Cafe 1812

Berkelouw's cafe/wine bar gem offering something to whet everyone's appetite.
Francesca Millena
Published on February 11, 2013
Updated on February 16, 2017


Just picked up a book, can't wait to read it, and in search of the perfect armchair? Having recently celebrated their bicentenary, the folks at Berkelouw in Paddington are proving that book selling is far from a dying art with the launch of Cafe 1812 — a cosy cafe, chic wine bar, and bookstore all rolled into one.

Go past the paperbacks, the memoirs, and the Moleskins, and up the flight of stairs. Here's where you'll find Cafe 1812 in all its moody dark-wood glory. Behind the bar there's a dapper aproned barista polishing long-stemmed wine glasses, while out front huddles of studded leather arm chairs and threadbare woven rugs hearken to the cafes of old Rotterdam where Solomon Berkelouw — the bookstore's namesake — traded his first vellum-bound tome 200 hundred years ago. Find yourself a table by the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Oxford Street or perch on a stool at the wine bar and drink up the aged atmosphere. And if all this bibliophilism is making you hungry, there's a cafe-style menu to tempt at all hours of the day.

That Gallic ode to a ham and cheese toastie — a Croque Monsieur ($7.90) — arrives griddle toasted and warm with vintage cheddar oozing from its sides. A pearl couscous salad ($9.90) follows, topped with grilled zucchini, salty olives, and a caramel-sweet fig. It's a fresh and satisfying meal in itself. Fancy something more filling? The dinnertime treats kick off at 5pm with a menu that has a European bent. Pastas and mains, including miniature Scotch fillets ($19) served with a buttery smooth mushroom sauce, offer heartier servings for the famished. Alternatively, there are share plates, from beef meatballs with black truffle mayo ($14), and generous cheese platters served with quince paste ($19), to keep the grazers happy.

And lest we forget to tell you: it's on Wednesday nights that the cafe really comes to life. Urban hipsters crowd the space as a live jazz band belts out the classics of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and the like. Sidle up to the barman and he'll whip up a wicked Negroni or recommend something from the extensive wine list; there's over 45 by the bottle and 14 by the glass on offer.

Whether you're a bibliophile or a biblio-phobe, there's something to whet the appetite and stir the senses at this trendy cafe-cum-wine-bar that's fast becoming a destination in the east's gentrified enclave.


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