It’s been under wraps for months now, but Karen Pallister is ready to unveil Wagga’s newest cafe.
“This has been a long time coming,” she laughs, casting an eye around the brightly decorated interior of the refurbished shop in the Australian Arcade.
“Our first opening date was actually going to be January 17, but with COVID it’s been hard getting this and that, so it’s taken a little bit longer.”
Originally from Wagga, Karen and her television producer husband Glenn moved from Sydney a year ago to take over Le Brooks Cafe at the other end of the arcade.
She says a second venue was never part of the plan but was an opportunity too good to turn down.
“We do the catering for the courthouse so this was going to allow me to have a catering space and extra storage,” she explains.
“But it’s evolved into a lot more than that as we were able to purchase the premises, which gave us the opportunity to completely redo it.”
Decked out in floral wallpaper, hanging lanterns, carved furniture and soft lights, the new Le Brooks Grab and Go has a different vibe from the original Cafe.
“In decorating, it was a vision that I had of what I wanted to walk into,” she says.
“It feels like something from somewhere else, so when you walk in you could be anywhere – you could be in Paris or back in history.”
With a cafe at each end of the arcade, it was important to the Pallisters to offer something different at each location.
Grab and Go will serve prepared meals and different blends of coffee.
It also boasts the skills and personality of veteran barista Manni Zantiotis, who will bring his own unique flair to the business.
“My grandfather established one of the first Greek cafes in Australia back in 1916,” he says.
Three generations of Manni’s family lived and worked in the Busy Bee Cafe in Gunnedah.
“Cafes are literally in the blood,” he says with a grin and indicates a tattoo on his right forearm.
“I’ve even got the cafe crest tattooed on my arm.”
Manni worked extensively as a barista in Sydney before moving to Wagga and is looking forward to getting to know the locals and sharing the old-school warmth modelled by his grandfather.
“You pretty much knew everybody’s name, what they drank and what they ate,” he says.
“I really like the space of this cafe a lot. It’s got such a great feeling and when Kaz showed it to us, I took one look at it and it just spoke to me.
“It’s a cute, quaint little place and I reckon we could make it fire.”
He’s brought his own choice of beans from Sydney company Gabrielle Coffee and hopes to introduce a unique flavour to Wagga.
“It’s a wonderful company and Sam Gabrielian roasts the beans in a particular way that brings out the flavour profile,” he says.
“This one is called Fat Cap and it’s described as a moreish milk-based coffee with notes of rich caramel, heavy dark chocolate and creamy pecan pie.”
Karen says she’s enjoyed the last year of reconnecting with her hometown and being part of the vibrant local scene.
“You’ve got some really nice fine dining, you’ve got pubs and great breakfasts and just being able to go on an adventure on weekends,” she smiles.
“There’s a lot to love.”
Le Brooks Grab and Go will open on Wednesday (27 July) at Shop 24, The Australian Arcade, 54-56 Fitzmaurice Street, Wagga Wagga.