If adaptability is key to survival, then Mark Walker, Director of the Harvison Gallery, has guaranteed the success and longevity of his popular Brisbane Street Gallery by transforming the entrance into the warm and welcoming Art Starter Cafe.
Mark, who has a background in design and hospitality, had a clear vision from the outset of a cafe that offered a well edited selection of quality, fresh & light food that was quick and easy to prepare, could be enjoyed either at the cafe or to go, and represented great value for money. And he’s delivered that in spades.
I visited the cafe on opening day, which can sometimes be a bit tricky as the staff and kitchen are still working things out, but everything from the service to the coffee went without a hitch.
It was lunchtime and I was looking for something savoury. My choices included a selection of three delicious looking salads ($8.50 a bowl), a savoury bacon & egg brioche (also $8.50), panini ($8.50) or filled bagels ($10.50). I also loved the choice of all day breakfasty things, like fresh croissants, jars of fruit salad, muesli and little pots of yoghurt with blueberries (the latter being only $1.50!). I ordered the roasted vegetable salad but was encouraged to go half and half with the rocket, fennel, orange and shaved parmesan one – glad I did, they were both delicious and the serve more than filling.
Cakes and sweet treats are either made in house or supplied by Marnee Rinaldi of Sugar & Nice – and you already know how much I’m enamoured by Marnee’s baking skills. For opening day there was sweet and savoury muffins, a gluten free breakfast slice (I’m trying that next time), nostalgic butterfly cakes filled with lemon curd and cream, chocolate cake (that’s a given), banana bread and a decadent caramel slice. A decent, but not overwhelming, selection.
And herein lies the cleverness. There’s enough to choose from, but not too much to choose from. It’s not too fancy but it’s not pedestrian. It’s priced so that you wouldn’t feel guilty having lunch here a few times a week, or grabbing a quick take-away every day. I think there’s an art to achieve this balance and that at Art Starter they’ve manage to nail it.
But let’s not forget that this is a cafe within a gallery. The beauty of this is that you’re enjoying your food or sipping your coffee whilst taking in the gorgeous or intriguing works of art hanging on the walls, or that you’ll be more inclined to wander into the gallery space proper because it’s attached to a friendly, bustling gallery. The cafe makes the art more accessible and exposes the works to a much wider audience that might not otherwise have seen or connected with it. Again, simple but brilliant.
Mark is already taking bookings and enquiries from organisations and groups who want to use the gallery/cafe space for meetings and events and is extending the Art Starter and Curated by Harvison Gallery brands to include a house branded coffee line (from locals Little Owl Coffee Roasters) and gourmet hampers – the latter being stocked with some of the goodies sold in the cafe like Bahen & Co. chocolate, Forager hand-made preserves and Olive Oil from Moore River.
You’ve guessed by now that I’m pretty enthusiastic about Art Starter and the vision and concept behind it. From what I hear traditional galleries are doing it tough, and whilst the purists might shudder, I see the future as being about creating and melding concepts and spaces to increase their usability and income producing potential (this is a business, after all). And that’s not just for galleries, but all forms of business. How about melding a real estate office with something like a cafe, design studio, retail space or gallery? Now that, would be really cool…
Art Starter Cafe, Harvison Gallery
195 Brisbane Street, Perth WA (nr Lake Street)
Open 7 days a week (hours may change)
Mon – Thurs 7am – 5pm
Fri – Sat 7am – 8pm
Sun 7am – 3pm