I’ve wondered before in this column why good coffee and equally good food couldn’t be paired together more often in the city. And yet again, it took a group of Australians from Melbourne to open a coffee shop with a full menu; or is it a restaurant with great emphasis on coffee?
The third outpost of Bluestone Lane (55 Greenwich Avenue), adding the moniker “Collective Café” to its name, opened last Saturday in the underserved (from a specialty coffee standpoint) West Village. Not only are the owners Australian, the staff is predominantly Australian.That means notably friendly service for a coffee shop.
Large, sun-flooded picture windows dominate the unusually configured white and blue corner space. Don’t be fooled by the front room; to the left of the counter, a narrow corridor leads to a bathroom (which is strangely absent in several other coffee shops in the neighborhood) and a larger dining area as well as an intimate nook of outdoor space — perfect for lounging on a summer afternoon.
This is an ambitious effort, much larger than the first two Bluestone Lane cafes, and almost the diametric opposite of its initial midtown location, a walk-in closet space that charms up an otherwise drab subterranean office building concourse.
For now, pastries from Balthazar beckon below the counter. A full breakfast menu is coming soon and will feature standard Melbourne fare including an avocado smash with a tahini twist and a P.L.A.T. (prosciutto, lettuce, avocado, and tomato). The lunch menu features salads and at least five sandwiches, including a tender pulled pork, and for the porcine adverse, roast chicken. For the solid food adverse, four superfood-based smoothies will quell stomach growls. In the evening, the café will serve dinner, desserts, and a lineup of beers (two on draft, six by bottle) and wines (almost all by the glass), which borrow heavily from the Antipodes.
Bluestone Lane has switched coffee roasters from primarily offering San Francisco’s Sightglass to a Melbourne source called Niccolo, though they will continue selling Sightglass beans as retail. The usual line up of espresso-based drinks are available, and the baristas will be happy to recommend a flat white (textured but not fluffy milk with a ristretto espressos shot) or piccolo, though, since it is summer, you can opt for a cold brew, which they steep with a Toddy system.
This isn’t a spot to hunker down with a laptop. Though Wi-Fi will eventually be offered, the café’s front room has only two small tables; the rest of the seating consists of bar stools at narrow counters ringing the windows. The vibe in the back rooms — indoors or out– also doesn’t beget work; rather, the space gently encourages patrons to slip off their Soludos and read a book for pleasure; maybe daydream with a flat white and the Travel section of the Sunday Times. You know, like how a coffee shop used to be.