Willow Cafe is the result of owner Adam Dartnall’s desire to do something different. The seasoned hospitality veteran has long wanted to challenge himself with a new undertaking, one that was a step up in scale from his Stones Corner locale Stones Throw, which Adam has grown from pint-sized dispensary to popular pit stop since first opening in 2012. When it came to venue two, Adam had no intention of starting small again – instead has sought to bring a considered offering to an area that was already flush with small and mid-sized coffee spots, but was in need of more full-service options that catered to an all-day crowd. After a tip-off clued him in on a vacant space in Balmoral (the site formerly home to 5 Boroughs on the corner of Riding Road and Barton Road), Adam became enamoured with the suburb’s easygoing charm – a vibe that reminded him of the mellow backstreets of Noosa. Once the space was secured, Adam set about bringing a slice of the salt-licked, sun-soaked and stress-free energy of the Sunshine Coast to Riding Road, stripping the space of its American diner aesthetics (even going so far as to replace all kitchen apparatus apart from the rangehood) and applying a summery coastal theme. Crisp white walls, sky-blue tiles along the coffee bar and blonde-timber furniture will have guests feeling like they’ve stepped off the sand into a breezy beachside shack, with footpath dining and a light-dappled deck at the rear of the space giving vitamin D-deprived guests the chance to catch some much-needed rays.
With Willow’s laidback look and vibe sorted, Adam set about hiring a head chef that could craft a menu to match. The ideal candidate was found in Matt Roman, a chef with decades of hospitality experience on his resume, including his role as founder of hugely popular pie concept Piefection. Matt had catered numerous functions at Stones Throw over the years, each time delivering a sensational spread. Shortly after Matt sold Piefection back in March this year, Adam approached him to offer a position at Willow, giving Matt full creative license to go wild in the kitchen with the only proviso being that the menu couldn’t be boring. The resulting smorgasbord might be one of the most imaginative brunch menus in town – a colourful selection that respects the OG crowd favourites but adds several out-of-the-box dishes that will prove mighty tempting. Matt’s inventive flair is evident across dishes like the slow-braised oxtail shakshuka with capsicum and white-bean ragu, Australian blue swimmer crab cakes with yuzu dressing, 18-hour sous vide prime rib fillet Benedict, pomegranate creme brulee with fig labneh and Persian fairy floss, pan-seared Atlantic salmon laksa, and Willow’s signature layered vanilla bean and dragonfruit panna cotta with probiotic muesli. Also available is a selection of toast with toppings, free-range omelettes, build-your-own breakfast options and a kid-friendly offering. Seven Miles Coffee Roaster’s The Cat’s Pyjamas blend is on deck, served alongside specialty tea, cold-pressed juices and smoothies, sodas, milkshakes and an assortment of alcoholic beverages (bottomless mimosas are available for those keen on a boozy brunch with pals).
Willow Cafe is now open to the public. You can find operating hours, contact details and menu information over in the Stumble Guide.