If you’re looking for a quiet brunch spot, Rundle Street probably isn’t the first place you’d head. The strip just makes much more sense post-meridian. But the operators of soon-to-open specialty coffee shop and cafe Room 19 have a good feeling about their location.
“Nineteen is a lucky number for us,” says co-owner Terrence Hung. His wife Karen Zhong chimes in: “Our anniversary is May 19.”
When Broadsheet visits the couple – along with chef Gwen Huang and barista Grace Chen – at their Rundle Street site, we’re warned not to lean against the furniture.
“It’s not screwed in yet,” Huang says. It’s been a slow (read: Covid-delayed) process getting everything into place, but now the final touches are being nailed down and the team is on track for a mid-May opening.
Having come to Adelaide from Hong Kong as an engineering student, Hung appreciates that running a cafe is a pretty sharp bend in his career path. He met Zhong four years ago, and the couple began dreaming of opening a cafe together. Room 19 sits at the nexus of their experiences, elegantly blending Asian and Australian influences.
Huang says the food at Room 19 is “inspired by Asian ingredients, but put into a modern, Australian style”, reflected in dishes like miso roasted mushrooms with vegan creamed corn (for dipping); almond hot cakes with house-made yuzu ice-cream, hazelnut butter, cinnamon crumb and yuzu gel; and an anything-but-classic eggs benedict of Korean fried chicken, pickled radish and an amped-up gochujang (Korean red chilli paste) hollandaise. There's also Turkish-style eggs with burnt eggplant, chilli oil, dill yoghurt and spiced tomato.
From 2013 until 2020, Room 19’s site was home to chocolatier Steven ter Horst and has been smartly redone by Hyde Park design studio Soko. The orientation has been spun 90 degrees, meaning diners aren’t facing the on-street bustle. Soko also designed all the custom furniture, with repeated curved lines and comfy booth seating bringing a quiet calm to the space. A brand new commercial kitchen, folding cafe windows and plenty of indoor greenery have also been added.
An avocado-coloured espresso machine sits pride of place on the counter, pulling coffee from Melbourne roaster Seven Seeds. Expect a darker roast house blend alongside seasonal single-origin and batch-brewed options. “We are thinking of doing some house sodas as well – since we have sparkling water on tap – and mocktails,” says Chen.