Food and Drink


Cafe Ora Opens in Kew

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Young hospitality workers often talk about opening their own restaurants. The thing is, very few of us have the gumption to do it.

Not so for Stephanie Manolas, John Vroom and Dave Masters as the trio open their new 30-seat Kew café/eatery this week. All under 30-ish, these youngsters were still putting the finishing touches on Ora when I popped in for a site reccy a week out from their launch week.

Housed in the old Ocha site on Pakington Street, things are taking shape nicely when you consider that it’s been empty for over a year.

Stripping back years of paintwork has revealed beautiful white tiled walls from when the building was originally built as a butcher shop. Sure, at a week from opening they are still doing a Bunnings run at least once (OK, twice) a day…but the sleek recycled stringy bark hardwood tables are nearly in place (made by Manolis’s father, who is not a carpenter I discover, but a doctor handy with a tool belt) and the smell of fresh paint smacks of possibility.

Vroom (currently Victorian Siphon Champion) and front of house manager Leon Erdich will be taking care of the coffee side of things, sure to be a strong point. Both are ex-Proud Mary baristas and Ora is one of the first cafes in Melbourne to receive supply of Proud Mary’s house roast. They also have a very special coffee machine with Ora boasting ‘The Strada’, an Italian masterpiece hot off the production line from Europe.

Apart from being a ridiculously expensive piece of machinery ($24K+), this baby is the latest in espresso technology, the perfect blend of old and new school that (with the help of John and Leon) pours a damn fine coffee to boot.

On the food front, Manolas will take care of the floor with Masters (ex-The Commoner) in the kitchen. The pair met years ago working at The Grand in Richmond and have formed a business partnership for Ora.

It’s clear that the production values are high, yet the price points realistically low – a dream combination for Melbourne’s café hounds. Designed to evolve with the café there is a steady mix of the adventurous, the sustainable, the seasonal and the faithful. Quirkier options involve fried duck eggs and black pudding (mmm, salty) and brandade on toast with poached eggs, lemon and bacon.

A self-processed focus on the slow-food movement is obvious, although Manolas says she doesn’t want to put the café in a niche by professing to be organic, free range or ‘natural’, though from the line of up suppliers it is very clear they are. A budding veggie garden out back is just starting to sprout, with hopes that the café will be self sufficient for herbs and green leafy vegetables in the future.

The team are initially planning to open 6 days (Tue-Sun) from 7 – 4, with the entire menu available all day. As things progress they’ll think about a liquor license, although they plan to start simple and get a feel for the area first. But with little else of the same calibre and genre on offer in the direct area these guys are sure to hit the ground running.

Cafe Ora opens today.

Cafe Ora
156 Pakington St, Kew
9855 2002
Tues – Sun 7am – 4pm
Follow them on Twitter @ora_cafe
No information about bookings is currently available, but you can always ask
Photography by Ed Whitfield. See more of his work at

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