More than just a simple cafe, Project281 has taken up residence on Albert Street in Brunswick. Owners Connell McGrath and Sargon Michael (of The Glass Den Cafe) have made a smart move by setting up shop in Melbourne's food and coffee-oriented north — but Project281 stands out from the crowd in terms of what it has to offer.
A massive industrial looking, greenery-filled space on Albert Street, Project281 includes an in-house roastery — aka Founder Coffee Co. — as well as a kitchen and indoor 50-square-metre herb garden on their mezzanine level (with its products used in the food, of course). The team plans to open for dinner and add a rooftop bar, but there's plenty to see, eat and drink here to keep patrons going in the meantime, and McGrath says that it's been no mean feat.
"To put it simply, it has been a massive team effort," he says of the process. "We've spent countless hours, day and night, creating a space that promises to be comfortable, convenient and exciting for all."
The team effort he refers to includes part of Matcha Mylkbar's opening team, Lachlan Timms and Conrad Cheng, who run front and back of house operations. Then there's coffee roaster Anne Cooper, snagged from Equilibrium Master Roasters to oversee the coffee side of things. The fit-out was done by architectural firm Splinter Society, and it's all natural light, greenery and timber throughout the warehouse-like space.
Designed by the team to be vegan-friendly, the menu features a mix of Korean, Japanese, and South East Asian fare — divided into chibi-sara (small plates), oki-sara (large plates) and ame-sara (sweet plates). Even if you're not a dessert-for-breakfast kind of person, the latter are well worth a gander, with the Japanese taiyaki (a filled waffle) is served with nashi pear custard, berries, brandy coral, vanilla ice cream and sweet herbs for $19. More of a savoury tooth? Perhaps the soft shell crab okonomiyaki ($24), served with poached egg, tonkatsu and slaw, will whet your appetite.
That's without getting started on the liquids — from a triple hot chocolate ($7) to housemade smoothies full of goodness ($11), there's a lot to see around these parts even if you're not a coffee drinker. If you are a coffee drinker, try the iced coffee sphere with a side of hot milk, $8. Who said coffee culture was all the same?