If there’s one thing you do upon a visit to The Lion and the Buffalo – besides indulge in the food and coffee menu – it’s stare at the huge mural of a woman holding a rabbit, painted by world-famous street artist Fintan Magee.
“We were so lucky he came into our little café to paint this incredible mural. He gets flown all over the world to paint. After ours he was going to Dunedin, New Zealand to paint a seven-storey building,” Owner Anna Allison says.
As for the inspiration behind the rabbits, Anna says it’s all to do with her love for Alice in Wonderland.
“In the film the rabbit watched the clock all the time, wondering if he was going to be late. It’s a metaphor for how we want our customers to enjoy the space. If you worry about the little things you’ll miss out on life itself. We want people to come enjoy themselves here, sit, and relax,” she says.
To help them do that, an extensive menu is served for breakfast and lunch.
“We hold a strong focus on quality of ingredients, which is evident in the beautiful Ora King salmon on the menu, mayura station full blood wagyu steak sandwich, and bacon and egg roll with a house-made espresso BBQ sauce,” Anna says. “We don’t want to follow trends so we’ve taken our contemporary approach to the food we serve, and our customers love it. It’s all about creating an experience on the plate.”
A La Marzocco GB 5 pumps out Single O’s Killer Bee blend, which Anna says is great for milk-based coffees but extremely popular in blacks. It’s a sweet blend with flavours of dark honey, toffee, and tropical fruit sweetness, with mild acidity, creamy texture, and a long milk chocolate finish.
“Customers really know our coffee. We spoil our customers with our quality and if it’s ever not up to scratch they’ll tell us out of courtesy,” Anna says. “People comment all the time we’re a Melbourne-quality café in Coogee. We take it as a compliment.”
Located in South Coogee, Anna says there’s a real community vibe in the residential area. Everybody knows each other’s name, neighbours who have lived in the area for 20 years without talking now unite frequently at the café, and elderly citizens use the facility as a place to catch up with loved ones. A 90-year-old woman across the road won’t leave the house except to walk over to the café.
“We love our strong sense of community. Customers are part of our community and we’re proud to operate a place for them to interact,” Anna says. “We have a strong connection with our customers. I came from Poland 12 years ago not speaking a word of English. I’ve worked in pubs and hospitality jobs, but always had a dream of opening my own café. Now I have.”
As for the café name, the big boss – that’s Anna – is the Lion, and Dean is the Buffalo. To begin, Anna says people thought the venue was a Brazilian BBQ place or an old English pub.
“We’re a dedicated coffee house and extremely passionate,” she says. “Come and say hi.”