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52: 25 - The Dihnersaw and his Fionsay

Name: The Dihnersaw and his Fionsay
Address: 475 Toorak Rd Shop B & C, Toorak
Owner: Danny Grosman
Designed by: Campbell Drake

When people hear that we live in Toorak, it’s pretty funny. For those non Melbournians, Toorak is Victoria’s most exclusive and expensive suburb. We see the real Housewives of Melbourne at the local Woolies, Eddie McGuire ventures past our place on his brisk weekend walks and transport magnate Lindsay Fox’s epic property is a stones throw away. So when Ash and I walk the streets all bearded and tattooed, we look like we are about to rob a house or steal a Bentley. Or maybe a Rolls Royce.  

But there is a new breed of young people moving to Toorak; it’s close to the city and the rent is cheap because everyone thinks it’s too expensive to live here.  When a new demographic appears, so do new cafes. And thankfully The Dihnersaw and his Fionsay (TD&HF) are ruffling the feathers of some of the silver fox establishments around town and we’re pretty excited.  

So what’s good about The Dihnersaw and his Fionsay?

It’s had a total Hollywood makeover! Or more like a Scandinavian make under. When we first moved to Toorak, we used to walk past the TD&HF before it was actually TD&HF. It was so unremarkable that we don’t even recall what it looked like. But when owner Danny bought the place, he closed shop for a while and Super Tectonics were intrigued by all the construction and closed doors. Then one day BAM!!! TD&HF was open and it was like a stunning Norwegian beauty had just woken up in the middle of Toorak.

Danny employed the services of Architect Campbell Drake and you can see the value that employing a professional brings to the table (no café pun intended). Throughout the course of Project 52 this year – two types of cafes have stood out as key hospitality performers: those that are designed by the owners who spend 24 hours a day there OR those spaces designed by professionals. Danny alluded to the money spent on the works and for even the untrained eye you can see that there has been considerable investment in the design.

Quality materials have been implemented, with substantial solid timber used to great effect in furniture and joinery whilst large format herringbone parquetry flooring lays the foundation of the space. This extensive use of timber oozes quality and its materiality is the absolute champion of the fit out.

The large format ghostly landscape photographs mounted on the walls - and framed once again in beautiful timber - are the second heroes of the space. Danny found one of the images on the back of a menu when visiting France, kept it and then upon his return sourced the photographs origin and paid the French photographer for the rights. They are a lesson in artwork as we approach half way through Project 52, we can certainly say they are the best example of art in cafes we have witnessed thus far.  So our hats go off to Danny and the unnamed French photographer.

The planning of the interior is where you see additional value of the Architect. It’s a tight space, but it feels quite spacious and this is largely due to the operable (yet again timber) bi-fold windows that face onto the outside thoroughfare. They add volume to the space and are the best seats in the house with a generous timber bench (timber again!!!), which allows space for spreading newspapers and multiple empty coffee cups.

The back of house area is tight but well maintained, with loads of paraphernalia on timber (yes it’s getting ridiculous now I know) boxed shelving behind the counter. The back of house area kitchen extends somewhat sideways to a mini prep area where the chef is positioned in a super tight corner overlooking the patrons. It is quite nice to see this connection to the kitchen, which is otherwise obscured in the front entry area.

We could go on for another page, because there were so many nice details in TF&HD, but we must finish on the Branding. TD&HF has a full package. Amazing logo, great font, and the highest quality menu’s we’ve seen this far. The text has character and personality; the menu stock is earthy and honest, but tidy and clean. The coffee cards are way too cute and their pale blue colour - although totally on trend - is almost so soft that it’ll last beyond the pastel phase and endure, as it should.

What could be better about The Dihnersaw and his Fionsay?

Overall, the space is looking crisp, but a predominantly white palette in hospitality is scary and Danny said it is something that requires a lot of time and effort to keep clean and maintain.

There is an unused entry with a table sitting in front of it. Given the opportunity, we would have deleted this door and extended the beautiful timber bench along further to take advantage of the window aspect.

The amazing exterior sign suspended form the lovely pressed metal soffit, is missing half it’s letters! This should be fixed this ASAP as it looks tacky and TD&HF is certainly NOT tacky.

Lastly, we checked the bottoms of the chairs used in the space and sadly the white Tolix’s stools are replicas.  There are so many affordable original designs out there these days, it’s disappointing that replicas have been used. Support Original Design people!!!  Say no to replica and read more about it here at the Authentic Design Alliance

What’s its thing?

It’s the blonde amongst the grey. It’s the beauty in the rough. Yes, Toorak is a beautiful suburb, but it needed some life and TD&HF has brought it in all its Scandinavian beauty.

Defining Design Details

  • Soup Can lights – they look like little OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)  stalactites - highly organised, protruding and twisting from the ceiling in a lovely ordered fashion. The best light fittings we’ve seen thus far.  
  • Timber, Timber, Timber – that’s where all Danny’s money went and although it’s hard to see it’s impact when the cost is directly out of your own pocket – Danny, it’s spectacular.
  • Artwork – I can’t even talk about them, they are just so ridiculously beautiful.
  • Dinosaurs – lots of them scattered around the space here and there – it’s pretty cute.

The pendant lights above the front counter blew out the morning we came and Danny was devastated that they weren’t on for the photos. He joked we should Photoshop the lights in, but we have a rule of not photo-shopping our photos (or Archiporn-ing them) so the images are a true representation of the space – so we’ll be back to TD&HF to take some more images soon.