Place Holder kindly opened so close to the front door of my workplace that it’s pretty much the same distance from my desk as the kitchenette’s coffee machine, with the added benefits of a cake cabinet and the fact that someone else makes my coffee and it doesn’t taste like bong water. So it follows that I’m there around 1000 times a week.
Owners Sam and Sonam assembled the space themselves, adhering to design principles of simplicity. Light timber, bursts of greenery and a few pockets of stools turn out to be all you need to create a beautiful-looking nook in which to read the paper.
The pair serves exceptional coffee with a cross-section-of-Melbourne bean selection: Seven Seeds and Small Batch for espresso, Proud Mary for filter and “whatever else is tasting good” Sam tells me (this could mean Everyday Coffee, Market Lane or Top Paddock thrown in the mix).
You’d expect nothing less from boys known citywide not only for their skills and knowledge but for their winning banter and service.
Sam is Seven Seeds alumni, recognisable to those who frequented
De Clieu, Patricia and most recently, Top Paddock. Sonam’s clocked several years with the vintage Three Bags Full/Two Birds One Stone/Top Paddock crew (in and around locking down his architecture degree). Their partnership is a no-brainer: I’m no mathematician but legend + legend is a winning formula.
Place Holder is a semi-permanent presence, carved into the base of forthcoming real estate development, Neometro’s Number Nine Smith Street. The café looks into a display home set-up, which I like to imagine is my living room and that Place Holder is my butler-tended kitchen. Artist-run gallery Slopes nests at the back of the building and a community garden by 3000 Acres launched with a ceremonious cracking of coconuts in mid-February.
The garden – previously an unused car park – is dotted with
twenty-two recycled vinegar vats reborn as garden plots. Place Holder’s pair of plots supplies fresh herbs for teas and edible flowers. Another plot owned by Hamish and Andy, I can only assume, grows organic hilarity.
Food offerings have evolved since Place Holder’s doors opened a month back. Silo by Joost provide granola and the occasional rice pudding, hearty-looking sandwiches and a stunning selection of pastries are by Brunswick Street’s Rustica Sourdough, and cakes and assorted sweet treats are by NORA and Top Paddock (the cookie with M&Ms, a pretzel and a potato chip melded into its surface deserves special mention, as do the activated-charcoal tarts).
Open seven days (a godsend at this end of Smith Street where Mondays are hospitality’s Sabbath), Sonam and Sam are holding a place for you, brew at the ready (feel free to drop one by my desk: I take it black, no sugar, pretzel cookie on the side).