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52: 41 - Where is Henry?

Name: Where is Henry?
Address: 1415 Malvern Rd, Malvern VIC 3144
Web: http://whereishenry.com.au/

Where is Henry is in an old building in Malvern.  I’m talking heritage listed. But there is nothing better than walking into an old building like this and being greeted warmly by all the staff including the kitchen staff, and hearing a bit of J Dilla flowing smoothly from the speakers.  This place is old school, and new school – and you know what, it appeals to everybody.

So what’s good about Where is Henry?

Like I said above, this place appeals to everyone.  In the time I was there mid morning, the mix of customers ranged from a lovely older couple having a bite to eat, a mum and toddler with cappuccino and something to snack on, some business men settling in for a meeting, tradies getting takeaways, and hipster youths picking at the breakfast that they had ordered.  It’s great to see such a diverse demographic appreciating this place.

Where is Henry is a real charmer.  It’s an amazing building in it’s own right  - heritage listed in fact and on entering the café you can’t help but envy the height of this building.  The ceilings are way up high.  Set behind a great set of shop front windows the material palette oozes charm.  A concrete floor very, very well worn is matched well with a beautiful pressed metal ceiling in bright white.  And in between this the fit out is very appropriate.  The main counter has a lovely soft curve to it and is clad in black painted timber with a copper bench top – it looks like it will age very well, just like the building.  The splash back behind the counter mirrors this curved counter and shows a nice understanding of consistency across the design.  Clad in mosaic green tiles that match the rear bench with a few copper tiles inserted amongst the many, this whole area is very well considered and completed by the copper pendants by Coco Flip hanging over the area.

The furniture throughout the space is also quite tasteful.  This is the perfect space to use the old bentwood chair and matched with timber topped café tables the space feels warm and inviting.  This layout caters for all types of groups, with a communal table for large groups, two person café tables, and high benches to the shop front windows for those on their own who like to people watch.  And above the communal table is a little bit of fun – some glass pendants in a nice mix of colours and shapes.

There are 3 sections to this café, and older looking front section with brick walls, some timber panelling and an older feel.  A back section with plasterboard and some built in banquettes, and a rear courtyard for eating outside in good weather.  And it’s all laid out efficiently with plenty of space for circulation, and the great thing is it will never seem overcrowded.

This is a deep space and the kitchen itself is on display for everyone to see.  This is quite an interesting feature to the rear of this space that many other cafes tend to hide behind walls or minimise the view using very small service openings.

Where is Henry is a smooth operation and the beauty of a space this size is the ability to either tuck yourself away in a corner, or sit amongst the hustle and bustle around the counter.  It’s a diverse space and perhaps that’s why it attracts such a diverse range of people.

What could be better about Where is Henry? 

It’s never the most fun part of this project to be critical, especially with a beautiful building like this.  But some things just didn’t quite work.  For instance, I love the intention of the folded metal stools throughout the space.  But the strapped on industrial felt made the finish of these stools seem just a little bit too rough, or grunge, or industrial for this building.  They are perfect for a grungy, industrial café – but I don’t think they are right for this one.

The back section seemed to lack some of the character of the front section.  This is particularly highlighted by the way to simple suspended globes throughout this area.  They simply don’t compare to the beauty of the copper pendants not metres away in the old front section of the building.  And this section could also do with perhaps some old school wall lights to just improve the light levels of this quite dark area. Oh, and the sad looking, too long cushion to the banquette only adds to the disparate feel of this area.

Whilst focussing on this area, the ceiling was a missed opportunity to possibly continue the pressed metal ceiling through to this space.  It doesn’t necessarily need to be the same style of pressed metal, but a textured ceiling would link these two spaces better.

Finally, and it comes up in our reviews with relative frequency – but the use of art.  Behind the communal table is some interesting looking prints.  And whilst I actually like the content of the prints, by just simply pinning them to the wall makes it look a bit like a school project pin up.  Frame these and they would look so much better hung on that wall.

What’s its thing?

It would be too easy to say that the big thing about Where is Henry is the heritage listed building.  But it was there long before Where is Henry.  So the ‘thing’ about Where is Henry is the design of the main counter area, and the materials chosen.  It is such a beautiful match to this old building and will age as gracefully as the building itself already has.

Defining Design Details

  • The counter joinery – it’s so well considered, and will have wonderful longevity.
  • Pendants – copper over the counter, coloured glass over the communal table.  Someone had some fun choosing these.
  • Graphics – the moustache in the logo, and the old school new school font are again a great match for a great old building.  We didn’t get to comment on it in the review, so we’ll mention it here.
  • Space – height, depth and a rear courtyard, this is quite the luxury for a café in the heart of Malvern.

It’s not often that anyone in the design industry comments on conduit.  Because it’s not really part of the ‘design’ of most spaces is it?  But I could not finish this review without mentioning how obsessively neat the conduit to the front of the café was laid out.  That is one damn good electrician who installed it all – might have to go back just to find out who they used…