The original idea is from the UK, it has a French name but this new local eatery is infused with a Melbourne flavour. The chic read and white facade of Bon a Manger (translating as ‘good to eat’ for those a little rusty on their French lessons) is situated under a leafy canopy on the corner of Little Bourke street and Hardware lane. I caught up with owner Sam Hall Haydon at one of Bon’s sun-dappled alfresco tables after their biggest day thus far. You may be more familiar with him from various turns on the catwalk as a model rather than for his enthusiasm for nourishing our town with fresh salads, soup and sandwiches (three of my favourite things).
Inspired by the Pret a Manger concept after a trip to London, Sam developed the idea for his hometown. The major point he wanted to ensure was up to Melbourne’s supposedly discerning taste was “the coffee, of course”. The entrepreneur embedded himself with Peter at Dukes Coffee Roasters for several months to learn about the brew. On the food front, everything is made fresh daily (any excess is picked up by the Salvo’s). There’s Thai beef salad; spiked with lime juice and chilli that leaves your lips just tingling, a prosciutto, pear and blue cheese salad for a treat and all manner of soft, fresh filled sandwiches to grab and go or savour on the spot. My favourite thing was Bon’s fruit pots, slices of sweet strawberries buried in luscious yoghurt and topped with crispy, chewy muesli, coconut and seeds; it almost seduced me into thinking I was being healthy.
Bon’s design is industrial, think high ceilings and metal fittings, without being cold or imposing. Details like tiny pink roses on tables and timber serving platters make what is essentially a takeaway into something a little more welcoming, luxurious and less rushed for a breakfast or lunchtime stop. Like many a Melbourne space, Bon also has a dual purpose. The walls and windows feature regularly rotating works of art (favouring street artists such as Anthony Lister and Blek le Rat) from Armadale’s Metro gallery. If street art doesn’t capture your eye, there’s plenty of people watching to be done instead. In the short half hour I spent soaking up the atmosphere at Bon I spied fashion photographers taking a break from shooting, (probable) models, ladies in sundresses remarking on how cute the place was, corporate regulars who already have their ‘usuals’ down pat and even Sam’s mum.
Bon is still fresh and evolving; from tweaking a sandwich filling to make it juuuust right to implementing crockery upon realising Melbourne often favours/demands glassware over takeaway cups. Yet Sam dreams of one day having Bons scattered over the city and country (and perhaps world domination?) so we can eat reliably well anywhere. Also, I’m a sucker for free Wi-Fi so you’ll most likely find me perched at a table taking advantage of that and trying to make deadline when LMFF season (soon) rolls around.
Is Bon, is good.
Special Offer: Bon a Manger wants you to stop by sometime. Mention this article to receive a free coffee or Baby Bon half sandwich for free! No catches, you don’t even need to make a purchase! Offer valid until Friday 28th January 2011, one per customer.
Visit Bon a Manger at 387 Little Bourke Street (corner of Hardware Lane), Melbourne or call 03 9640 0652 for CBD deliveries or catering. Open Monday to Friday from 7.30am to 5.30pm.