So you’ve got the big-ticket food items of hams, turkey, and prawns ordered for Christmas…
The last few years have seen significant changes in the area, with the addition of new Japanese diner, Lilotang, and the imminent openings of the new Little National Hotel and revamped Brassey Hotel. Maple + Clove is a central part of the precinct’s growth; but while universally praised for its wholesome food, service was often described as inconsistent, detracting from the overall experience.
This is set to change, with Doma Group recruiting the talented Josiah Li and Raymond Poon of multi-award winning restaurant group, The Chairman Group, to manage an overhaul of the business with the aim to transform it into a “complete dining experience.”
Quietly spoken Josiah says there is now a new menu, refreshed design, and most importantly, a renewed “spirit.”
“Service and different systems are all important but now we have a whole new team, there are a lot of young, happy faces and a new energy to the place,” he says.
“We bring in our Chairman ‘good fun’ culture – we’re very easy-going. Customer service is very important to us, so the staff have undertaken training to achieve the best service – we’ve shown them the correct way of doing things and approaching the industry. In a restaurant, I always say that the most important thing is the customer being happy. Equally important is the staff being happy. Then the owner will be happy and you’ll have a good food establishment.”
Waitress Kiralee Turner, who has worked at the café for over nine months, agrees there is a focus on a more “intimate” atmosphere.
“It’s about developing a relationship with the customers and communicating with staff if we’re busy in the mornings, so we’re not running around stressed – we don’t want it to be an impersonal experience, we want it to be a more intimate environment,” she says.
“As a customer you want to go into a place and feel relaxed, it’s easy to notice if there is tension there – if we are stressed it has a flow on effect to the customer, so it’s important we’re at ease. We’ve also changed the design so there’s a better flow now near the coffee area, and customers are noticing the difference.”
Josiah says another exciting change is that the cafe now uses a “scientific approach” when making coffee, based on a technique from Sydney cafe, coffee roaster and retailer Reuben Hills.
Barista Kyle Spiteri, who has previously worked in London and Spain, says he trained with Reuben Hills in Sydney for a week to learn the special technique.
“The technique involves weighing the coffee basket and using two different beans,” he says.
“One bean is for milk-based coffees, so for example lattes or flat whites, the other is purely for black coffee such as espressos – it gives the drinks more of a rich flavour.
“It’s a very precise process to achieve the right taste – it’s all about the right temperature, the right beans and using the right glasses. We’ve had really good feedback from customers so far, as each style is different so there’s lots of interest.”
Josiah describes the café’s new menu as using the “same Maple + Clove wholefood approach, but in a higher quality way.”
“We make all our sauces from scratch and we try to use as many unaffected and organic ingredients as possible,” he says.
“Our food is naturally loaded with immune boosters from antioxidant-rich ingredients and free from artificial colours, flavours, preservatives and sweeteners.”
Examples of revived dishes include the Portobello mushroom burger, the Wholemeal spelt, zucchini + sweet corn waffle and the slow cooked lamb shoulder. (I was pleased to see the café’s famous green smoothies are also still going strong). The menu will also be continuously updated, with an emphasis on interesting daily specials, and the takeaway offering will also be expanded to provide a variety of interesting options for customers.
“We’ve tried to keep the dishes our customers loved and just brought up the standard, for instance our pumpkin soup is not just whacked in a blender, it’s slow cooked, steamed, mashed – a lot more work is going into the food,” says Josiah.
“The next step is to create our own recipes into something more extravagant and interesting.”
Operations manager Raymond says that customers have noticed the positive changes from the moment they walk in.
“We have a really passionate and dedicated team,” he says.
“We are noticing a much better connection with our customers who have always loved our food and now more fully enjoy the experience we are giving them.”
Check out Maple + Clove’s new menu here.
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