Kawa Café has withstood seventeen years in its shady Crown Street nook, a rare achievement for any business in this ever-changing suburb. Kawa’s longevity is owing to its honest menu, European style on-street dining and its worn in charm that comes only from a place that has lived the history of the suburb.

In its seventeen years Kawa has had only two different owners. Until last year Meg Hewitt ran the café. Meg, a successful artist and photographer, was and continues to be well known among Surry Hill’s locals and old-timers. In its past life, Kawa was a meeting place for artists and creatives of the area, giving the cafe a unique and quintessentially Crown Street character from its inception.

Bill and Tina. Photo credit: Walter Maurice.

Wishing to pursue her career in photography, Meg sold the café to new owners Tina and Bill. The couple had visited the café many times and were drawn to its charm.

Bill’s hospitality background paired with Tina’s in fashion and jewellery making seems a good fit for Kawa. They have plans to create new all organic and vegan options on the menu that, for the most part, has remained relatively unchanged.

“The message [Meg] gave to us when we started, was that people come back because when they do nothing’s changed,” explains Bill, “we want to continue that, as well as introduce new things.”

Everything in the café is home made, from the baked beans to the juices and smoothies made fresh from the fruit and veg on display in the glass cabinet. The famous organic chicken ball sandwich has been on the menu for years, a staple of the café as much as Tina’s home cooked vegan desserts.

The challenge for Tina and Bill is to maintain a legacy that has been around for so long, while simultaneously establishing their own character. They find themselves at an intersection between old and new but find this exciting, not daunting.

“What you see is what you get,” says Bill, who sites Kawa’s alfresco seating area and fresh, organic produce as key to its success, “There’s no pretension here. That’s what Meg wanted to impart and what we will continue.”