As it turned out, arranging a meeting with Alexander Hall was a fantastic move for my sightseeing itinerary of Brooklyn. With the plan being to meet at his café; Milk Bar in Prospect Heights, I had the pleasure to walk streets full of the “brownstones” of Brooklyn made famous in my own head by Sesame Street and the Cosby Show. Prospect Heights was a really pretty area and the perfect spot for the friendly little Milk Bar taking pride of place on a busy intersection. There was a distinctly easy going neighbourhood vibe inside, with visitors chatting, reading, patting passing dogs, eating delicious looking meals or having some public “private” time on their laptops. The smiley faces behind the bar turned out to be Briana the cook, Erin from Byron Bay and Georgia from Melbourne!
Briana the cook, Erin from Byron Bay and Georgia from Melbourne
I supped on an iced chocolate (not on the menu but immediately obliged ) while waiting for Alexander then got the message from the girls that he had been held up over at his new bar-to-be; Sunshine Co. just a couple of blocks away and I was more than welcome to wander over.
And that I did, feeling very stealthy knocking on the papered up windows of another brilliantly positioned corner premises and stealing my way in. Alexander exuded a wickedly quick combo of enthusiasm, genuine friendliness and a kind of renovating A.D.D. He introduced me to the team of builders, electricians and paint brush wielding crew as I followed him down into the basement where he was in the middle of varnishing walls. With me attempting to stay out of the way (and unpainted) I propped myself against a doorway and got picking the brains of this Australian hospo-adventurer.
Originally a Melbourne boy, Alexander shipped off at 18 to the UK and then on to New York making his living working in successful restaurants and bars. In 2009 he joined forces with workmate and now business partner Sabrina Godfrey to open their first café, Milk Bar. With their major focus being on customer service it quickly became a favourite in the area and spurred them on to open Café Madeleine (after Alexander’s miniature golden doodle!) and then Bluebird Coffee Shop in Manhattan. Café Madeleine was barely open a year before the partnership received an offer they couldn’t refuse and was sold. As Alexander explained, each enterprise has its own personality and challenges to match depending on the neighbourhood, and he should know. Both he and Sabrina work on the roster at each place across all aspects of the business (making coffees, taking out the rubbish, cleaning up etc)
But apparently two businesses weren’t enough for these guys, as I found myself in the middle of a beautiful renovation of what will become Sunshine Co. their first cocktail bar and restaurant scheduled to open early November. To put it plainly, I am pretty excited about what this place is destined to become and I was only seeing the bare bones of it!! Sabrina and Alexander quite obviously have the creative juice to match their business nouse and passion for hospitality. And by the look on the crews face (including Edward from Christchurch wielding a paint brush in the bathrooms) the enthusiasm of these projects is infectious. I certainly came out of there feeling like the opportunities in New York were unlimited to the people that were willing to put the work in. Aussies, kiwis and everyone in between, I would highly recommend hitting up one or all of these spots!
ALEXANDER + NYC 101
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn with Madeleine the miniature golden doodle
What he loves most about NYC:
-The constant stimulation and the fact that the possibilities are endless.
-No one will scoff at you.
-No tall poppy syndrome.
-An incredibly positive environment.
What he misses most about Australia:
Fish and Chips….namely potato cakes
Favourite NYC haunts:
– Freemans restaurant
– Glass Shop (coffee shop)
– Tiny’s Sandwich Shop
– The Highline
What I learnt from Alexander:
If you surround yourself with the right team and emerse yourself completely into your project (at every level) it is highly likely you will be a winner.