Inspired by the European salon – where readers, writers, thinkers and creative types used to hole up to drink, talk, swap ideas and books and reveal their collective enthusiasm for life and culture – Solomon Berkelouw opened the doors to the family’s first bookstore in Rotterdam, Holland in 1812. Six generations later, Berkelouw's romantic idea of the literary meeting place has been reborn in the form of Café 1812, which sprawls out across the top floor of the company’s bookstore on Oxford Street, Paddington.
The space, which previously housed a casual cafe, has been stripped back and polished up. A keen eye for antiques matched with dark timber and clean lines keeps the cafe modern yet distinctive. Drop in for an espresso and French toast in the morning after stalking the bookshelves, or settle in for a glass of wine and a cheese plate in the evening.
The wine list, tilted toward boutique producers plus a welcome smattering from the Champagne region, was put together for Berkelouw by family friend and winemaker Alex Retief, and is all the better for it. It’s not Rotterdam, but it’s close. Café 1812 is a place to stay a while, a place for thinkers and talkers. So buy a hardback and settle in.