Food and Drink
Posted by Rhiana Whitson
10. Nov, 2010
Located at the city end of Smith Street, La Niche Cafe is French without the snobbery. On a Thursday morning the sounds of Edith Piaf float through open wooden doors. After moving here seven years ago with his Australian wife, owner and barista Anthony calls this his “little corner of France.” On one table, an artist sits cradling a fresh oil painting, “if you see my model, the brunette in the painting, tell her I’ll be back in a moment,” he yells at Anthony, busy behind the whirring espresso machines. As the artists walks out the door, a young hipster wanders in, sits his empty coffee cup on the counter and tells Anthony he’s 50 cents short; “just pay me next time.”
La Niche is that sort of place, a creative community hub. Artists exhibit upstairs and musicians take over the front half of the cafe to play jazz every Friday night. The waiters converse in French and their melodious accents are occasionally broken by a customers heavily accented attempt, “gee swee un cafe?”
Food is French with a Spanish twist. For breakfast I order the Toastinette: a generous serving of baguette topped with soft french goats cheese, tomato and Spanish jamon. My friend orders the chocolate croissant (“delicious”) which is brought in from Noisette bakery. Everything else is made on premises and inspiration often comes courtesy of a phone call to Anthony’s grandmother in Brittany, France.
After breakfast I decide to explore: a mural painted hallway leads me past a dining area, where electric guitars sit idly against the wall. Out the back is a courtyard and it’s here I discover Anthony’s role in all that badly pronounced French going on in the cafe – he’s stuck a blackboard full of cafe-orientated French and English translations to the wall. Back inside, the upstairs contains plenty of seating and a velvet couch transports which transports this writer back to a Montmartre apartment – the view on to Smith Street has never looked more, well, French.
At the time of writing this a photographic exhibition celebrating ‘Australia’s migrant past’ line the walls and when I head back downstairs I discover my guest in conversation with a woman I recognise from the photographs upstairs. (I told you this was a community hub!) When my guest ditches me for work I decide I‘m feeling so unbelievably French my late breakfast is going to drift into a long lunch. I get on the text to a friend and when he arrives at 1pm, we decide to do as the French do by indulging in a glass of Pinot, lovely.
Naturally, Anthony and his French waiter outdo us by enjoying the far more French choice of a tipple of Rose behind the coffee machine.
La Niche Cafe
67 Smith St
Fitzroy VIC 3065
Thu – Fri 7.30-midnight
Sat – Sun 8 – 6
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