Soon it’ll be me, you and us. If you’ve ever been to the outer suburban area of Melbourne, you’d be forgiven for packing a picnic. It’s quite a hike for some, but for many its home. Melbourne’s growing population has meant more folks are moving further out along the fringes, and so are café owners. Rob Salha and Nick Panagopoulos are a perfect example of this, having opened three successful venues in the outer east. This year saw the pair move south, and last week they opened Populus, in Berwick. I know what you’re thinking- they’ve made a typo in their name! It’s an intentional play on words, and also a nod to the area’s history. As seen at their previous café, Hutch & Co, Nick prides himself in paying homage to the location in which their venues reside. As you would have it, the street on which Populus sits, is lined with poplar trees, and known as the Avenue of Honour, a tribute to fallen soldiers… and definitely a fitting tribute for a café aiming to attract the local ‘populous’. Formerly known as Nomadic Café, Populus brings to Berwick a touch of class; or as Rob calls it, ‘Affordable Lux’. Designed by Biasol, what the venue lacks in terms of natural light, it makes up for in spades with its curated fit out. Think fine dining in the inner city, with moody lighting, that’s staffed by a team with their sights set on creating an experience rather than just selling cups of coffee. Speaking of coffee, the Slayer Espresso machine pumps out one heck of a rich espresso with a smoothness matching the curvature of the venues furnishings. The menu is both playful and enticing, with a middle-eastern slant. For those with a sweet tooth there’s the French Kiss Brioche, aka. French toast coated in corn flakes, with crème brule; and the Belly Dancer Turkish delight hotcakes with rose water meringue, fairy floss, and pistachio mascarpone. Meat lovers will enjoy the Sir Benedict with smoked beef brisket, seeded mustard hash brown; while those of us with a gluten free and vegan inclination can tuck into the Magic mushrooms with cashew miso puree, on fired polenta with truffle vinaigrette. Rob and Nick have taken their passion for hospitality, and created a gathering place to escape to and find comfort in, while enjoy the simple pleasures.
Find them at 74 High Street, Berwick.