There’s nothing better than stumbling upon a communal meeting place, where friends new and old can unite over good coffee, good food and good vibes.
It’s exactly the sentiment that Jessica Moussi and Malia Sloman were going for when they opened Thornbury cafe, Brother Alec. Both were more than qualified to enter the industry; Jessica and Malia have worked in hospitality and customer service since the age of 15. The duo often joked about running a cafe together but in 2011 they finally took the plunge, injecting their youthful energy into creating Brother Alec.
The pair’s friendship and their amiable personalities extend to everyone who walks through the door; Brother Alec is a family and everyone’s welcome here. You’ll find freelance creatives, groups of friends, mothers with babies and even school kids popping in for a pre-class hot chocolate. Regulars make up a huge part of Brother Alec’s clientele but new visitors will quickly feel like part of the family. Jess and Malia’s experience and passion for hospitality naturally foster the cafe’s friendly customer-service culture, which is embodied by everyone they choose for their team.
The friends’ welcoming spirit extends to their longstanding suppliers. As Head Barista, Jessica regularly consults with the folk at Espresso Syndicate to discuss technique, equipment and the development of the seasonal, fair-trade, sustainable house blend. Jessica, Malia and their team continually develop their use of naked portafilters, which allow the creamy caramel, nut and fruit flavours to shine.
Jessica’s caffeine expertise extends to Brother Alec’s filter batch brews; the rotating selection shows off the best single origin beans from all over the world. Those opting out of a caffeine fix shouldn’t miss the seasonal house iced tea or the house-made chai.
The seasonal food menu reinforces their community spirit by highlighting local producers – St David’s supplies the dairy, Burd looks after the eggs and Rustica supplies the bread. These all come together in the hands of Head Chef, Michael Bennett, who brings his fine dining experience to the kitchen bench.
Both Jess and Malia’s backgrounds contribute to the diversity of the food at Brother Alec. Malia was born in Melbourne and raised in Seattle while Jessica spent her childhood between Lebanon and Australia; these influences shine through in the menu.
Jessica and Malia have promised that their signature huevos rancheros will never leave the menu, but you’ll also find creative seasonal breakfast and lunch dishes, such as the spiced potato omelette with Lebanese-style lamb sausage or the brioche French toast with mango and lime puree and blood orange mascarpone. Customer favourites – homemade raspberry jam, tomato relish and muesli – can be taken home, allowing the Brother Alec experience to be replicated in your own kitchen.
Whatever you’re after and whoever you are, you’ll be greeted with a smile at the door and most likely a hug on your way out. Brother Alec is that type of place: come for the coffee and stay for the company.