In 2000, Starbucks entered the Australian market, eventually opening 84 stores across the continent. Just eight years later, the corporate coffee giant had closed 60 locations and posted over $100 million in losses. The reason? You don’t mess with Australians and their coffee.
Rooted in an Italian immigration boom in the aftermath of World War II, Australia’s coffee culture prizes not only good food and drink, but also attentive customer service and spaces conducive to socializing. Paramount Coffee Project, which made its stateside debut last month, is aiming to bring a bit of that scene to Fairfax Avenue.
“For me, going out and getting in line for a cup of coffee is very foreign because I wouldn’t get back in line to have that second coffee. [Australians] are all about having a cup of coffee, sitting down, and showing up,” says P.C.P. co-founder Mark Dundon.
While he says he certainly understands the merits and necessity of grab-and-go coffee for the fast-paced L.A. lifestyle, Dundon is hoping that the slower-paced and more social aspects of his country’s cafe culture will resonate with Angelenos. “It’s great to see people coming in with their friends and talking, or catching up with a friend and enjoying a half-an-hour just hanging out.”
P.C.P.’s original location opened in Sydney in 2013. A collaboration between three big time Australian coffee roasters—Dundon of Seven Seeds, Jin Ng of Paramount House, and Russell Beard of Reuben Hills—the shop showcases various roasters from around the world while hosting educational demos, brew sessions, and various classes.
You wouldn’t necessarily think that worlds-away L.A. would be the obvious choice for a second P.C.P. location, but Dundon says that the city’s evolving scene is brimming with opportunity. “In L.A., there’s been a huge increase and interest in hospitality and especially food,” says Dundon. “You just see this major thing, this hospitality beast, just awaking. I think having a place where you come in a bit and have a cup of coffee, there wasn’t that many of them opening here, and we saw an opening for that.” They were also attracted to L.A.’s proximity to Latin America and its wealth of roasters.
In addition to the focus on coffee and good times, food is also, well, paramount at P.C.P., according to Dundon. The menu is full of brunchy dishes, like avocado toast, baked eggs, and the better-than-you-could-ever-imagine Cashew Nut Yogurt. Australian flavors get some play, including Vegemite (a popular spread made from brewer’s yeast extract and vegetables), which shows up in a Vegemite and butterscotch milkshake and as an umami imparting charred dust sprinkled on an egg-topped tostada. Integral to the Aussie culinary repertoire, Asian elements come through in dishes like black sticky rice and a char siu pork roti.
A Latino influence is present as well. There’s that aforementioned tostada and a mezcal-cured salmon salad. Salvadoran-Italian chef Wilfredo Majano, who formerly worked under Ludo Lefebvre at Petit Trois, also offers a very fluffy pupusa, stuffed with beans and cheese and covered with house pickles, tomatillo, and smoked chile jam.
Majano says that while P.C.P. imported some of their signature dishes, they also asked the chef to add his own spin. “There’s some Mexican influence, Central America—it’s a really good menu,” says Majano. “It just came out naturally. We tried to make something really, really different because there are plenty of restaurants in L.A. doing breakfast, but not the way we do it.” And what about the Vegemite? “This is my first time cooking with Vegemite,” he says with a laugh. “But it’s good. It’s interesting. I’m having fun with it.”
P.C.P.’s menu will change frequently, according to Dundon, and so will the featured coffees. He says they’ll also begin hosting residencies soon. And if you just really don’t have the time to hang out at one of P.C.P.’s stylish tables or out back on the patio, no worries—they have a takeout window for all you busy Angelenos.
Paramount Coffee Project, 456 N Fairfax Avenue, 323-746-5480