17/01/2006 - 21:00

Soto puts a new spin on the art of brewing coffee

17/01/2006 - 21:00

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Perth's increasingly competitive cafe scene is challenging proprietors to go beyond the call of duty in their efforts to offer the best brews in town; so much so that many are seeking to transform their businesses beyond bare beans.

Soto puts a new spin on the art of brewing coffee

Perth's increasingly competitive cafe scene is challenging proprietors to go beyond the call of duty in their efforts to offer the best brews in town; so much so that many are seeking to transform their businesses beyond bare beans.

Cafes are a part of our modern social lives. They are relaxed, neutral venues with an influence that extends far beyond the coffee they serve.

Cafes have become everything from de facto meeting places, offices, restaurants and bars. Some large chain coffee brands have become very successful, purely by replicating the consistency and affability of their core concept.

And, slowly, coffee lovers in Western Australia have come to see the evolution of their favourite cafes.

Last year, the Cino To Go franchise built a boardroom right in the heart of its cafe on Hay Street in the CBD. The functions-cum-conference room is regularly used by professionals instead of existing corporate infrastructure nearby.

And there’s a wide range of book cafes, an almost perfect marriage between a bookshop and coffee. Bookcaffe in Swanbourne, Books & Beans Cafe in Victoria Park, and Mill Point Caffe Bookshop in South Perth successfully merge the concepts of book retail and hospitality.

And there are plenty of other less traditional examples. Take Woolly Latte’s in Wembley, which weaves a formidable selection of wool and fabrics into their coffee menu.

And then there’s that suburban gem Tart’s Café on Lake Street in Perth, which combines a well-stocked coffee list with homemade ceramics and pottery.

But yet another interesting café concept is coming from Soto Espresso in Mount Lawley; and it’s no coincidence that they offer some of the best coffee in town as well.

Soto is the brainchild of David Barber, who conceived the stylish venue as the amalgamation of the most successful parts of cafes he had experienced in Australia and overseas.

With a structure and format different from other coffee venues in Perth, Soto began attracting a vast and varied crowd.

Having always enjoyed healthy support from Perth’s art community, Mr Barber, together with manager Alan Chappel, began pursuing ideas to support struggling local artists. 

Last year, Soto committed its venue, staff and its mailing list to support the exhibition of local artist, Jo Pickup.

“The exhibition was extraordinary and the feedback we got was amazing. I think she [Ms Pickup] sold 43 pieces in 45 minutes,” Mr Chappel says.

The event was a major success, not just for the artist, but for Soto as well. Attracting the culinary support of local food icon Don Hancey, the event exposed the versatility and pulling power a cafe like Soto can have.

“But we’re not a defacto gallery. The art stays up for a month because of all the work that has gone into it, but at the end of the day it’s all about the coffee for us at Soto,” Mr Chappel says.

Continuing its association with local artists, Soto has announced the next exhibition will begin on January 25.

Featuring the exhibition La femme J’adore (The women I love) by local artists Leon Krasenstein and Pippa McManus, Soto will display 17 pieces for four weeks.

“This is a great opportunity for us as artists,” Mr Krasenstein told Gusto.

“At the moment there are a lot of people who buy art, but there is a broader scope of people who wouldn’t necessarily go to an art gallery. But for them, if they see something they like, in a cafe or somewhere else, they will buy it.

 “For that reason I think the idea of a coffee shop is clearly changing in terms of what it means.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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