The Fresh Trio of Cafes in Melbourne's West
12 March, 2020
Melbourne’s Western suburbs have not traditionally proved a fertile hunting ground for brunch seekers. Destination eateries mostly concentrate in the Inner-North and Eastern suburbs, whereas the West has typically been serviced by ‘local cafes’ and eateries, surviving on the selling-point of geographical convenience. But, this neat, and historically robust status-quo has given a rude shake by a young trio, Tash, Cody and Chloe, the owners and operators of Kodama, Boma and Pango Coffee.
“it became his mission to work there as a barista”
Tash and Cody met, and began dating when both were employed as baristas at Blackboard Coffee, in the Gold Coast suburb of Varsity Lakes. Blackboard Coffee, under the proprietorship of Nick Pearce, is commonly thought
of as the first Gold Coast Café to serve specialty coffee. Today, as a roastery, Blackboard coffee beans fill the grinders of many of the Gold Coast’s most reputable coffee establishments. Whilst Tash was one of Blackboard’s first employees, Cody’s employment came later, a position he earned via what Tash proudly eludes to as his “unwavering patience and persistence”. Blackboard’s reputation for serving some of the region’s best coffee meant Cody wanted to be a part of it, and “it became his mission to work there as a barista”. Cody was turned away by owner Nick Pearce twice in two years, who held the attitude to “never settle for anything less than the standard you are trying to build.” Unperturbed, Cody accepted a gig washing dishes, and after 6 months of manning Blackboard’s wash-sink, “and ferociously practicing with every spare minute, he finally started getting barista shifts “.
“I didn’t’ realise it at the time, but it was a great time of learning for me. To see how a business works from the very early stages”
Cody and Tash’s tenure at Blackboard Coffee played a profound role in shaping them into the café operators they are today. The pair not only refined their coffee craft, but developed an understanding of the nuances of successful hospitality, “I didn’t’ realise it at the time, but it was a great time of learning for me. To see how a business works from the very early stages.” The couple moved to Melbourne and gained a familiarisation, and appreciation, for the city’s café and coffee scene, with stints at Top Paddock, Axil Coffee and Collective Espresso. But, in their back-pocket was always “the dream of opening up our own space”. The dream was actualised in October 2016, when the couple, together with Tash’s sister Chloe, opened Kodama Coffee in Stevedore Street, Williamstown.
“Everyone said we were crazy to try and not only crack Williamstown’s café market, but to try and crack it on Stevedore Street”
Williamstown has historically presented somewhat of a ‘no go zone’ for hospitality start-ups. The suburb’s housing prices bloated in the early-to-mid 2000s, fuelled by an influx of young families who became wise to the fact that the bayside suburb offered a both rare and attractive combination of relative affordability and close proximity to the Melbourne CBD. 20 years on, Williamstown’s kids of the early 2000s are young adults, and many have moved out of home and the area. The ageing demographic has rendered Williamstown a baffling puzzle for restauranteurs and café owners, and the suburb has taken more than a few scalps of new businesses with well-considered business plans and the best of intentions. “Everyone said we were crazy to try and not only crack Williamstown’s café market, but to try and crack it on Stevedore Street, however, we were really confident in the vision we had for the space”. Now over three years old, spare seats in Kodama are a rarity, and the venue dons all the hallmarks and qualities of the best Eastern Suburbs cafes, but in a setting befitting of the West.
A year after the birth of Kodama, came the opening of Boma Coffee on Stephen Street Yarraville. At least initially, it very much followed the form of Kodama, but has since formed an identity of its own. “Since getting to know our Yarraville customer base, it has evolved over time. It is crazy how different the crowd can be in areas which are only a 10-minute drive apart”. Between Yarraville and Williamstown sits the suburb of Newport, and the success of Kodama and Boma spawned the inception of a third café, Pango Coffee on Hall Street. Tash speaks of the somewhat liberal approach Cody, Chloe and herself have adopted in crafting the three venues, saying “each has a unique fit-out which is tied to their names. This gives each shop its own soul. We find it interesting to take a step back, and allow the staff members and customers create the vibe and atmosphere. We have found they vary quite a lot across the three spaces.”
“Our main criterion is quality, and for the menu, that starts with sourcing quality ingredients. We keep things honest and simple"
Despite each café’s distinct individuality, a foundation ethos is common. “Our main criterion is quality, and for the menu, that starts with sourcing quality ingredients. We keep things honest and simple, but make sure to offer a point of difference.” Executive Chef Django holds the responsibility of devising the menu of each venue, working with Tash and Chloe who have always “had a very strong idea of what we want our menus to look like”. With a well-established trust in their team, they made a decision to “shake things up at Pango and let the chefs get creative”. Pango is the only venue of the three with a liquor license, and there are murmurs of afternoon sessions and art exhibitions in the not-to-distant future, as well as coffee classes and other food related workshops.
This has very much been tale of threes. Three people, three cafes in three years. But, given the West’s unguarded embracing of the ‘new kids on the block’, one cannot help but think that threes won’t be threes for long.
MON TO FRI : 7AM - 4PM
SAT & SUN : 8AM - 4PM
69-71 Stevedore Street, Williamstown
MON TO FRI : 7AM - 230PM
SAT & SUN : 8AM - 3PM
127 Stephen Street, Yarraville
MON TO FRI : 630AM - 4PM
SAT & SUN : 730AM - 4PM
24 Hall Street, Newport