Waiting to see what the next two weeks will bring

Waiting to see what the next two weeks will bring

By Rhonda Dredge

Typically, a cafe during Stage 4 restrictions puts out a board advertising their take-away menu and hopes for the best.

The Espressionist on River Esplanade has a more complex history and an evolving identity.

The freehold space began as a gallery in 2016 then it added a coffee cart.

Now it’s operating as The Bait Shop with takeaway fish and chips for locals and a steady stream of explorers attracted to the location.

Michelle Nielson rode in from South Yarra during the third week of Stage 4 with a mental map of all the good coffee places within five kilometres of her home.

“They’ve got Inglewood coffee,” she said, pleased to find one of her favourite roasters. “It’s part of Brentwood.”

Also on her list were The Story So Far on Southbank, which was serving a single origin Brazilian with its lattes, and Vacation Coffee in the CBD.

“I think it’s still open,” Michelle said of Vacation. “I haven’t been there for a while. I’m trying not to go out too much.”

The location of The Espressionist is its greatest asset, on the river where cyclists can lengthen their rides within the five-kilometre permitted radius and test out their pedals to undiscovered destinations.

Another visitor was Bill Farr, a former art director at The Age. “This is my limit from Richmond,” he said.

Bill usually goes to Chimmy’s in Church St, but like many in our restricted city he is developing a bigger picture view of the geography.

Taylor McNab, general manager of the enterprise, used to live in Tower 5, a few metres to the east of the Espressionist, but “it took me four years before I noticed it because there was no advertising on this side.”

The former Docklander said that the business “was a blank canvas. I feel there was quite a bit of misconception. People didn’t understand what was happening.”

The coffee cart brought in customers, swelling numbers from two to 300 a day.

“People establish patterns quickly,” he said. “When I lived here the whole other side was a paddock.”

As new patterns are being forged and businesses are pivoting new ideas, River Esplanade has become attractive to hipsters from Footscray who like the laid-back feel. There’s a great track for bicycles and scooters, a grassy knoll for playing ball and even a pirate flag on one of the boats and it’s not the Sea Shepherd.

During Stage 3 restrictions visitors were arriving by water for their takeaway. Now that option has been ruled out but locals are hopeful they’ll be able to return to their boats in two weeks •

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