Shane Devereaux, the fellow behind one of my favourite cafes on the planet – Victoria’s always dependable Habit Coffee – is launching what sounds like an especially interesting cafe/bar hybrid at 710 Pandora Avenue.
The ground floor corner location of the new development currently under construction across from City Hall (at Douglas Street) was a bit of a mess when I last saw it just before Christmas. Even looking at the photo I took of it that day I can’t quite picture how the building will look when it’s finished. But I can easily envision the establishment that will launch at its foot this summer.
It’s called Sherwood.
I met up with Shane over the holidays to talk location and concept. I know the address as the old and imposing Royal Bank; the place I used to cash my busboy paycheques from John’s Place around the corner, way back before the beginning of time. It’s one of the busier core intersections of the city, which is to say the new construction – filled with offices and lots of people who eat and drink – will no doubt make an impression on the busy junction, both in the day and at night. “Sherwood is a really natural evolution of what we’ve learned by serving the city over the years,” Shane told me, referring to the many thousands of shots pulled at Habit over the years. “The prime location and growth in Victoria gave us an opportunity to build on that tradition with our own interpretation of the classic European ‘cafe/bar’.”
To that end, Sherwood – open from morning to midnight – should strike something of a Melbourne-meets-Copenhagen pose with some built-in, Swiss Army knife-like functionality. Across its 2,300 sqft, it will pull duty as a full-service restaurant; a properly staffed bar equipped with cocktails, beer and wine; a coffee house comparable in speed and competence to Habit; and a meeting place/hangout. It will plate brunch and pour quick service coffee in the day and serve to dinners and drinks at night.
There is room enough for 55 people to sit comfortably, with the quick service area sitting another 10 people – lounge-style – in the evenings. There will also be a 14 seat patio — a bonus for a city that’s long been starved of good ones. “The end goal” Shane explains, “is for it to be as much of an institution (as Habit) with even more of a hospitality-forward approach and the elevated day-to-night cafe service I experienced living in Australia.”
It sounds similar to what Vancouverites have been enjoying (and what critics have been acclaiming) at Bows x Arrows in the Fraserhood, and what Seattle scored with Cafe Presse. “Everything is being nuanced in the interest of encouraging a kind of social space we don’t yet have here and providing a familiar anchor for a project that we expect will shift the momentum downtown,” Shane says. He pointed out some of the cooler aspects of the design layout to me, but I’ll leave those details for when they get possession of the space later this winter. He’s aiming for a June opening at the earliest.