St Columbs in Hawthorn was once a chapel, and still could be. From the outside the building retains an ecclesiastical air, with a dark brick exterior and clean white window frames. It still retains links to the church, too. Jesuit Social Services run the place as a not-for-profit cafe as part of its Ignite program; the initiative trains up disadvantaged and long-term unemployed people in the hospitality industry.
The Grounds at St Columbs is Ignite’s fourth cafe (you can find the others in Camberwell and Burwood), but it stands out as the first one to offer an a la carte menu. Head chef Kevin Dick, formerly of Cutler + Co and St Ali North, is running the kitchen and the menu is stuffed with healthy dishes and juices – Moroccan lamb salad and hot smoked salmon fillet with eggs are two particularly virtuous examples, but there are a few guilty pleasures available too. The spirit of the enterprise is one of collaboration, so it’s fitting that the layout is focused on large communal tables (the reclaimed timber comes from Appleton Docks), with the building’s chapel-sized dimensions providing plenty of elbow room and head clearance. Profits are returned to the Ignite program and to Jesuit Social Services‘ wider projects.