“My biggest fear is that it’s going to be quiet,” says Michael Ico of his new cafe, Splash Coffee, which opened last week at the Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre in Petersham.

On the contrary, we reckon he’s screwed.

Along with Harry Paton, Dan Harrison and Mitch Jones, Ico also owns Soulmate Coffee in Newtown, one of Sydney’s buzziest (and, for our money, best) cafes. Walk past it on a weekend and you’ll be met with a scene. Photogenic people crammed into every corner, nursing iced oat lattes and sambal-slicked brekkie rolls in the sunshine. In other words, the kind of scene you want to be in.

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So. Given Soulmate’s reputation, Splash’s prime position between a swimming pool and a park, and the mercury rising by the day, it’s fair to say that, yes, the boys are in hot water when the summer holidays kick off.

The nostalgia schtick won’t help things, either.

“We thought – park, kids, pool. Let’s just make it like a cool canteen and just do what we do well,” Ico tells Broadsheet. “Killer pythons on the shelves. The freezers, we’ll have them full of Bubble O’Bills. And some healthy options like yoghurts, because it’s 2023.”

The kitchen dials up the nostalgia to 11. Fish-and-salad sammies are served on thickly sliced white bread. There’s a charcoal-chook roll. And a beef burger with beetroot and a fried egg named after the immortal cricketer Don Bradman, who scored his first century in grade cricket at Petersham Park. And – this one we love – a chunky chip butty with a pot of curry sauce on the side.

“We’re giving a nod to the fish’n’chip shop without actually being one,” says Ico. Which is very true – even though you can get fish’n’chips at Splash.

The rest of the menu exudes that Soulmate style we know and love in the form of brekkie rolls, “splashed avo” with herbs and lemon, and healthy Med-leaning bowls for a perfect post-swim feed. It’s all good to go from 6.30am.

Coffee – bags of which are displayed on the beautiful timber “cat pole” by Sydney designer Jonathan Friend – comes courtesy of long-time partners Single O, with more beans by Sydney roaster Sunny Coffee in the mix.

Splash serves both sides of the pool, with the dine-in space split between the outside terrace and a communal table inside. With so much green space at the cafe’s doorstep, takeaway will be the main game. And though the pool closes from April to September, Splash will stay open throughout the year.

For fans of Soulmate’s strong merch game, Ico says the team also has plans to roll out some pool-appropriate gear. “Towels and legionnaire’s caps. Budgie smugglers? We’ll have a bit of fun with it.”

Splash Coffee
2A Station Street, Petersham (inside Fanny Durack Aquatic Centre)

Daily 6.30am–3pm