From the elegant wooden chairs, to the artistic dried floral installation overhead, to the enormous curved glass window overlooking the city, Arc by Redbrick is the creative expression of talented Canberrans who are all for local coffee.
Arc is the flagship café of Redbrick Coffee, holding prime position at 1 London Circuit in Civic, and the realisation of a dream to put Canberra coffee on the map by owners Tim and Myf Manning.
From a tiny espresso bar and coffee roaster in Curtin the couple began in 2011, Redbrick now has five cafes in Canberra, four cafes in Korea and a supply business sending Redbrick beans out across Canberra, around Australia and to the world.
It is quite an unlikely obsession for two former Canberra sports stars, who fell in love with coffee and made it their life.
Tim played world-class squash as a teen, representing Australia on the international circuit. He fell in love and married Myf, a fellow sporting pro who represented Australia at the Olympics in archery. Tim completed an Economics Degree at the ANU before he found his true calling in coffee, and Myf was fully on board with the idea of making it their full-time businesses.
“I am definitely a very proud local. I have always loved Canberra and I have wanted to give back and create something that keeps our talented people employed here and with a future,” said Tim.
“Arc is the culmination of all our experience in coffee and hospitality since opening in Curtin all those years ago. We wanted a shop that showcased the best in Canberra design working with Capezio Copeland, Tom Skeehan, Good Times Studio and Wiluna Studio,” said Tim.
The space is all soft curves, including a giant curved window looking out on the city and the imposing statue of Andrew Inglis Clarke (who helped write the Australian Constitution), with wooden accents and a palette of earthy colours which refer back to coffee beans and a rich brew. Much effort has been put into curating an elevated menu which highlights the coffee.
Staples such as smashed avo on toast come that little bit extra, with pistachio, beetroot hummus, smoked labneh, Ainslie Urban Farm microgreens and toasted Three Mills sourdough.
The Chili Scram is a perennial favourite of soft scrambled eggs, crispy chilli oil and salsa served on charred flatbread.
Meanwhile you can book in for a proper corporate lunch with dishes such as Slow-cooked Lamb, with pickled beetroot, fresh greens, spiced garlic hummus, herb dressing, and housemade flatbread, or Salmon Rillettes with potato, fennel, fresh herbs and housemade pickles served on toasted sourdough.
Coffee is the central focus with expertly trained baristas manning the machines and pumping out Redbrick’s special varieties.
Having developed close relationships with coffee producers around the world, Tim has developed distinctive profiles for each of Redbrick’s four blends.
Dark Coffee is for people who love strong coffee, Coffee Coffee is a classic espresso blend and all-round crowd pleaser. Good Day Coffee is sweet and balanced with a more subtle flavour profile while Rogue Coffee is a complex and fruit-forward blend.
The space is so beautiful it has become a venue for corporate events and special bookings as it does a steady trade in lawyers, consultants, accountants and ACT Government workers who fill the neighbouring buildings.
They come for the coffee, stay for the beautiful surroundings and linger over the food.
It’s a long way since the exposed brick walls at the Curtin espresso bar provided the inspiration for the brand name all those years ago.
But from little things big things grew.
Tim puts the cafe’s early success down to “approachable specialty coffee and a very supportive local community.
In any event it really went gangbusters.
An upgrade to a larger facility in Fyshwick in 2018 allowed the company to boost its production to meet growing demand.
Now Redbrick has expanded its café footprint to include Makeshift in NewActon, Bureau in the city and, of course, the beautiful Arc.
The move to open four new offshoots in Korea happened in 2020 with the help of two trusted Canberra staff who were willing to relocate and take the brand international. Tim still can’t quite believe that his vision is flourishing across the North Pacific Ocean.
“For a Canberra boy born and bred it is a very big thing!”
Around Canberra Tim has earned the reputation of a kind and calm perfectionist—with one restaurateur expression deep admiration for the time he came in on a weekend and spent six hours tinkering with their coffee machine in order to produce a perfect cup.
From an initial team of just him and Myf, the Redbrick empire now stretches to 80. Tim is proud that some of his part-timers who worked through school have risen to become full-time staff dedicated to the pursuit of true excellence in coffee.
“I’ve got two kids of my own, I guess I want to give other young people a reason to stay in Canberra and look forward to an exciting future.”
All images by Stevie Reinhart.