Before opening a cafe of his own, JohnPaul Marmora worked as a real-estate agent and a sales manager. “I actually spent a lot of time in cafes [for work],” he says. “And owning a cafe of my own was something I always wanted to do; to bring my vision to life.”
In 2018, Marmora spent time getting inspired at eateries in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. “And then the opportunity came up [back home] and I thought, ‘Okay, it’s time to act’.”
Assembly Ground is located in a former bank at a busy Essendon intersection, and was once home to the art deco-styled cafe Captain Grey. Much of the interior remains unchanged: the speckled grey-tiled counter still takes centre stage, chandeliers hang overhead, and brass finishes encase a display of cakes. The old orange, indigo and beige colour palette has been replaced with a lick of black paint to better highlight the gold finishes.
“The big idea behind the name Assembly Ground was that we are literally the assembly point in Essendon,” Marmora says. “We’re in front of a major tram junction, we’re among the schools, all the infrastructure happening in the area, all the local trades – it’s a gathering point.”
The all-day menu includes poached eggs on a homemade hash brown with pulled pork, paprika hollandaise and pickled cabbage. There’s also a colourful falafel bowl with edamame, quinoa, avocado, pumpkin, a smear of vegan labneh and a squeeze of lime. Fried-chicken tacos come with avocado, chilli, chargrilled corn, chipotle mayo and fresh lime.
For something sweeter, there’s an acai bowl with banana, strawberries, coconut and peanut butter, or blueberry-ricotta buttermilk pancakes with Oreo crumb, berry mascarpone, vanilla meringue and a raspberry-caramel syrup.
There are a few special kids’ meals, including bacon and an egg on toast or a fruit bowl (both $8), and a serve of popcorn chicken ($9).
If deciding on one thing puts you in a tough spot, go for the breakfast board: Noisette toast with avocado and goat’s cheese, a poached egg, a hash brown, a Dr Martys crumpet, a serve of raspberry-coconut chia pudding and a shot of freshly squeezed orange juice.
Other juices include a watermelon, apple, orange and pineapple number, and a spinach, apple, celery, cucumber, ginger and lemon green juice. Coffee is by Code Black and alternative lattes include matcha, turmeric and beetroot.
Between 12pm and 2pm all cocktails – including Espresso Martinis, Mimosas, Aperol Spritzes, Daiquiris, Margaritas and Pina Coladas – are $10.
104 Fletcher Street, Essendon
(03) 9370 4438
Mon to Fri 6am–5pm