With a history beginning in the post-WWII era, the Galleon Cafe holds the distinction of being one of Melbourne's first modern cafés, and its owners view themselves not so much owners, but as custodians of the community cafe. Together, Adele Arkell, Jackie Bega, Natalie Blinco, and Jessica Firouz-Abadi put in a collaborative effort to sustain the cafe's sense of hospitality - one that they consider inherent to the St Kilda neighbourhood.
“This is a true Melbourne and St Kilda institution,” says Adele. “There are daily customers at the ‘Gal’ who have been coming since it was opened by Janet and Graham, 30 years ago.”
The stories involving the Galleon Cafe could fill a book. In its original site upstairs on Acland St, it was the place to go for an afternoon coffee during the period immediately following WWII. At night time, it became a cabaret venue, a tradition which was continued by Janet and Graham who took over the site in the 80’s. Circumstances forced them to move the Galleon to its current street level site in Carlisle Street soon after, but they took with them the booth seats and the other 50s-style tables and chairs which remain today. Over the years so many people met in the Galleon Cafe that the term ‘galleon friends’ eventually developed, and a fair share of locals even had their first date at the cafe.
The current ownership took over the cafe in 2004, with a focus firmly on coffee and all day breakfast. Today, retaining the original décor, the Galleon Cafe offers a homely setting of booths, artworks and a bulletin board of local events. The bright colours of a mural run along the front of the cafe bar, and a boat table, which resembles a rowing skiff, completes the nautical theme. “There is energy in those old ripped chairs that cannot be replicated,” asserts Adele.
In terms of coffee, the Galleon Cafe offers everything from a Babycino to a short black, and it also serves teas, juices, milkshakes, hot chocolate, fizzies, and Hepburn Daylesford Natural Mineral Water. The Galleon Cafe holds a liquor license and offers wine, beers, and a hefty Bloody Mary menu. The Muscle Mary comes loaded with veggies and fresh herbs, and the Smokin’ Smoky Bacon Bloody includes bacon salt.
For lovers of classic cafe food, the Galleon Cafe turns it into an art form. Bagels, cakes, croissants and muffins are all featured on the breakfast menu, as well as pancakes, French toast, and a wide array of kiddy, vegetarian, and non-vegetarian brekky items. The cafe takes great pride in serving perfectly poached South Gippsland free-range eggs, and, under Bowl Brekkies, the Rice Pudding, which is spiced with cinnamon, orange and vanilla, has been on the menu since the beginning.
For lunch, the Galleon Cafe serves salads, toasted sandwiches and a selection of burgers. Homemade Spanakopita is proffered under the snack section, and under salads, the Spiced Lamb Souvlaki comes with a salad, oven-roasted olives, minted yogurt, and grill toasted flat bread. Natalie, who is in charge of the Gal kitchen, says that there’s nothing better than ending a good ol’ fashioned meal with a good ol’ fashioned dessert, and she offers Ice Cream Sundaes and Cinnamon Strudels.