Where do you go when you’ve reached the pinnacle of success? When you’ve drunk from the sweet cup of praise and glory, what’s next?
For the Black Coffee Lyrics team, the answer was simple: go back to your roots and create something new.
In a move from the ‘hood to the ‘burbs, the BCL guys have just opened Alfred’s Diner in collaboration with the Neilsen boys, proprietors of Alfred’s Apartment. It’s hallowed ground for the sons of Brothers Neilsen, who’d begun their business over 40 years ago in a disused Mermaid Beach garage.
In this extension to Alfred’s, the carpark has been transformed into a backyard lawn diner, filled with freshly recycled garden furniture, beach umbrellas, cushions and rugs. It’s been a labour of love, much of it crafted by hand, including their purpose-built coffee cart.
It’s relaxed, with groups sprawled out on rugs under the trees or sitting at tables chatting, a chilled out sort of place where you can drop in straight off the beach to chat over a coffee or grab a quick bite to eat with friends.
Like Black Coffee Lyrics, Alfred’s Diner uses the excellent Ty coffee from Moonshine Coffee Roasters, grown and roasted in the Byron hills. They’re bottling their own iced coffee, and using daily delivered boutique cold-pressed juices and tonics from the local Living Juice Company.
The hole-in-a-wall kitchen serves breakfast and lunch: fast flash modern world-influenced street food. Pulled pork burritos, Americano hot dogs, Open salsa or ragu sourdough are on offer, alongside Acai bowls and Wild Rice Pudding with activated buckwheat. Somehow it all sits comfortably on this short menu, and nothing’s over $13. My Falafel Burrito is a modern take on a ‘7-layer burrito’, a fresh soft tortilla packed full of just made falafel and tabouleh, insanely yummy! Meat Man drools over the Pulled Pork, his dish of the moment!
I comment to co-owner Nic that when Black Coffee Lyrics started just three years ago, they probably could not have imagined their huge success.
“No, it’s been insane,” he says.
We chat and joke about the ‘just like Melbourne’ comments, the restaurant’s glowing reviews and awards, as well as the ‘performance expectations’ it’s all created.
“The kitchen at Black Coffee Lyrics is so tiny, and the menu’s evolved into something far more sophisticated than when we started, so we had to close during the day to complete the level of dinner prep we needed. Then people weren’t happy, because they didn’t understand why we were closed.”
Yes, I had been one of those, I think sheepishly.
Success can be a difficult mistress.
Like an author who’s just created a blockbuster first novel, there’s been intense pressure on the BCL team to keep raising the bar. The time had come for them to go back to their roots, to renew and recreate themselves with a new project.
“We’re starting simple,” says Nic, “and we’ll see how it evolves. We wanted to create a spot that we’d like to hang out; a place where a surfer could drop in off the beach and feel really comfortable. There are six loading zones out the front. You can grab a coffee and a quick brekkie and keep on going.”
There really is that relaxed beach feel here, almost as though we’re having a barbie in a friend’s back yard!
“Food and fun for the normal surfer, that’s what we’re on about,” says Nic. “We’ve come back to where the people are, with 100% local trade. It’s great to know people by name, to see the same ones coming back for breakfast and lunch several times a week.”
It’s as though the guys have come back home to revitalise themselves in the surf culture where it all started. And the neighbourhood has embraced them with open arms.
“We’ve been in the dungeon, and now we’re in the light,” says Nic.
“Yep!” he adds, “it’s great to see sunshine!”
Open: Mon – Sun 6.30am – 2.00pm
NOTE: This review has also been published on Blank Gold Coast.