Monday, 7 January 2008

Creme de la Crema

Crème de la Crema

Some blokes need bigger toys.
Thankfully I have been able sublimate my most of my retro-techno lust with stuff that also makes flavour. I love good machines that make edibles. Since seeing my first coffee machine a Herend porcelain covered neo-baroque Gaggia at the Gerbaud Budapest I have been hooked.
In 1981 after a stint in London I opened a café in Chapel street South Yarra that had a killer 1950’s Gaggia 4 group Cosmopolitan. Ramesh the man you see behind the beast, dear Sam [sadly no longer with us] and I spent many hours fine tuning each group to the point that I think it took us about a month to come down from a massive caffeine overdose. A few weeks ago I popped into the 100 mile café where one of our ex-chefs Richard works and lo and behold there was an identical model. I think it’s the same one but you can never be sure.

About 3 years ago I had another close encounter with a Gaggia, this time a 1962 Americano in original condition. I had no idea if it worked but bought it on spec. A small metal plaque on the bottom displayed the original distributors Bancroft and Sons in South Melbourne. One night when I popped Gaggia and Bancroft into Google the story of how Espresso came to Melbourne was revealed. When you read this wonderful tale in the link above. you will come across the name Flavio Vedelago as I did on that night.
With only one F. Vedelago in the phone book I took the chance and met the man that not only made the Americano, the Cosmopolitan and still keeps many of the old lever machines going, but also a true gentleman of coffee. He said bring it over and I’ll see what I can do. Bancrofts made the whole machine in Melbourne as for a short time import duties were prohibitive. When casting the large brass groups they had trouble making them without flaws so they decided to turn them instead out of a solid piece of metal, so all the Oz built Gaggia groups are practically indestructible.
On inspection he was thrilled to see it had been kept so well and vaguely remembered selling one, possibly this one to a Chinese café in Wagga. He restored it to perfect condition and the friendship continues over a mutual love of kitchen gardens and coffee machines.

The home machine, a single group 1959 Faema Lambro, has kept me in coffee over the last few years, but a new boy has appeared on the block. For the restaurant I just can’t see myself letting anyone without a boilermaker’s licence drive her professionally. So welcome to the modern world with a newish single group Azkoyen that makes very fine coffee.

My favourite lever machine still in operation in Melbourne is at Sila Coffee Lounge in Brunswick Street. I still refer to the café as Pasquali’s. Pasquali’s son has carried on the legacy and keeps this gem in perfect working order . I have enjoyed many a coffee from this exquisite 2 group Faema Urania while doing a stint at the original Comedy Café way back in the early eighties and never fail to cop a short black when passing.

The 2 group Gaggia Cosmopolitan at the Special Cake Shop in Chapel Street Prahran is still there but it needs a good seeing-to from Flavio.
Faema E61’s the quantum leap from the lever jobs are around if you look closely but the lever machines are few and far between. The Galleon’s Cosmo is in retirement.
Perhaps we should create a virtual tour of the classic lever machines in Melbourne.
Does anyone know of others?

The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival was looking at an event so keep your eyes on the program. Time for another shot and then back to the garden.
Planting out Charantais melons and more pimento di padrone today before the heat returns.


Jack said...

Have been enjoying your stories George and look forward to dining at the restaurant when it opens. I dined a couple of times at the Sunday lunchs you did at Circa, and loved the ecelectic produce you brought from the garden.
Relieved to see someone with a larger cookbook collect then mine, they can be addictive!

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Thanks Jack
I do cull the books only to be able to get more as I am not allowed to get any new bookcases. I know that my collection is modest compared to some some of my mates who need to extend the house to hold the books. I think its OK if you use them for more than just wallpaper. The re- stacking begins on Monday. Make yourself known when you come down. I like your writing.

Ed said...

Nice machines. I'm just dipping my toe in with a La Pavoni I managed to pick-up on eBay. nothing like these but at least it has alever to pull despite being a little low of puff.

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Flavio can help if it needs attention. Very fair prices for artisan work. Does it work?
Do you know how to drive it?

bukowskireincarnate said...

i used to have a two pull had a beautiful yellow and pastel father comandeered it and turned it into a metalflake red monstrosity. colour as well as size matters! iam now down to a small bialetti with a peep hole lid and wooden handle.downsizing is a latter day tragedy. our mate dennis has put up a sign."UNATTENDED CHILDREN WILL BE FED RED CORDIAL AND OFFERED A PUPPY TO TAKE HOME"

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Thats a relief he could be feeding the children Dog and sending them home with Red Cordial?

Nicht die Bohne said...

Thanks for those great pictures. I have been in Melbourne quite a while ago, but I wasn't so into vintage machines at this time. What a shame. By the way: I have some pictures of other vintage machines on my website

Tom said...

There are a few popping up in Melbourne. We use a 1964 Boema 2 group lever in our cafe in Kensington. Guy we got it from said it was the second espresso machine on the Gold Coast. We use it daily and its great!

169 Rankins Rd, Kensington VIC 3031

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

HI Tom I ahve read that the original Boema's were made and designed in Sydney. There is one in the Powerhouse museum. Will call in when in the area, sounds great.

Anonymous said...

it is soo beatiful to see this gaggia vintage still working. I live in London and specialize in these machine, a 4 lever group , quite impossible to find..Iwish I had it! few weeks ago 2 bast..ds stole my 3 head lever group in front of my workshop just before opening my bar! I will look for it until I die...