Written for Broadsheet Melbourne
Veneziano co-founders Rocky Veneziano and Craig Dickson have been selling coffee from their Abbotsford roastery for almost 13 years.
“[It] was not only an opportunity to showcase our brand,” Dickson says. “It’s always been a place where all our talent has been developed from.”
Some of Australia’s most successful baristas have worked at Veneziano, including Craig Simon (three-time Australian Barista Championship winner), Jade Jennings (Australian Specialty Coffee Association 2017 award winner) and Erin Sampson (2009 Australian Latte Art Championship winner).
When the pair moved operations from Abbotsford to Richmond in March 2014, they never imagined filling the huge warehouse space, but a cafe was always part of the master plan.
“We used to park our cars in here and [say], ‘We’re never going to fill this joint up.’ But I suppose during that time our business has grown a lot,” Dickson says.
Now, the cars are gone. In their place is a brand-new fit-out by Technē Architecture.
“We really liked the work they’d done, particularly … bringing greenery into venues,” says Dickson, adding that the brief takes inspiration from Garden State Hotel. “We are a factory first and foremost … so we wanted to make sure that our cafe still reflected the industrial style of the building.”
Dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows flood the expansive space with natural light. True to the eatery’s industrial roots, there are polished-concrete floors, and exposed copper and red pipes up top. Multiple baristas man a commanding stainless steel, oval-shaped bar in the centre of the room. On the other side, forklifts are unloading pallets, a glimpse behind the scenes of the business.
“Our customers have always been able to visit our roastery, walk in [and] see the green beans on the floor,” Dickson says.
Head chef KaiKai Yan (who has worked stints at Dinner by Heston and Union Dining) is plating colourful brunch dishes such as chilli scrambled eggs with chorizo crumb and crispy sage, and black rice and quinoa porridge with poached quince and toasted coconut.
“We understand as a specialty coffee roaster that the food we offer (particularly in our own venue) has to be at the same level [as others’] – if not higher – to be successful,” Dickson says.
Food aside, coffee is king here. A cupping lab beside the cafe, clad in timber and steel, is used for quality control. Six certified Q Graders (certified baristas) award coffee a score out of 100, and test to ensure coffee tastes the same as it did when it left the farm. There are cupping courses for industry, or anyone with an interest in coffee.
Back in the cafe, you can taste the results. Bond Street is the house blend right now (it changes quarterly); it combines Columbian and Ethiopian beans. There’s also single-origin coffee, filter, and a competition-grade microlot (selected high-grade beans) from La Palma y El Tucan in Columbia. A microlot coffee here will set you back a heavy $10, but it’s pretty special – it’s made with the beans that won Craig Simon the latest World Barista Championship.
For a triple-caffeine hit, the Barista Breakfast features a single-origin coffee, a milk-based one, and a filter served with tasting notes on a wooden tray.
Veneziano Coffee Roasters
16–18 River Street, Richmond
(03) 8326 5100
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