The grey two-storey building at 218 Rundle Street was the launchpad for the Cibo Espresso brand 20 years ago, when the business opened its first coffee bar and kick-started Adelaide coffee culture.
The now Victorian-owned Cibo franchise has since expanded to have dozens of stores across wider Adelaide, yet its flagship Rundle Street cafe was forced to cease trading last year amid the pandemic.
After sitting closed for most of 2020, the building is back in local hands, reopening just over a month ago as KAFI:N.
The café serves coffee, cakes and gelati with a focus on local suppliers, including Dawn Patrol coffee beans.
The ground floor of the venue is open, and the cafe is currently working towards installing a kitchen. A cocktail lounge on the first floor is then scheduled to open on Thursday, April 1.
The cocktail lounge will offer tapas and canapes with a fireplace, exposed brick features and a collection of gin, whisky and wine.
The kitchen will serve breakfast and brunch offerings downstairs.
KAFI:N utilises gelati from Gelato Bello, milk from the biodynamic Paris Creek Farm, and hand-made cakes from Jenny’s Gourmet Bakery and Paesano Bakery.
The cafe was co-founded by small-business owner Aisen Liong, who says he was lucky to be able to secure the lease on the well-known building when it came up late last year.
In 2017, Liong established Norwood Parade restaurant Hsin Fortuner as his first solo business venture.
“We are very lucky, because we knew that there were some big names who also put an offer for this building. We were first in, best dressed,” says Liong.
“Our coffee is totally different approach to Cibo, which is a traditional Italian coffee style that is very dense, while our coffee is medium roast and it’s fruitier.”
The plans were initially solely to create a café, but after the location came up they discovered the upstairs lounge area that had not been fully utilised.
“The liquor licence is for the whole building, so if people are looking for cocktails, they will be able to go upstairs, and if they just want a casual beer we’re going to install a beer tap downstairs.”
Liong is from Indonesia where his family ran a traditional cake factory. He went to high school in Taiwan and then studied further at Adelaide’s Le Cordon Bleu campus, interning at hotels in Hamilton Island and Melbourne.
It was while apprenticing at House of Chow that he met his current business partner Fei Shang. The pair had long talked about started a cafe together, but when Shang travelled to Shanghai for Lunar New Year in 2019, the pandemic hit and she couldn’t get back to Adelaide.
“Fei was very interested in coffee, and we had always wanted to do something together. She was already planning to actually set up a coffee store in Shanghai, but I phoned her to say that I had found the perfect location,” says Liong.
“It’s very unfortunate, but if not for the pandemic we would never have this store. The coronavirus has been really hard for everybody, especially for smaller businesses. We’ve survived, so there are two sides of the coin.”
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