Carlton's Argyle Square has recently been graced with a new outdoor eatery, though you may not immediately recognise it as such. Parco's middle-of-the-street courtyard digs better resemble a little kiosk for good reason. Originally built as a power substation, the tiny cottage-like building was most recently used as an information kiosk — though, according to locals, it's been vacant for nearly 20 years.
Enter long-time mates Jarrod Balme and Adrian Pagano, who saw an opportunity to reclaim this space. They've turned the site into a cafe surrounded by outdoor park-bench seating — with space for 50 all up. It's uniquely situated in the centre of the street just south of Argyle Square.
Fitzroy's Therefore Studios took care of the fit-out — having also been responsible for Richmond's Union House and Vacation cafe in the CBD — along with branding expertise by Australian designer Peter Jay Deering and drawings by Tokyo-based designer Yu Nagaba.
"The inspiration behind the fit-out was to do something complementary to the space and not jolting to the surrounding environment," says Balme. "We really wanted to be seen as an extension to the beautiful Argyle Square through our space and our menu."
To complement the space, head chef Piers Bielby has created a succinct menu that focuses on 'hand-to-mouth' eating, including all-day brekkie items like the banh mi — a miso-mayo dressed milk bun piled with maple bacon and a fried egg, then topped with pickled carrots, coriander and cucumber.
The avo smash is a bit different, too, set on rye bread and topped with vegan cream cheese and a beetroot slaw. For lunch, think confit crispy duck salad with Thai spices or the salty-sweet Scuttlebut vegetarian ciabatta —with a boiled egg, avocado and feta, topped with fresh herbs, pickled veggies, olives and capers.
Seasonal fare is sourced from local suppliers, with all meat from Meatsmith and bread from Dench Bakers in Fitzroy North, plus coffee by Coffee Supreme and tea by Love Tea. Fresh smoothies and indulgent milkshakes are also up for grabs, as are daily-baked pastries from the takeaway display (made both in-house and sourced from Dench).
Sure, the all-outdoor seating may not be ideal for these winter months, but it does mean the cafe is dog friendly — and they've got plenty of blankets to keep you warm, too. We expect to see the space to really boom in the warmer days ahead.
Images: Kate Shanasy