The other day we headed south to check out Where's Marcel? espresso bar in the Hurstville Westfield complex. Located just inside the entrance to the shopping centre from the ramp on Crofts Avenue, this is the brand's first operation in NSW after having been roasting and serving coffees in Melbourne for a while. It's not too far from home however, as it's being run by Hurstville cafe veteran Anthony "Prezzy" Preston. His list of previous establishments includes Miami Ice, Sul Ponte and the Di Bella roasting warehouse in Surry Hills to name a few. So why is he now running an espresso bar for a Melbourne roaster, and where is Marcel? Read on.
Before any involvement in coffee, Preston was a serious race car driver. Performing in competitions such as Formula Ford took his career to England, where he lived with fellow drivers such as current V8 Supercar competitor James Courtney and former Nascar legend Marcus Ambrose. In order to maintain a reliable source of income while racing, part time work as a barista began. Upon returning to Australia in 2001 he bought into a cafe business and hasn't looked back since. After running a few cafes, Anthony decided that his passions lay in specialty coffee, and he is now the roaster and distributor for Where's Marcel? in NSW as well as pulling shots at their new cafe.
The chrome finished La Marzocco Strada that sits atop the counter of the espresso bar creates an obvious point of difference from surrounding stores in the food court. The coffee itself is another change up from anything else the Hurstville area has been exposed to as well, with a list of rotating single origins adorning the blackboard. For starters we went with a Costa Rican Aquiares Estate long black. After breaking the crema and letting it cool a tad, strong and delightful notes of apricot shone through for what was a very balanced and enjoyable drink. Next was an Ethiopian Djimma from the cold drip tower, which was extremely dark with a thick, heavy mouthfeel, as well as tasting nutty with hints of dark chocolate. While this may have been one of the darkest, strongest cold drips I've ever had, it was extremely interesting to hear Anthony talk about the reasoning behind the way he decided to engineer the brew. As the Hurstville area is relatively unaccustomed to specialty coffee, exposing new consumers to a larger spectrum of what specialty coffee can offer (think the sweet apricot flavour of the Costa Rican compared to the dark, chocolatey Ethiopian) can possibly spark more interest and create more thought on their behalf for what they drink and enjoy. Engaging and educating more people in what constitutes a great cup of coffee is what makes characters like Preston pioneers in expanding the industry to new heights.
As for where Marcel is, rumour is that he's been found, and is alive and well in Melbourne. The story goes that apparently while on a trip to coffee origin in Brazil he was left behind at a restaurant, and it took longer than it should have for his fellows to start asking "Where's Marcel?" The phrase caught on, and when the business was born the obvious name was taken. As for what you can expect from them in the future, Preston hints that there's more than a few cafe accounts opening up with his beans, mostly around the southern reaches of Sydney. There's also the chance of a roasting warehouse cafe being unveiled, but you'll have to stay tuned.