The Jolly Controller

Leanne Tolra This café’s environmental footprint is as small as its physical one.

Adrian Clemens. Photo: Chris Hopkins
Adrian Clemens. Photo: Chris Hopkins


Prohibitive rents and exorbitant start-up costs left Adrian Clemens thinking he’d never realise the dream of running his own café. So he’s thrilled with the three-walled space he acquired at Darling Station four months ago.

Clemens heard that the former newsagent’s box on Platform 1 was empty and leapt over all hurdles to turn the “three brick walls and a tiled floor that belonged to a young guy who sold newspapers and smoked cigarettes” into a weekday morning café.

He painted the walls and built the jarrah and recycled timber benches. The café’s name was inspired by his childhood love of Thomas the Tank Engine.

Partner Grace Casey helped with design and layout, and a cabinetmaker friend supplied the slab of red gum for the benchtop. Clemens hopes to find an artist to decorate the roller door.

Ensuring the café’s environmental footprint is as small as its physical one, Clemens is using biodegradable takeaway cups and chemicals, and recycles coffee grounds through school and community garden schemes. “There is room for exceptional coffee that is sustainable and stems from good working practices,” he says.

“Being green is about taking ownership and being accountable for what we purchase and what we put back out there.”


On an average weekday morning, Clemens turns out about 60 coffees – many of them in the few minutes before a train departs.

“My speed has certainly increased but I won’t compromise on quality,” he says. “I’d rather say, ‘Sorry the bell has gone, I can’t get it out in time for you,’ than make someone a poor coffee.”

He completed a diploma of hospitality management and has worked for large organisations including Nestlé as a barista trainer and the Accor Hotel group, where he was awarded the company’s 2008 National Barista Championship title. Before opening The Jolly Controller, he held a barista-training role with the Melbourne Pub Group for 12 months.

Clemens chose sustainable, ethically sourced beans by Fayale Coffee of Goat House Café Roastery in Elsternwick to fill his grinder and has mostly used its Barrel of Monkeys seven-bean blend for the past six weeks.

When he’s not on Platform 1, Clemens runs his own coffee consultancy and barista training business. 


Platform 1, Darling Station, Clynden Avenue, Malvern East

Phone | 0403 015 236

Barista | Adrian Clemens

Coffee | Fayale Coffee

Barista’s choice | Long black

Open | Monday to Friday 6.30am-noon


The Jolly Controller on Urbanspoon

Letters in primary colours spell out the name of this nook on a bright green wall, which also holds boxed shelves containing bags of coffee beans and tins of tea. In the standing-room-only space, there’s an espresso machine, an organised grinder set-up, a tiny sink – and that’s about it. This might be the smallest café in Melbourne. 

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