When five friends decided to set up a new café metres away from the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, arriving at a name for their new venture didn’t take too long.
“It was my brother’s idea to call it The Firm,” says Nando Folino, one of the partners. “There’s a movie called The Firm which we’re all fans of, and the name gets a smile out of our customers.”
The big open space in the middle of Melbourne’s CBD is well placed to serve the lawyers, barristers, and court officers who spend most of their working week in the area.
The bright, modern design offers plenty of space for regular visitors to drop in on their lunch hours. With ample seating both indoors and outside, Nando says it’s not uncommon for customers to bring in their laptops and stay for the day.
“The five of us have worked in the hospitality industry for most of our lives and at some point over the years we’ve all worked together,” says Nando. “When we opened up The Firm we wanted to offer something a bit different and bring a bit of variety to the area.”
With the intent of giving its customers more food choices than what had previously been available on Lonsdale Street, the partners brought in a huge glass display cabinet, which is filled each day with fresh new options. The cabinet sits up on the café counter besides a Wega Concept three-group espresso machine.
“I’m in here from 6am until about 5pm at night, and sometimes we barely get a chance to take a break,” says Nando. “I work a lot making coffees but we also have a full time barista who usually takes the lead.”
The Firm uses Map Coffee’s Caffé Fiore, which is a locally roasted blend, created especially for the Australian espresso coffee drinker.
“Caffé Fiore has a smooth, slightly chocolate flavour and is suited to both espresso and café lattes, which is what we find we make the most of,” says Nando. “We’ve recently switched to it as it’s got a bit of a stronger kick than what we were using previously.”
The Firm uses Vitasoy’s Café for Baristas soy milk. Nando says it gives the best balance between soy and coffee flavours, and performs consistently in the busy café environment. “We’ve been using Vitasoy’s [Café] for Baristas variety since we first opened and we’ve found it’s a great match with our coffee,” says Nando. “With this many years experience in Melbourne’s café scene we’ve learned that when you find a product that keeps your customers happy, you stick to it.”
Each morning the giant glass cabinet that takes up most of the counter is filled with fresh salads, roti wraps, pastries, cakes, focaccias, and more.
“All of our lunch options are made on the premises and made fresh each day,” says Nando. “We do catering for a number of the businesses in the area and by the end of the day the cabinet is often empty.”
Nando says one of their most popular lunch options is the chicken and avocado focaccia, a staple that can be eaten at the café or grabbed to take away.
“Providing simple, good food and really great coffee is what we do best and it seems to keep the regulars happy,” says Nando. “Because of where we are located we get to interact with people from all walks of life, which is what keeps the job interesting. As well as all those who work in the courts we see lots of people who are attending court for the day, so it’s a pretty mixed bag.”
Nando says that although he’s usually run off his feet, relaxing at the end of the day and seeing what they’ve achieved makes it all worth while.
“I love making coffee and I love getting to speak to so many people each day,” he says. “But to sit back with the team once everything is packed up – it’s a pretty good feeling.”