Combine a classic Japanese-style cuisine with an Australian milk bar and you get the eccentric Le Bajo Milkbar, a new café in North Melbourne.
“We wanted to create a vintage atmosphere with some Australian elements weaved in – hence the name Le Bajo Milkbar,” says Haruka Yamamoto, Front of House Manager at Le Bajo.
Founder Jason Gunawan had originally planned to open the café in Labuan Bajo in the Indonesian island Flores before the global pandemic halted his development plans.
“The name Bajo is inspired by its original destination in Indonesia,” says Haruka.
Determined not to let nearly nine months of planning go to waste, Jason joined forces with Co-owner Kantaro Okada to turn Le Bajo into a reality.
“Because Jason couldn’t go back due to the lockdown, he decided to bring his ideas to Melbourne instead,” says Head Barista Sean Then.
Le Bajo roasts its own coffee under the brand Ichihaze Coffee Roaster, including its house blend and a selection of single origin coffees.
“In our blend we have a single origin from Indonesia and Guatemala, which has a great flavour profile,” Sean says.
Haruka says the coffee profile pairs nicely with the smooth, full bodied flavour of Riverina Fresh milk, whom they partnered with last year.
“Riverina Fresh milk pairs really well with our coffee blend. It’s really versatile,” she says.
“The milk quality is very consistent. We also use Riverina Fresh to make our bread and cream for our cakes and desserts, so they’ve supported us from the root.”
Le Bajo’s food menu is centred around Japanese milk bread, which is used to make most of its dishes. It’s baked on-site so the recipe can be fine-tuned to suit the cuisine.
“Having that classic Japanese bread is the most special part of Le Bajo because it hasn’t been done before in Melbourne. We use that bread as the main base of all our products,” says Haruka.
From the cups to the cabinets, Le Bajo’s tableware and furniture have been gathered from antique markets, such as the Camberwell Market in Victoria, a place Jason loved to collect unique things from when he was young.
“You can feel the love of vintage items just by dining with us,” says Haruka.
Customers can expect to see more of the Le Bajo crew in 2022, with two new venues opening with completely different themes and ambiances.
“Being in an area that’s already very saturated with a lot of coffee venues, having our own identity wherever we go is something that we strive for,” says Haruka.
Le Bajo Milkbar
8-14 Howard Street, North Melbourne, Victoria, 3051
Open Tuesday to Friday 7:30am – 3pm, weekends 8am – 3pm
This article appears in the February 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.