointing to himself. “Which gives us a bit of a strong claim.
“That I can say to Roulla and James, ‘I want to do this’, and they’ll say, ‘Sounds awesome, let’s do it’ is quite freeing compared to other places I’ve worked.”
Rather than bring in a design studio, Saisanas sourced from Mexico the bright, hand-painted tiles that line the walls . The wooden bench that sits up against the counter is Saisanas’s father-in-law’s old workbench, and the concrete floor is hand-mixed – Saisanas added in colourful, ceramic beads as an extra flourish.
“Kids think they’re candy,” she says.
Mr & Mrs Anderson
398 Tooronga Road, Hawthorn East
(03) 9882 9888
Mon to Fri 7am–4pm
Sat & Sun 8am–4pm