It may be set down an industrial backstreet behind a graffitied roller door, but This Little Piggy’s could not be farther from the looks-trumps-heart, minimalist cafe stereotype. Once you've finished ogling the epic mural of Twiggy out front, wander in and meet Sam Mrishahi, the sole operator of this hidden Balaclava gem.
The Persian-born barista and artist is fast becoming the glue of William Street. When he arrived in the neighbourhood seven months ago, he noticed that not many people in the street knew each other — something he was keen to change.
Sam starts each day delivering trays of coffee to local businesses on his skateboard whilst the mechanic across the street watches over the shop. Unlike most cafes in the area, Little Piggy's attracts a mostly local crowd. Sam is on a first name and chinwag basis with the majority of his customers. "I started this place not with the mind set of having customers, but having friends, and making friends," he says. "People say hello to one another now!"
The space doesn't have a kitchen, which would be disappointing if Sam didn't spend his weekends driving around the suburbs in search of new treats to stock his ever-changing food cabinet. Lately he's been going to Oasis bakery on North Road for Turkish sweets and Glick's for muffins, croissants and bagels. Though there are a few stools around the bar, and some seats along the mural outside, this hole-in-the-wall is best for those after a takeaway coffee, and a focaccia for the other hand.
The 'little piggy' behind the name, Sam is always experimenting with flavours. He understands that there is an art to frothing different kinds of milk — coconut, almond and soy all get a look in — and has each down pat. And just as he knows how to froth his milk, he knows how to make a brew. It's strong with a bit of a fruity taste to it, and just a hint of chocolate — a specialty blend he developed with a Brunswick-based roaster.
A cappuccino man, Sam takes his chocolate powders seriously. He orders five different flavours — classic, dark, hazelnut, white and mint — from luxury car company Lamborghini, and puts each to good use. He puts hazelnut on top of his almond milk cappuccinos, and mixes all bar mint into his Oink Oink Special, which he describes as "a chocolate fountain in a cup".
If you're looking for somewhere in Balaclava that's a little set back, but still very close to the main drag of Carlisle Street and Balaclava station, wander down to This Little Piggy's. And be sure to keep your eye on William Street in the next few months — Sam and his friends at Red Light Studio are creating a street-long outdoor gallery, one full-wall mural at a time.