In this digital age, what's to be done with the CBD's cylindrical metal kiosks made for selling newspapers and magazines? One opposite the Town Hall is enjoying a second life as a miniature crepe kitchen where, on a typical day, 200 thin, crisp treats are handed over with a cheery "bon appetit". Make that 300 during festivals and cool weather.
This kiosk is the little sister of Hardware Lane's La Petite Creperie, opened in 2008 by Patrizia Maselli and her French husband, Michael Gatta-Castel. Their cafe was inspired by France's creperies, and the kiosk by crepe stands in Paris.
Gatta-Castel had the bright idea to open in the newsstand, though when he sent a photo to Maselli it seemed a bleak proposition. "It was covered in old newspaper bulletins and graffiti, and it's tiny," she says. Furthermore, the deadline for tenders was days away, and legislation then meant no cooking on the street. "There was a bit of red tape involved," says Maselli, but in 2012 the scent of crepes began wafting along Swanston Street. "It's been an instant hit."
Although a nearby kitchen supplies batter and fillings, the crepe maker must be disciplined in this wee space. Showmanship also helps, as "you almost feel like you're performing", says Maselli. "It's like you're on a little stage because it's slightly elevated, you have this 180-degree view, and you're so connected to the energy of the people" who stop, look, take photos and ask questions about this petite creperie.