Travel and Photo Diary: Lil Miss Collins Pop Up Cafe in Parramatta
On Monday, my close friend Vaishnavi and I met for a standout brunch date at Lil Miss Collins, a charming outdoor courtyard cafe with sunny seating. It’s shaded by a bungalow style shed while the coffee shack is a wooden, tin roofed hut and the kitchen boasts the styled remains of a historic home’s entryway. Pressed against the high rises and multilevel parking garages in Parramatta’s business district, it provided a refreshing shot of rustic comfort amongst the sleek modernity of the city.Service at Lil Miss Collins is flexible and accommodating with dine in, takeaway and delivery offered, availability for functions, wheelchair accessibility, gluten, dairy free, vegetarian and vegan options, children’s meals, an expansive wine, beer and cocktail menu, ready made desserts and bakes. Best of all, it’s pet friendly. Lil Miss Collins roasts its coffee in house and has added a second brew to the repertoire- a blend of Columbian and Brazilian beans that have a fuller flavour compared to the Orthodox Blend.
Their ambience was undeniably cheerful, utterly quirky and positively endearing. The bare back cafe is bright and fun, putting an instant smile on your dial. A carefree and effortless set up was created through the addition of repurposed thrifted furniture, weather timber fences, a myriad of plants, colourful window shutters, bold floral backdrops and hand drawn signage. Nothing felt haphazard or uninviting- quite the opposite in fact. So quaint and relaxed! Located conveniently near Parramatta train station, I can already tell that Lil Miss Collins will become a regular haunt. This hidden gem had a Grounds Of Alexandria like feel, solidified by the addition of the snazzy pink phone booth.
More interesting still is the cafe’s humble beginnings travelling around Sydney. Owner Tony Moussa confirmed that Lil Miss Collins would have its third and final home in the heart of Parramatta after resounding success and becoming sought after in the second historic Bella Vista Farm location, dating back two hundred years. As it settles down for good, the cafe has retained popularity, exuberance and a quintessential nostalgic atmosphere. The visual All Day Breakfast and Lunch menus, while adding to my indecision on what to order, were spectacular and robust. I was impressed by the seemingly inexhaustible list of sides that made meal customisation possible.
After a decent peruse, I decided on the Phoenician Kafta bowl, a dish rooted in Middle Eastern culture. This consisted of grilled herbed lamb kafta, zaatar spiced pita bread, sumac and dill yogurt, traditional fattoush salad with tomato, lettuce, radish, cucumber, pomegranate and mint, flatbread crisps, molasses and a zesty lemon sumac dressing. Thick and chewy golden slabs of halloumi cheese were my add on of choice. Cue a complementary chorus of flavours and you’ve got a party in your mouth. As expected, presentation was immaculate and the serving size more than generous. An absolute delight!
Now to hear from the local legend himself: “When I first started Lil Miss Collins back in early twenty nineteen, I sought a change in my life. I’ve always been interested in coffee, food and have prioritised making home cooked meals. I took the first step of buying a coffee machine and started practising latte art at home. I’ve always had this passion and knew I wanted to open up a coffee shop but didn’t have a clue where to start or how to properly kick off the process. Starting out was definitely hard. I asked a lot of questions, sought guidance from many people and spent a significant amount of time in trial and error. At this stage there was a couple of pop up eateries around but no pop up cafes. I knew I could create a cafe that would be the first of its kind and fill a gap in the market.
The team and I started brainstorming some ideas for a transportable cafe. We looked at a few options and thought about getting a shipping container to convert. Ninety five percent of the building materials we used are recyclable from the tin roofing, timber, and the shipping container itself. I come from a faith background and felt blessed to be building Lil Miss Collins. Everything fell into place and there was an ease to it. I was previously running bars and nightclubs but felt I was not getting any younger. Everything came together when I most needed change and that was the driving force between my desire to persist and succeed. I believe this is my purpose.
Two special aspects define Lil Miss Collins. Firstly, the portable nature of a pop up cafe. It gives a sense of uniqueness moving around places and makes it a special experience for the people in the area when we come to them. The second aspect is the importance of fresh, quality produce and the behind the scenes work that goes into identifying and sourcing it. We band with local farmers to create a unique flavour and pride ourselves on being reliable and organic. This is what I’ve conceptualised from the very beginning. I’m proud to have seen it come to fruition and match up so well.
The hardest part of running a pop up cafe is starting from scratch every single time. Opening up initially can be exciting when you’re running on adrenaline but stress and anxiety can take over. We had to commit to doing that over and over again. While somewhat unideal, we want to give back to the people that make this dream possible. It’s always a joy when locals of a particular area make a special trip just because we’re opening up there. Makes it worth it every time! Overall, despite being quite the journey, I’ve never looked back. To be honest, I put everything I had resource wise and had to borrow as well. I didn’t know if my idea would pan out or be a worthwhile risk but I stood by my decision to give it a go and am made better for it.”