Sometimes venue operators have a clear concept in mind and then spend years trying to find the right location for it. For Chloe Mattner, the owner and baker behind travelling vegan eatery Later Gator, the venue came earlier in the schedule than anticipated.
“The only reason I was looking [for a site] was so I could upscale my baking, not even to open a cafe,” says Mattner, whose wholesale business Chlo’s Vegan Club quickly outgrew the commercial kitchen in her converted garage.
“But then we found this place – it’s a beautiful corner store and I fell in love with it and I was like, ‘Ugh, we’re gonna have to do this now aren’t we,” she laughs.
Broadsheet Access members get special tables at busy restaurants, tickets to exclusive events and discounts on food, coffee, brand offers and more.Find out more
The former real estate office, located on the corner of Payneham Road and Marlborough Street in College Park, was too good to pass up. “It’s got such good character,” says Mattner, who’ll open her new bakehouse under the name The Gator Club in September. “The ceiling is corrugated iron, the floors are hardwood, and I didn’t want to take away from any of that, so we’ve just painted it white and we’re doing really simple pine shelving, a pine counter, and a big glass cabinet for my cake displays.
“And my coffee machine is going to be the same [Alfa Ruggero] as in the van, which is the same beautiful green that my van is.”
The mint-coloured van (nicknamed “Van Morrison”) pops up around town at markets like Gilles at the Grounds and Gathered, but since December 2021 it’s been stationed at the leafy Kensington Gardens Reserve (off The Parade) every Thursday to Saturday, serving Mattner’s all-vegan (and mostly gluten-free) treats to the local community.
“I live east and there is nothing around me,” says Mattner. “So it was me wanting to, one, not be too far from home. And two, fill that gap in the market in the east of a good cafe and a vegan cafe. I basically grabbed my chairs and my tables and rolled in and made an outdoor cafe.
“Since then, everything’s been crazy. Everyone’s been so nice and lovely.”
The open-air set-up – and Mattner's plant-based food – has been a hit, with nearby residents (and visitors) flocking to Later Gator for a rotating line-up of cookies (think chocolate, miso and tahini), brownies, vanilla slices, sticky-date carrot cake and stuffed croissants, as well as toasties (filled with sage and thyme mushrooms, “notzarella” and pesto hummus or mac and “cheese” with maple “bacon” from No Harm No Fowl) and bagels (which might come smeared with smashed avo, Vegemite, lemon and hemp).
When the cafe opens, the van will pull up there until summer, when it will continue to set up at Kensington Reserve the latter half of the week. The petite venue will seat 18 inside and 25 outside. Mattner, who has an interior architecture degree, worked on the design herself, aided by Sunny Side Build Co, who are building the front counter and shelving. But it’s not been without its trouble.
“It’s been Murphy’s Law with this place, because it’s such an old building and anything that can go wrong has gone wrong,” says Mattner. “It’s like 100 years old – we found newspapers from the ’30s in the walls.”
The good news, though: when it’s complete, the larger kitchen means the revolving menu will now be available in its entirety, alongside the new additions of “notella” hazelnut or apple pie tarts; brookies (“a deep-dish cookie with a brownie on top”) in flavours like peanut butter and jam, s’mores or red bean matcha; and an expanded “toastie bar”, including a cheeseburger toastie.
Mattner’s house-made hot chocolate and matcha, turmeric and red velvet lattes will also be available, and you’ll be able to buy the latte powders off the shelf.
For coffee she’s using local roaster Coffee in Common’s More Juice Than Zeus blend. “I worked with them specifically to pick the right roast, because I don’t use dairy, obviously, so we wanted to pick the perfect roast to complement the alternative milks,” says Mattner.
Alongside her own products, Mattner will showcase the work of local makers, many of whom she met at Gilles at the Grounds, in a retail space within the cafe. Expect locally made ceramics, candles, jewellery and clothing, plus second-hand books, vintage wares and more.
The Gator Club will open in late September at 33 Payneham Road, College Park.