holly. is the newest café to make its home in Bondi Junction, and with its arrival has come a change of seasons for the sprawling interchange. Whether you’re a casual shopper or hustling commuter, holly. provides a stylistic alcove on Hollywood Avenue, tucked away from the high-energy bustle of Oxford Street and Westfield. Checking in after its opening in mid-October, we found holly. blossoming in popularity and profile, for good reason.
Seasoned cafe owners Justin Stevenson and Laura Hayes combined to develop holly., making it their third joint venture in the industry. Successful sidewalk cafes, Coop and Cart in Haymarket and Everyday Espresso in Redfern, were their first two projects, and holly. has taken these offerings a step further with a full brunch menu. Combining this with an emphasis on niche coffee brews holly. stands out among the busy Bondi Junction scene.
The lilting chords of Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams greet me when I visit, and are paired with a hint of cold brew coffee in the air and the promising aroma of food on the way. Indoor ferns and vases of native flowers are spread across wooden tables, offsetting the muted teal of the interiors. The décor works to create a playful fusion of Palm Springs and art deco, and the result is a space which is in harmony with the food that’s served there.
When I spoke with holly.’s head barista, Kelly Downs, she said “I think it’s special because everyone that’s involved is so passionate – I really love that.” There’s no grumpy barista with heavy eye bags here, and customers are the beneficiaries of the staff’s cheery demeanour.
Coffee is what sets holly. apart: Downs selects three single origin blends each month. As a specialty coffee aficionado and having worked with Justin and Laura at Coop and Cart, Downs says she jumped at the chance to bring coffee to the forefront of their new café.
When I meet with her, she speaks of integrating small-scale brews and roasters into the Sydney (and Australian) mainstream. “I think [specialty coffee] is the future of cafes.” she said. “It’s not just sticking to your one brand, but really being able to show people what’s good coffee for the season.”
Every month there’s a different single origin roaster featured on the menu: with one of their blends in each of the espresso, filter and seasonal offerings. This month the featured roaster is Sample, based in St Peters, which is accompanied by a selection of Toby’s Estate blends plus the house brew, the Boulevard Blend – designed by Downs in collaboration with Toby’s Estate.
“Because Bondi hasn’t a lot of experience in specialty coffee blends, I want something that’s a bit more rounded, balanced, with a bit more body to it,” said Kelly. “They like a strong coffee.” As holly. grows in popularity Kelly plans to introduce more underground coffee roasters and give them the chance to show their offering to Sydney.
“I want to bring these blends to Bondi Junction where everyone can see, interact and taste it” said Kelly.
The food at holly. is just as much a drawcard as the coffee. The menu was co-created with chef and menu consultant Tomislav Martinovic, who has had prior appointments at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck,. Chef Tomislav is known for his innovative and nonpareil menus at a number of cafes around Sydney. At holly., every dish on the menu could stand on its own. From new ventures like the chilli scrambled eggs with Noni’s charcoal gluten free bread, to reinvented classics such as the not-smashed-avo on toast and the holly. oats – a divine plate of overnight oats jazzed up with fresh mango, shaved coconut, and edible flowers, each dish comes with its own story.
A personal favourite is the Smoke the Salmon, a Middle Eastern-inspired dish of hot smoked salmon, beetroot pickled eggs, labneh and a cucumber and mint salad, all served on crackling toasted sourdough.
While coffee is the focus, the drinks menu extends well beyond the humble bean. There are a selection of specialty sodas (pineapple, passionfruit and candied orange, or blueberry pomegranate and mint), five flavoursome superfood smoothies and colourful milkshakes (salted caramel or double choc). There are also several rare teas available, grown in China or India, plus a selection of teas developed by Tea Drop.
The ethos behind holly. is the familiar cafe with a twist making it an easy one to slot into the Martinovic-Stevenson-Hayes repertoire. The small space packs a hard punch with the winning trifecta of fantastic food, strong coffee and charming staff – the new Australian dream.