Any avid reader knows that you need two things: a good book, and a good place to read it. That is where Avid Kitchen + Garden comes in.
Mia Goding, Emily Newham and Renae Belton are friends, neighbours and West End locals who had been dreaming of cultivating a community space. When the spot that was formerly the cafe at Avid Reader bookshop shuttered after 12 years, the trio knew they had found their new venture. “We are all passionate about community and wanted to create a welcoming and inclusive place for people to gather,” said Mia. “We feel really grateful to be part of such an iconic and much loved bookshop in the heart of West End.”
Tucked behind bookshelves and spilling out onto a covered terrace bursting with vegetation, the café seems designed with book lovers in mind. It is tranquil and rustic; the women are engagingly friendly in the way that immediately makes you feel at home. Coffee from Parallel Roasters is warm, reliable and meant to be sipped alongside a freshly cracked book.
The menu is not your traditional breakfast or lunch fare, though fresh pastries from Danny’s Bread and fresh salad are available. Instead, think Ploughmans and pickle plates, or traditional spanakopita — I found it more conducive to midday grazing than a full meal, but it is the kind of fare you would want on hand before diving into the latest Hannah Kent or George Saunders.
Offerings are subject to change, inspired by the rotating and developing collection of cookbooks stocked by Avid Reader. “There are no rules when it comes to selecting which [cook]books to use,” said Mia. “We go for recipes that look, sound and taste good and use seasonal ingredients we can source locally where possible.”
Just as the menu evolves to showcase a certain book, so do activities. Avid Kitchen hosts workshops on everything from pickling to urban beekeeping. For the recent launch of local cook and horticulturist Linda Brennan’s book A Delicious Bunch — Growing and Cooking with Edible Flowers, the women conducted a recipe demonstration and plated up Linda’s snapdragon muffins and edible flowers for a week.
Not surprisingly, the concept has been quickly embraced. “We’re lucky to be surrounded by such wonderfully warm people — the bookshop staff and their customers; loyal café customers that are happy to see the space reinvigorated and have made us feel welcome and supported,” said Mia.
Adults and kids can attend workshops; locals can escape the office for a morning coffee, friends can gather, and creatives and bookworms can swarm. “Avid Kitchen and Garden was created as a space for people to gather, connect and engage. It is a place for community to come together in a friendly environment, be creative, relax and spend time,” said Mia.
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