Piccolo by Him, a chic Euro-style cafe from coffee veterans, opens in The Valley

The brains behind one of The Valley’s most cherished coffee spots have just opened a brand-new cafe. If you’ve been seeking a new joint to grab a killer coffee, classic brunch bites or simply enjoy some low-key vibes, Piccolo by Him might just be the spot you’re looking for.
May 24, 2024, updated May 24, 2024

Tucked away on Wandoo Street, a stone’s throw from the heaving action of James Street, sits Piccolo by Her. For almost five years now, the colourful caffeine slinger has been dispensing some of Fortitude Valley’s best coffee. It’s a big call, sure – but ask any amongst Piccolo by Her’s crowd of regulars and they’ll tell you that the cafe’s quality stems, primarily, from the knowledge of its owners, Maxine Kim and Martin Kwon.

A pair of seasoned coffee-industry veterans, Maxine (who previously worked with pick-me-up powerhouse Bellissimo) and Martin (a certified Q Grader and former long-time roaster with Campos Coffee) know a thing or two about what makes a good cup – a repository of information they’ve elected to funnel into their cafe operations.

“All of that knowledge is dissolved into our business,” says Martin. “We talk about the coffee quality with our staff as well as the customers – they then recognise us as really caring about coffee quality.”

“They trust us a lot, in that way,” adds Maxine.

If you’re a fan of Piccolo by Her (or just appreciate a killer cup of coffee), then you will be thrilled to hear that, over the past few months, the couple has been quietly fine-tuning an exciting new cafe concept, just a few streets away from their first.

Piccolo by Him is the name of Martin and Maxine’s striking new coffee and brunch haunt, which is cutting a chic figure at the heart of the 1000 Ann precinct. Sandwiched between Tartufo and Ovolo The Valley, Piccolo by Him sees the couple seizing the opportunity to showcase more of their personal tastes alongside an already top-flight cafe offering.

“We have particular tastes about things,” says Martin, who had been searching for the ideal spot for expansion for the past two years. “We wanted to introduce these tastes to our customers – that’s why we put ‘Coffee and Culture’ under the name of Piccolo by Him.”

The space they’ve inherited, previously home to French-inspired patisserie Société, boasts classic bones – think mosaic tile floors, plush leather banquettes and brass fixtures. The couple removed Société’s striped wallpaper and mirrors in favour of spotlighting the existing black-timber panelling, with a fresh lick of paint giving the interiors a sense of freshness.

Société’s European-inspired elegance has been retained, with Piccolo by Him’s layout reminiscent of the cosy cafes and wine bars that Martin and Maxine frequented on their recent travels through France, Italy and the UK.

While Piccolo by Him’s name and the moodier colour scheme gesture towards a more masculine persona than its Wandoo Street sibling, both Martin and Maxine believe that the end result is a blend of their aesthetic preferences.

“I would say that it’s a combination of both of our tastes,” says Maxine. “It just happens to be darker and bolder compared to Piccolo by Her, which is bright and a bit more casual.”

Over time, expect Martin and Maxine to add more personal touches to the Piccolo by Him space. For now, you can catch glimpses in the smaller details, from the vintage plates and light fixtures to the jazz-centric playlist that gently reverberates across the venue.

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With a larger kitchen now at his disposal, Martin is relishing the chance to offer more in the way of made-to-order fare. It’s here that the couple’s European inspirations once again come into play, particularly the widespread and unadulterated focus on quality, from produce to presentation.

“When we went to Italy, sandwiches were everywhere – so I wanted to mimic one of their sandwiches on our menu,” Martin tells us. “And in the UK we had one breakfast in particular, it was so classic. Like hollandaise made with good butter and French toast with good brioche.”

“There was no twist, but every single product they put on the plate was really, really great,” adds Maxine.

Piccolo by Him’s menu follows a similar ethos, with a focus on nailing classic crowd favourites. For breakfast, you’ll find French toast with berry compote and maple syrup, eggs Benedict with house-made hollandaise (and your choice of ham, bacon or mushroom), and Irish breakfast – a hearty spread boasting eggs, bacon, tomato, mushroom, baked beans, black pudding, pork sausage and sourdough.

“It’s hard to find a good classic, sometimes – we wanted to bring it back,” reveals Martin. “That’s our goal and our focus.”

Additionally, the crew is keeping the cabinet amply stocked with sandwiches – we’re talking breakfast toasties, egg salad on brioche, chicken and walnut sandwiches, and an Italian-style number loaded with prosciutto, rocket, tomato, mozzarella, caramelised onion and basil pesto on an olive-oil panini. When it comes to the all-important coffee, the Piccolo by Him team is keeping its standards high.

“We are using Campos’ Dark City as our main blend – it’s more bold, with dark chocolate and a sweet tobacco character in there,” says Martin, who adds that Piccolo by Him also serves rotating single origins and batch brews. “We review those as much as we can and we always alter the method of the brewing as well to keep the quality.”

In the future, Maxine and Martin are keen to add a tight list of natural wines to Piccolo by Him’s offering, which will likely debut in tandem with some new menu items. For now, the couple are keen to let the cafe evolve naturally, with the operators more than happy to respond to the feedback of the community.

“I want to share the culture that we like,” says Martin. “[Piccolo by Him] is a little bit of low key – we don’t really hype things up. [We want to be] that place where people can go back to once or twice a week, just to feel the vibe and to get a good feeling out of it.”

Piccolo by Him is now open to the public – head to the Stumble Guide for more info.

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