Cafes and community are often talked about together. Whether it is providing a meeting point for locals, or a piece of infrastructure that is as vital as a library, the best cafes are those that are enmeshed in their local surroundings.
This is certainly true of Room Two Ten, in Freshwater village on Sydney’s northern beaches. When taking over the premises, however, what faced Holly Carrol and her husband Steve was a bit of a complex situation.
“We're not located on the beach front but we're in this conundrum where we are in a beach area.”
Nestled into Lawrence Street, a few blocks back from Freshwater beach, the Carrols leveraged their spot in the heart of Freshwater village for a community-focused experience.
“Really bringing to life that village atmosphere of people stopping by on the patios and able to sit and have a drink, walk the dogs, catch up with regulars.”
Since the opening, Room Two Ten has become the definitive Freshwater café. This can be seen not only in the fitout but the food and drink offerings as well. Breakfasts are inventive but not unusual, such as the mushroom brekky tacos and the market bowl, which combines broccolini, miso mushrooms and turmeric hummus, layered on top of kale and brown rice with a white sesame and lime dressing. This combination of fresh and bright flavours continues on the lunch menu, with standouts such as a chilli calamari salad, poke bowls and sumac salmon and prawn spaghettini. Coffee is by Black Drum Roasters and is dosed out of a pale green La Marzocco Linea PB that matches the cool interior.
Defining a unique approach was key for Carrol, but without alienating anyone in the tight knit community, “we're one of twelve cafes for a population of twelve thousand so providing a space that caters a little bit to everybody is really the goal.”
After initially updating the fit out, the owners invested in a more comprehensive renovation, to showcase their fully realised vision for the space.
“When we took over the business you do a first renovation to get the business up and running and then a couple of years on you really invest everything and turn it into what you want it to be,” noted Carrol.
In conducting these changes, however, the community remained front of mind.
“We had certain regulars that like certain places to sit so we're catering to them. We're the only place between Queenscliff and Curl Curl that can cater to large groups, so it's really having this fresh vibrant village atmosphere that everybody can kind of group together at any time of day.”
The investment in making the space a place that is welcoming to a local clientele also comes from the name and story behind the café itself. When travelling internationally prior to working in hospitality, Steve Carrol stayed in a hostel room numbered 210, and the number kept popping up as a reminder of the connections he had made overseas. This origin story was translated into the café itself, “We always wanted a place that felt like a bit of a party,” highlighted Carrol.
Continuing this not only in the walls of the café, the owners and staff are as much part of the community when they are on the clock and not, and this in turn gets the community involved in the cafe.
“Steve and I participate in community events and be involved. If there was one thing I would want to put out to the public it is that the last year, with all the changes that we've done, has really shown me how grateful I am to be located in Freshwater. I would like to note how thankful we are that we do have the customers that we have.”
While putting oneself into the community may be an investment, it’s one that in this case has paid off..