Exchange Specialty Coffee, a tiny establishment tucked away in Vardon Avenue in Adelaide’s East End, can assume some responsibility for raising that bar.
Owner Tom Roden is a university graduate whose part-time work in hospitality not only got him through his studies, but also became his calling.
“Hospitality was always my part-time job while studying arts and media at Adelaide University,” he explains.
“Eventually I realised I was really interested in what I did, with each new place that I worked a step above the last. My strongest influence was from my time at Workshop Coffee in London, where they designed their stores to facilitate engagement between staff and customers.
“By the time I was working in London I realised what I wanted to do and went about making it happen in Adelaide.”
Exchange Specialty Coffee opened in July 2013.
“We were the first hospitality enterprise on Vardon Avenue at the time,” says Roden.
“East End Cellars were still in their old location across the street, there was no Mother Vine and no Nola. We had a bit of fortune there, as I knew the previous tenants of this premises were moving out.”
Exchange seats about 20 indoors and can accommodate another four or so on the footpath when the weather is fine. It’s always busy and has a strong following for its coffee, its all-day brunch menu and friendly service.
Exchange uses Market Lane coffee from Victoria, but the food ingredients are local and seasonal and prepared on site.
“At the time we opened, the Adelaide roasting scene was very immature and while we’ve now got some great local product from Monastery Coffee and Dawn Patrol, I still believe the best roasters are still in the eastern states,” says Roden.
Chef Zak Holmes took over the stoves at Exchange in February, relieving Roden and his brother James from cooking duties. Together, they collaborate on a carefully curated menu of food which is generous both in quality, quantity and price.
“I want to be generous and maintain a high level of product without being over-the-top expensive,” says Roden.
“We have to be mindful of what’s nearby and who we are competing with – with lunch places we are at the upper end, but we couldn’t afford to go any cheaper.”
Given its size, a challenge for Exchange will be its capacity to accommodate its growing clientele of local residents and workers, uni students and shoppers from nearby Rundle Street.
“We don’t appeal to everyone, but I hope the reason that we are becoming busier is that we still offer genuine service,” Roden says.
“I do my best to employ staff who are engaging; I don’t want there to be any pretence or arrogance.”
Favourite dish: French toast with strawberry mousse, pistachio praline, fresh berries and espresso syrup ($17). Made with fresh Village Baker ciabatta, Exchange’s French toast is like a puff of cinnamon donut doused in fat raspberries, strawberries and blueberries and served with shards of crisp pistachio praline, a sprinkling of crushed pistachios and fragrant baby coriander leaves, and a couple of dollops of the lightest strawberry mousse made with yoghurt.
Other dishes: Mexibreakfast ($16.50) – a flavour-packed dish of poached Kangaroo Island free-range eggs, crisp pancetta, roasted cherry tomatoes, avocado and melted cheese on crumbly bright yellow house-made cornbread served with smoky chipotle sauce, minted yoghurt and barbecued corn; Tunisian Tomatoes ($15) – avocado, cherry tomatoes, roasted peppers, Spanish onion, Persian feta and caraway dressing on toasted Village Baker rye sourdough; The Wallace Sandwich ($13.50) – avocado, Barossa pancetta, chipotle mayonnaise, tomato, roasted peppers, and coriander salsa on a ciabatta roll (Exchange’s signature dish); and slow-braised Boston beans ($18) – Barossa pork belly, crackling, mojo verde, toasted almonds, poached KI eggs and fresh chilli on toasted Village Baker ciabatta.
Something sweet/to drink: There is a glass cabinet full of pastries delivered daily from Abbots and Kinney on Pirie Street, as well as a few sweet brunch dishes including banana bread with whipped cream cheese, strawberries and candied pecans ($8.50); granola with Paris Creek yoghurt, poached pear and seasonal fruit ($14) and French toast (see ‘Favourite dish’ above).
Coffee is, of course, a specialty with several espresso blends and washed filter varieties on offer. The “polarising” espresso tonic, a trend from Europe that is gaining popularity as an alternative to iced coffee, is a must-try because Exchange does this really well.
Is it licensed? “I’m not interested in serving alcohol at Exchange,” says Roden. “We’re not kitted out for it and Vardon Avenue is now serviced by three wonderful drinks venues in Nola, Mother Vine and East End Cellars.
Exchange Specialty Coffee
12 – 18 Vardon Avenue, Adelaide, 0415 966 225
Open Monday to Friday 7am to 5pm, Saturday 8am to 4pm and Sunday 9am to 4pm.
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