The well-loved laneway institution has moved.
When talking about the great service at a cafe people often mention how great it is when the staff knows them by name. But how often do you find a place where the staff knows the names of the canine regulars as well?
Paddington Café is the kind of friendly cafe that prides itself on doing both since first arriving in Belmont in September last year, opening right in the height of the COVID pandemic.
With COVID and restrictions forcing more people to work from home, Paddington Café owners and hospitality pros Molly Shalders and Tom Beattie saw the suburban spot as an opportunity to bring some inner-city cafe culture to their local community during lockdown.
While it was always a dream for the couple to create a life that is on their terms, the opportunity arose with Tom’s previous employer – a café in the Geelong CBD – having to shut due to a dramatic loss of foot traffic.
“I was working in a café in town which got shut down during lockdown and it really just felt like the right time to go out on our own,” Tom explains.
“We lived around the corner and this spot came up and it was just a risky whim. It was always the dream, it was always the thing we’d eventually get around to doing, but then it was here.”
From their very first day, Paddington Café really captured Geelong’s attention, with the Belmont community quick to embrace them, causing the humble and unassuming café owners to outgrow their quaint store in less than a year.
“Belmont as a community just really rallied for us. After the first few weeks of trading last year, we thought it would die off, that the novelty would wear off, but it didn’t,” Tom explains.
“It was always supposed to be just a takeaway spot, as we were right in the middle of COVID. There was no customer toilet, no kitchen, just a sandwich press, and we relied on word of mouth, but we ended up peaking in a way. And so, as we got busier, we started thinking, ‘well could we do more stuff?’ But we just couldn’t do it there.
“Now it’s a year later and we’re in a bigger joint and we’re looking to do more things. It’s just surreal.”
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Taking all they learnt from their hidden laneway spot, Molly and Tom have transported their neighbourhood eatery to a brand-new location on High Street, right in the heart of Belmont.
While originally considering expanding the previous venue, the pull of a street-front venue with room for a kitchen, surrounded by businesses they love and a blank canvas to work with was too great, leading them to embark on this brand-new chapter.
Operating under the same wholesome name, the couple turned an empty shopfront on High Street into a bright, welcoming café in just six weeks. Here, Paddington Café takes the industrial-chic look that’s common in Melbourne’s cafes and makes it something else: warm, inviting and homely.
With high ceilings, elegant timber, polished concrete, forest green and bright white tiles, unpretentious pendant lights, a dedicated kitchen area, a rich clay feature wall, mint topped bar stools and tonnes of natural light, Paddington Cafe could convince you you’re having coffee in your best friend’s home, rather than Belmont.
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Under the guise of a fresh new logo, courtesy of local artist Ella Carroll, the space feels fresh and light, with the happy, laid-back staff making Paddington Cafe a sweet choice – whether you’re bringing little kids, furry friends, or just an empty stomach.
The menu hosts all the usual staples that the community have come to know and love, including some seriously stacked bagels. Sure, there are tried-and-tested toppings, but you’ll also find some unexpected yet equally delicious combos.
You’ll also find vibrant offerings like a granola bowl and coconut and apple bircher, as well as croissants, hearty toasties, and avocado and eggs on toast.
For a sweet fix, there are treats from Cakesmith, Butterbing cookies, pastries from Noisette and carb-loaded goodness from Ket Baker and La Madre Bakery.
As for the caffeine, well the cafe knows its brew. Offering Clark St Coffee (a brand renowned for its sustainable ethos and emphasis on environmentally-friendly packaging), Paddington Café is the go-to for when you need a buzz that both does the job and is rich in delicious flavours. You’ll also find milkshakes, freshly squeezed juices, cold brew, and Kombucha.
Much like their previous venue, a stocked up retail section continues to set them apart from their café compadres, where you can pick up some freshly made bread, coffee beans, olive oils and delicious condiments. Oh, and of course they didn’t forget about man’s best friend; puppy treats are also available from local gem Pups Picnic.
With a combination of top-flight coffee and food, the place is regularly busy and always humming with energy, regardless of what day or time you visit. It’s quite clear, the Belmont community’s love for the local coffee spot has never been greater.
“You really are nothing without the support of those around you and opening a business amongst such an unsure time has taught us that community is everything. We are so grateful and humbled,” Molly says.
“We love being a part of Belmont and it would be amazing to see the area boom, we think that it will only continue to grow.”
And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, turns out the power couple have keen plans to launch evenings in the not-too-distant future, with cocktails, beers and live music. Stay tuned for those updates, because you can bet Tom and Molly will deliver on all fronts.
A place of community, creativity and old-fashioned customer service, aptly named after the homeliest bear of all, Paddington Café is your home away from home, with the added benefit of perfectly poured specialty coffee.
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Paddington Café is now located at 134B High St, Belmont and is open daily from 7am-3pm.