Have you heard the one about the old Ballarat service station that became a hip neighbourhood cafe?
Introducing the NYC-inspired Drive, the culmination of 12 months of blood, sweat and tears for Ballarat’s Staley clan.
We spoke to Jarrah Staley about how his family has transformed Golden Point’s ugly ducking into a magnificent melting pot of people and flavours.
Who are the people behind Drive?
“Drive is a homegrown family-run business. Sam and Mick Staley have had 20-plus years experience in running a business, while myself, Ruby, and Marlin have had plenty of years of combined experience in the hospitality industry. We’ve all come to love hospitality in our own ways and thought with the practical knowledge between us that a cafe was the best way for us to give back to the community in providing a place for people to express themselves, converse and create.”
“The front of house team is made up of some of Ballarat’s most professional hospitality members and the back of house is run smoothly by Nicole Edwards.”
What inspired you to turn an old service station into a cafe?
“Living on Grant Street, basically across the road, the old service station was starting to become a bit of an eyesore – a point of view espoused by most, if not all, people we spoke to about it. When discussion first began as to where we could situate the diner, it was an easy choice. One of Ballarat’s best facets is its architecture and buildings, and for so many years, the station sat dormant and aesthetically neglected. As we continue to build upon the site, its potential continuously reveals itself, parallel with the incredible history of its construction and use in the 20th century.”
“In order to keep costs to a minimum, the family put in a lot of physical work themselves. A year’s worth of weekends were spent constructing the interior, painting the exterior and making sure the building conformed to the regulations of its change of use. Yet this work merely reflected the whole point of the diner itself – a place to create and imagine while enjoying the company of those around you – and made everything substantially worth it.”
Drive joins a growing number of neighbourhood cafes popping up away from the main drag. What do you love most about Golden Point?
“Apart from short stints in Melbourne, all of the family have lived in Ballarat their whole lives. We’ve lived in various different suburbs over the years and no matter where we move to, there is always a local, specific sense of community that arises. We’ve always inevitably grown to become friends with our neighbours, spent time at local venues and witnessed the potential of the surrounding area – it is the same with every suburb.”
“We therefore knew that installing a cafe in the heart of Golden Point would only help to revitalise that sense of community and would only help to entrench the connection those living there feel amongst each other. It is already known as the ‘local’ to some (most definitely us) and the amount of consistent customers who live around the area is overwhelmingly positive.”
How are you showcasing local food and drink on your menu?
“This was a decisive point in the creation of Drive. Again, having come from Ballarat, it was a no-brainer to support local food and drink as much as possible and we did this in the most literal sense.”
“There is a surplus of food and dairy producers and suppliers in Ballarat, along with its surrounds. A few examples being meat from Country Style Smallgoods, cheese from Meredith Dairy, and milk by Inglenook Dairy from Dunnstown.”
“Along with food, we’re extremely proud of the drinks list. The majority of our liquid is Victorian, showcasing specifically local talent. Some of the many examples include the multiple-label wines from super intelligent Owen Latta based in Coghills Creek; the precise, delicious Red Duck beers direct from Alfredton; to the rich, malty Port Melbourne-based Starward Whisky.”
“Our absurdly-consistent coffee is sent to us direct from Dukes Roastery in Richmond every week (not even two hours away).”
Tell us about some of your pimped-up sandwiches…
“The whole family’s been to New York and to say we were inspired would be an understatement. The menu plays off a broader American vibe (with the fried chicken and maple waffles presenting flavours reminiscent of something you’d find deep down south), yet it is specifically NY.”
“From the Benedict, to the club sandwich, along with the heavy Israeli/Russian/Italian influence, the menu attempts to be a true melting pot of ingredients that is, yet again, inherently Australian, reflected by the produce and elements of the menu such as the egg and bacon roll.”
“As for favourites, it’s quite hard to go past a classic cheeseburger, the Monterey Jack adding texture in your mouth more than anything, with the pickles providing that briny pop of dill that cuts through the density of Victorian beef.”
“However, the Reuben, a mess of every flavour group present at once, is always going to be a perfect reflection of New York. Slow-cooked corned beef – a British tradition – combined with savoury swiss cheese, sweet-sour Russian dressing and the Eastern European richness of sauerkraut smashed between two fresh slices of rye will never not be mouth-wateringly tempting.”
“With half the family being vegetarian, we’re looking to insert much more vegetarian-friendly options as we continue and, being aware of the potential inherent in seasonality, will persist in playing around with the menu, perhaps moving toward a more South-American influence as the sun starts to come back out later in the year.”
227 Grant Street, Golden Point