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Mere Store/Café – Boots, Bahn Mi and Delicious Breakfasts

By Madeleine Gray on November 23, 2016 in Food

Photo: James Noakes

Photo: James Noakes

‘Mere’ is not an adjective that a lot of Sydneysiders would elect to use when describing themselves. In conversation, ‘mere’ is often used in a derogatory sense, to emphasise triviality and insignificance. However, the word can also mean ‘slender’, or ‘minimal’. It can mean humble simplicity. It is to this sense of the word – this modest ease – that shoe designer James Noakes’ new Bondi retail and food space pertains.

James launched his shoe label, Mere, back in 2008. He uses hand-sourced leather, and has worked with the same team in Ho Chi Minh since the label’s inception. This July, he and his partner Kelly Brooker opened Mere’s flagship store on Bondi Road, complete with a café and courtyard oasis out back. The vibe is the opposite of ostentatious – it’s ‘mere’, through and through.

Inspired by his affinity with Vietnam, James’ café is a nod to all things Vietnamese, but with an Aussie edge. The interior is small – just enough room for a coffee machine and a little kitchen – but outside there sits a verdant garden, with wooden tables that smell like the forest, and bright green plants that offer shade and respite.

Our Swedish waitress Josephine told us that the café’s aim is, “To be a place for everyone. We are just trying to keep a non-stressful vibe that is friendly, welcoming and relaxing.”

It seems they are succeeding. During my time in the courtyard, a bearded writer sits and jots down notes while sipping on a piccolo latte, a surfer utilises the free WiFi, and two young European women gossip and laugh in the corner.

Though the menu is not extensive, it is well thought out. The breakfast menu sticks to the Aussie classics – think smashed avo on sourdough, bagels with smoked salmon, and gluten free granola and coconut yoghurt – and the lunch menu takes a distinctly Vietnamese turn.

Come 11am, the bahn mi is where it’s at. If you’ve ever travelled in Vietnam on a budget, it’s likely you’ll know all about these delights. In short, they’re fresh, crunchy bread rolls with cucumber, tomato, pickled carrot, lettuce, coriander, chili, mayonnaise, and your choice of either sesame crusted tofu, slow cooked pork shoulder, or slow roasted chicken with lemon and rosemary. I chose the pork, and it was delicious. Barista and cook Nathan ensured me that he pulls the pork “with love”, and I could taste it.

There is also a plethora of refreshing beverages on offer, from Single Origin coffee, to a range of loose-leaf teas. I got the Vietnamese ca phe sua da (coffee, water, ice, and condensed milk), and the cold combination of sweet and bitter hit the spot perfectly.

So next time you’re hurrying down busy Bondi Road, why not treat yourself to a bit of time-out? Head into Mere, sit in the sun, and switch off for a bit.

Mere Store/Cafe
Address: 79 Bondi Road, Bondi
Phone: (02) 9387 7518
Instagram: @merefootwear
Opening Hours: Daily 9am – 5pm
Prices: $8 – $16
Cards Accepted: All major
Licensed/BYO: Neither