The last time I was at this location, I was three years younger, and a café by the name of “Two Short Men” called this space home. Since then Radio Mexico took up residency here, but earlier this year the sun set on the Mexican Restaurant, and so ‘Poke the Bear’ was born. It’s the first solo venture by hospitality guru Ryan Cassidy, who has previously co-owned Truman of Albert Park, Galleon of St Kilda, and Veruca Salt of Elwood.
Being an avid Tennis fan, Ryan thought up the name after hearing a commentator remark “Don’t Poke the Bear” during a match. The phrase stuck, and so it seems have the 1990’s pop magazine pages- to the walls of the bathroom! As strange as it seems, I had a rather nostalgic experience while ‘powdering my nose’.
The cafe has a whimsical theme, which is far removed from the current Melbourne trend that focuses on minimalism. Poke the Bear takes a quirkier approach, inspired by Cassidy’s trips to Bali. Colourful reclaimed louvre doors line the main counter, behind which repurposed wooden crates serve as shelving for imported beer bottles and pineapples. A fern wall feature brings a slice of nature inside, and wicker light shades punctuate the Balinese vibe.
The playfulness trickles into the menu, with traffic light ‘se-juiced’ options. Red is beetroot, carrot, and apple. Yellow has pineapple, orange and passionfruit. Green is packed with kale, spinach, celery, and mint. The breakfast menu has a bear theme, including Grizzly Acai Bowls Goldielocks Porridge, and Grin & Bear It chilli scrambled eggs. Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Yogi Bear all represent some Melbourne breakfast favourites, but you’ll have to come see for yourself what each entails.
Coffee is sourced from Wide Open Road, and served with an aphorism, much like you’d find in a fortune cookie. Mine read, “Money won’t buy you happiness, but it will keep you in touch with your children”. Since I don’t have kids, it’s safe to say money does buy me happiness, in a cup, and commonly referred to as coffee. and I was treated to a special Colombian from the Women’s Coffee Growers Project. I do enjoy a coffee that has a beautiful story behind it. This particular lot from the Cauca region is farmed by women only, and the project aids in the provision of education, housing, and health to all 2300 members and their families. My long black was balanced, with smooth chocolate and hazelnut tones.
If you are anything like me, and wake up like a grizzly bear that needs coffee to function, then you’ll find just what you need at 2A Mitchell Street, in Northcote.
Poke the Bear
2A Mitchell Street