There are a number of common reasons people cite when asked why they’re opening a cafe. Either they identified a gap in the market; it’s been their dream for years; or maybe their hospitality mentor encouraged them. Chau Tran and Minh Nguyen just want somewhere nice to work.
Tran and Nguyen (formerly of the IT, engineering and finance industries) own Blackbird & Co, a new Alexandria cafe based on collaboration and flexibility. “It’s like we're in a big ship. There's a storm coming and each of us has a different position, but we work together,” says Nguyen. “All positions can contribute what they want to do and learn.”
Nguyen hopes the menu will constantly change depending on the ideas of not just the chefs, Janice McGregor and Leo Nguyen, but also the barista and wait staff. One early favourite among staff and customers is the buckwheat pancakes decorated with a ribbon of berries and a peculiar but effective balance of coffee mascarpone, bacon, fresh banana with miso caramel and crushed peanuts. There is also coffee from 5 Senses; granola spiced with ginger, star anise and five spice; and a bacon-and-egg bánh mì.
From the lunch menu, the popular front runner is a beef burger with a molten Swiss-cheese centre, house pickles, onion, tomato, rocket and garlic mayo. There’s also a salad with dark-roasted cauliflower, pomegranate, brown rice, apricot and a bed of mint yoghurt. And a smoked-salmon bagel with kimchi-blended cream cheese, capers and watercress.
Despite the many influences on both the menu and fit-out, Tran says the couple wants the cafe to stay authentic to their identity. That’s why there’s flecks of Asian influence in some of the dishes (some hidden in pickling and sauce recipes), and the cafe design is relatable and simple; it’s mostly glass, white and wood, decorated with native flowers and ornate tiling.
Blackbird & Co.
Shop 1/177 Mitchell Road, Alexandria
(02) 9516 1961
Mon to Sun 7am–4pm