It's one thing to find a good café that you can call 'your local'. It's another thing entirely - and downright frigging lucky - when a good café happens to actually be your local.
Welcome to Finders Keepers - a gem of a superstar on JoJo's doorstep.
Finders Keepers opened it's doors to the good people of Hawthorn in June 2014 on the corner of Riversdale and Glenferrie road. What initially started out as a relatively small operation run by partners Sean and Kirsten, would eventually grow into a large enough following that they found themselves in need of a bit more floor space.
No really, we're talking lines out the door for Sunday brunch.
Their offerings were pretty simple to begin with - great coffee with a couple of breakfast and lunch options. They had a sensational chef with great ideas and soon expanded their menu. Then word got out they were tearing up the café scene. Then a vacancy came up in the office space next door, they knocked the wall out and voila - the 'new' Finders Keepers!
We girls have been keen to catch up at the newly renovated Finders Keepers for a little while and finally managed to get our butts into gear to actually do it several weeks ago. We were in serious need of a proper natter but more importantly, we wanted to see if it 'felt any different'
You know when a good business does a bit too much at once, spreads itself way too thin and loses its spark? That's what we were afraid of.
Did it happen?
No. Not at all.
Here we were, Saturday early afternoon: starving because we had wasted the day being indecisive and unorganised human beings with no set goals in life, wanting nothing more than a big breakfast and some caffeine.
We couldn't get up early enough for actual breakfast and had a hard time settling on where we actually wanted to go. This is a somewhat common occurrence, especially as you're dealing with two independent women with a handbag full of never ending opinions.
Eventually, we settled after circling around Melbourne for an hour and drove up to Finders Keepers, coming to a stop near the lights. We saw Sean leering out towards the road outside his café and flailed around wildly to catch his eye, mouthing the words "we're coming in, feed us" - thankfully he spotted our woeful grab for attention and gave us a hearty thumbs up. We drove off to stash the car, feeling particularly pleased with this interaction.
If you've visited before, you may be interested to know what the new section of Finders Keepers looks like. Thankfully, they've kept true to their clean minimalist aesthetic - with a little more added greenery.
They've maintained the same light fixtures and wooden accents. They have a lovely new communal table lining one side of the extension which looks great - another example of Sean's carpentry skills maybe? Rumour has it he did all of his own tables.
We start off as we always do at cafés - with some caffeine. LiLi elected for her favourite Soy Chai Latte ($4.50) and JoJo went for a Mocha made with a batch of homemade Almond Milk ($4.80).
Li's soy chai was elegantly presented on a wooden plank to pour herself and sweeten to her liking.
As soon as it's set down, you're hit with the aromatic spices that fill the air with cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
If you're expecting a typical boxed chai latte, then you're in for a treat. It's refreshing to see actual small cloves and other spices stopped by the filter out as you pour into your cup. The added touch of honey connects the wholesome flavour without the lingering processed sugar after taste.
A very warming and fragrant drink, perfect for Autumn. Soothing on the palate with a slight kick to subtly remind you that hey, you're drinking a chai latte.
JoJo isn't a fan of almond milk coffee unless it's done with care and, there are only two places that she has found to date in Melbourne that are up to the task. Finder's Keepers happens to be one of them and they're so good that she will often grab a cup on her way to work.
Finders Keepers recently made the switch to Code Black for their beans, previously having favoured Veneziano and whilst there are subtle differences in the body of the final product - JoJo prefers the combination of their Code Black house blend with almond milk.
The almond milk? Sean makes it himself and it's better than any of the boxed crap out there with it's rich, full bodied roundness. It's relatively guilt free too!
Now. it wasn't just the two of us on this fine day. Grumpy mate Rich was in attendance as well. He needed a pick-me-up after driving us half way across the state and there was just no way he'd skimp out on brunch at FK!
Here's what we ordered:
Grumpy Mate Rich
Almond Milk Mocha ($4.80)
Chilli Scrambled Eggs ($19)
Scrambled eggs with bacon batons, chilli, spring onion, parsley and parmesan (ordinarily on sourdough toast)
+ Chorizo ($4.50)
Almond Milk Mocha ($4.80)
Breakfast Salad ($18)
Rocket, avocado, bacon, goats cheese, cherry tomatoes & sourdough crumb (ordinarily topped with poached eggs)
+ Field Mushrooms ($4.50)
Soy Chai Latte ($4.50)
Breakfast Hotdog ($18)
Pork sausage, smoked cheddar, crispy bacon, tomato relish and a fried egg in a hot dog bun
Grumpy mate Rich isn't exactly well known for branching out and trying new things. By kind of the same token though, he sticks with what he knows is amazing and in this case, it's the Chilli Scrambled Eggs. He smashes a plate every time he visits.
Grumpy mate proclaims that this dish is extremely satisfying. Well, if he's had it enough times, you'd hope he was relatively well informed; perhaps even a bit of a subject matter expert on the dish. Although it is normally served on top of sourdough toast, Rich goes without, opting for chorizo in place of the extra carbs.
He loves how the chilli, spring onions and bacon adds a medley of different textures to the silken eggs. Very savoury, especially with addition of chorizo,
This is the Breakfast Salad. JoJo isn't a fan of most breakfast foods, but this does her quite well - and look at it for God's sake. It's GORGEOUS. Granted, this is a bit of a deviation of the regular breakfast salad (Jo swapped out the eggs for mushies), but take comfort in the fact that it looks gorgeous in it's original form too.
This is just really well thought out. It isn't heavy in the slightest but you do feel adequately filled afterwards. Underneath those mushrooms, you've got chunks of goats cheese tossed through the salad, giving it a great bite and the sourdough crumb adds a subtle savoury texture.
Don't worry, you've also got strips of bacon and cherry tomatoes under those (by the way, amazing) mushrooms, adding enough flavour that even the most stubborn salad-cynic non-believer would be able to sit through a plateful and not whinge too much.
LiLi's Breakfast Hotdog was a real treat. Now just be aware that this is a weekend special but oh man, we'd love this to find a full time spot on the menu.
It's a hotdog - there isn't much more to it other than that. Well, okay, it's a great Italian pork sausage, with a crazy good arrangement of condiments, ie, relish and smoked cheddar. SMOKED. CHEDDAR. We don't know what it is about eating a hot dog for breakfast that makes you so happy to be alive in the year of 2016, but we want more of it.
Why aren't breakfast hotdogs a thing more often? Seriously?!
We stayed for an hour or so, catching up over our delicious spread of food. JoJo had recently come back from holidaying in the Philippines and she had a bunch of stories about the places she ate at and what she bought that she wanted to share. Soon though, it was time to go our separate ways and venture home.
Ordinarily, we'd end the blog here, after the usual blurb, photos of the interior and our rating. This one is a bit special to us though and we hope we've been able to give you a little insight as to why so far.
So, we like to think we're good friends/dedicated groupies/general creepers of the Finders Keepers cool kids club and, because Jo has essentially watched them grow from day one (or thereabouts, she had to disappear to Perth for a couple of months shortly after finding them after they opened. The heartbreak was very real.), we want to try and do something a little different with this post.
Keep reading for a bit of a chat we had with owners Sean and Kirsten about the journey so far and read about the passionate crew who work so hard to set the tone for one of the best café experiences in Hawthorn.
How did you guys first get started in the business?
"Sean has had a passion for coffee and hospitality for years, starting his own coffee catering company in his late teens then working with a number of larger coffee related companies. Before Finders Keepers, Sean (and another family member) opened Red Brick Cafe in Surrey Hills, which they sold in 2013. We decided it was time to go out on our own and that’s how Finders Keepers Cafe came to be. My experience is not coffee/cafe related at all, I have a business/teaching background though which helps with all the behind the scenes bits and pieces!"
What is Finders Keepers all about (apart from being awesome)?
"We’re glad you think FK is awesome! Whenever we try to define Finders Keepers, it always comes back to the whole customer experience and definitely consistency. We pride ourselves on our personalised service, simple, fresh quality food and excellent coffee. Sean is amazing with people, he has built some fantastic relationships with customers and really makes people feel like they’re part of the FK family, whether they buy one coffee or come in daily. We also have a really great group of people working with us, many who have been with us since we opened, who have built a strong rapport with many of our regulars. So, in a round about way, I guess that’s what we’re all about!"
You've been in Hawthorn a little while now, what have been some of your biggest challenges? What have been some of your most rewarding experiences?
"We’re coming up to 2 years (on 17th June) which has flown by. We never could have imagined that we would be welcomed into the Hawthorn community so readily and had such positive feedback in a relatively short period of time. This in itself brings it’s challenges. We went from initially thinking we could run Finders Keepers as a couple, with Alex (Zuccala) our chef in the kitchen and maybe one or two extra staff members on the floor, we were so wrong! We have a 2 year old daughter, so being able to manage home and work has probably been a really big and important challenge. We’re lucky that we have a really strong support network who have really helped out on the home front. The most recent and obvious challenge (and rewarding experience) would have to be extending into next door. When the opportunity arose, it seemed like a no-brainer, but you never know if the risk is going to pay off! Luckily for us it has."
We really love your coffee but we are probably more impressed by the fact that your food offerings are top notch and scarily consistent. What is going on in that kitchen!?
"Alex our chef is fantastic. She is passionate and dedicated and an integral part of Finders Keepers. We are constantly checking consistency, the last thing you want as a customer is to order your favourite thing off the menu and to be handed something completely different! There are plenty of places out there doing the cutting edge thing, gastronomic masterpieces with hard to pronounce names and ingredients you have to google so you don’t look like an idiot when you order it… don’t get me wrong, tastes and looks amazing, just not what we’re about. We want our food to be simple, fresh and delicious."
Plans for the future?
"We’re always talking about what to do next! We’ve only just extended, so at this stage nothing on the horizon, but we’ll keep you posted if anything changes!"
For months Jo told me about Finders Keepers and that I needed to make my way to this place because I was missing out. Sounds really promising when your friend talks so much about a local café, close to home with the best customer service imaginable.
I went with a special that day, straying away from the regular menu which I believe remains fairly untouched and thought a Breakfast Hot Dog was in order. We had traveled so far and wide that day around South Melbourne being unsuccessful and I think by this stage I was overly hungry. The breakfast dog was way too big for my mouth so I was one of THOSE people that ate a hot dog with a fork and knife. I know! The travesty! The tomato relish was to die for and mixed in with the smoked cheddar made it even more amazing! I love any type of smoked cheese just FYI.
I always enjoy chai lattes that use real spices over powder. Gives it a more genuine taste over sugary options most cafés use. The honey gave a natural sweetness without drawing away from the spices. I love the presentation and it's one chai concoction that's worthy to note.
High expectations were set from the get go for me. You're immediately enthralled by the buzz that goes on at Finders Keepers. The owners are super friendly and welcome you like an old friend. I'd go back for just the service alone. Definitely a place to go visit at Glenferrie junction.
I could be biased but...
I think everyone should get out to Hawthorn and check these guys out.
Finders Keepers is the relaxed home café experience that everybody wants but is incredibly so hard to come by. You are always made to feel at home as soon as you walk through the door no matter who is behind the counter or on the floor.
I've had a lot of the offerings on the current menu and struggle to choose a favourite. Lately, I turn to the Breakfast Salad because of the fact that I am trying to adhere to a pretty restrictive diet for health reasons. The crumpets are great though, as well as the house made baked beans, smashed avo on toast, the ham hocks... the entire breakfast menu is pure gold. They've got a relatively new offering I haven't tried though called the Breakfast Board. Give it a go and let me know? It looks impressive!
I go in for my morning coffee on my way to work as often as I can manage it. The morning rush can be a tragic thing at any busy café, but that being said, I've never had a bad coffee as a result of poor or rushed workmanship.
There is plenty of room for families and friends to get together for great conversations, a hot beverage and some food. Add this to your café short list - you won't be disappointed.
Food and Drink: ★★★★☆
Customer Service: ★★★★★
General Atmosphere: ★★★★☆
Value for Money: ★★★★☆
Food and Drink: ★★★★★
Customer Service: ★★★★★
General Atmosphere: ★★★★★
Value for Money: ★★★★★