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Kevin's here to help - fresh-faced New Farm cafe that’s trading every day of the year

The Weekend Edition

This week, a pair of local coffee gurus officially opened the doors to Kevin – a long-awaited caffeine and chow spot, nestled inside a lovingly restored Queenslander cottage on Brunswick Street. The cafe is primed to make waves in the local brunch scene with a menu that uses fine-dining techniques to maximise locally grown produce, delivering fare that is several notches above your run-of-the-mill avocado toast. And, perhaps best news of all, it’s open 365 days a year. Take a peek inside …

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Sam Holman made himself a promise that he wouldn’t undertake any big projects in 2024. This year was going to be one of consolidation, with a rebrand of his flourishing coffee roaster The Black Lab Coffee Co. on the cards and three venues – Blackout and Noir in Paddington, and St Lucia joint If You Say So (which he co-owns with Eli Rami) – already taking up much of his attention.
But then, on an impromptu visit to Drip in Newstead, Sam spied the caffeinery’s owner Yolanda van Houtte looking at realestate.com. “He came in to grab a coffee and say hi, and he asked what I was doing,” recalls Yolanda. “I was just having a look. I told him I had all of this equipment and didn’t really know what to do with it, so I was like, ‘Do you want to jump in?’. Five minutes later we were business partners.”This spontaneous partnership has resulted in Kevin, a fetching 50-seat cafe that just opened inside an old workers cottage on Brunswick Street in New Farm. The area might be familiar to some – institution restaurant Taj Mahal once sat a few doors down on the corner before it was destroyed by a fire in 2019. Thankfully, Kevin’s character-filled home escaped a similar fate, and with the help of custom-build specialist J.H. Dixon, Sam and Yolanda have been able to give the building a new lease on life while still retaining much of its heritage charm.

Boasting a wholesome farmhouse-inspired vibe, Kevin is incredibly inviting aesthetically. Inside, the space boasts solid timber floorboards, VJ panels, a large communal dining table, sea-green tiled coffee counter, olive-hued banquettes, rattan shelving, a ‘Kevin’ sign in gold leaf on the window (applied by Barker Signs), and a whole lot of plant life. An umbrella-shaded street-facing deck out front is pet-friendly, while a gas-strut takeaway coffee window services the all-important grab-and-go crowd.

With their dream site secured, Sam and Yolanda have sought to match aesthetics with a conscientious produce-driven culinary ethos and fine-dining-level technicality. It all starts with the ingredients, which the team sources themselves as much as possible, with gaps filled by local farmers and suppliers.

“A lot of it comes from Yo’s little hobby farm that she’s got up in Kurwongbah,” says Sam. “Basically everything in the kitchen can be grown on that farm.”

“I was starting to slowly drip-feed some fresh produce into [Drip’s menu], and it clicked in my brain that that’s what I want to do when it comes to my style of cafes,” adds Yolanda. “Now I want to be doing that full-time – it means that we can really create menus by season and we’re not relying on those deliveries coming in to find out if something’s gone out of season.”

In order to minimise wastage, Kevin’s kitchen excess is cycled back to the farm in a process the crew hopes will evolve into a mostly closed-loop system. “Being able to utilise the volume of kitchen scraps coming from this place, we almost have everything we need to close our circle a little bit,” says Yolanda. “Obviously nothing’s ever perfectly closed, but we’re going to try and limit that wastage and actually use it to grow better produce.”

As for the menu itself, Sam is relishing the opportunity to dip back into his experimental leanings and deliver a brunch offering unlike what is readily available. He’s doing this by tuning up recognisable classics with unconventional ingredients and high-end techniques, so that while each dish is familiar, there’s something new under the hood.

“I want to push the guys in the kitchen to be quite technical on a chef level,” says Sam, who explains that the menu is prep heavy, but not on plate time. You’ll find powders, gels, dehydrated ingredients and ferments – things that give classic brunch fixtures an elevated twist. “We were pushing the limits of what breakfast food was back when we had The New Black (Sam’s Fortitude Valley cafe, now operating under new owners). We want to try and bring the same energy back.”

Kevin’s offering starts with a build-your-own breakfast section, encompassing everything you’d need to construct your ideal brekkie. If you’re feeling adventurous, though, Kevin’s signatures are where you’ll want to start. Take the avocado toast, for example – here it’s elevated with zucchini, yuzu, goats cheese and seven-spice pepitas. The ‘nduja scramble is a spicy number featuring soft herbs, smoked yoghurt and biang biang sauce, while the summer chai semolina porridge is a refreshing riff featuring blood plums, elderflower, coconut crumbs and lemon honey.

Other stand-out options include the pickled cherries with labneh, shaved almonds and chilli honey, the grilled swordfish burger with broccoli pesto and house tartare, and the Ultimate Katsu Sando – a two-hander comprising crumbed chicken, green tomato, slaw and shichimi kewpie.

As is to be expected from a cafe run by two coffee gurus, Kevin is the place to go for a primo pour. “There’ll be a lot of takeaway coffee and it’ll be pretty espresso heavy,” explains Sam, who reveals that Kevin will soon be the first cafe account to serve Dibs outside of the roaster’s Albion HQ. “But we also have cold drip, two batch brews and we’ll have a rotating list of frozen single origins as well – it’s a bit of a reserve menu of a couple of really nice geishas that we’ve got in storage at the moment.”

Good news New Farm locals, brunch hunters and coffee fiends – Kevin is now open and it’s trading every day of the year (including all public holidays). 

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