CH James, a trio of festive spaces, has launched in Station Street Fairfield. Locals are keen to experience the modern menu and character of the venue, which includes a stunning outdoor courtyard. The World Loves Melbourne was invited to experience CH James and some of its signature dishes. The ambience here is a standout, with large welcoming windows and bright spaces, giving a feel of light and airy. Fascinating farm implements adorn the wall, a reference to the period of CH James and heritage. The fit out is such that the indoors and outdoors meets seamlessly, with the windows opening up to accommodate the coffee bars, and its an easy stroll to the courtyard.
CH James is modern but features a nod to yesteryear with its compelling story of local CH James who was prominent in the northern suburbs in the halcyon period of Melbourne's development. Charles Henry James was a businessman extraordinaire in the 1870s and 1880s, and hugely influential in forming the unique community dynamic of the north we love today. Dreamer, innovator and fiercely local, CH James was an influencer who was keen to “have a go”, connect with his community and he conducted his business with distinctive flair. CH James became a model and mentor to young businessmen of the era.
CH James represented the interests of the northern community in the Legislative Council and was a champion of Fairfield, Alphington and Thornbury as well as suburbs such as Essendon, Brunswick and Flemington. CH James was also a man of style and could be spotted handsomely gowned in his silk brocade with heliotrope ribbon and fine diamonds with spangled sleeves. Hipster and fashionable. CH James and his wife Harriette were keen supporters of local charities, community projects and help to the underprivileged.
Station Street has its own place in Melbourne history. With diversity and an eclectic vibe, Station Street is quintessentially Melbourne. CH James spent much of his time on Station St Fairfield and in 1884 established a horse tramway, which ran the length of Station Street. We think this is very Melbourne.
CH James is well equipped with a coffee bar that faces iconic Station Street. Customers can pull up to the bar for top notch Small Batch coffee and the barista skills of Yuta Tanaka ex Auction Rooms. The World Loves Melbourne sampled two lattes perfectly made with fine latte art to boot.
Service here is excellent with Chris Krambias and the team personable and on their game. Chris has extensive experience in hospitality at top hotels such as the Park Hyatt in Melbourne and has a flair for service excellence.
CH James features an interesting and fine brunch and lunch menu, with Frenchman Franck Verschaeve (ex Pope Joan) the Head Chef classically trained from a fine dining background, but who has brought his skills to the cafe scene. Franck is a chef who likes to make his own pasta and jams and relishes, for example.
The Brunch menu boasts refreshing and healthy dishes like the Watermelon, orange blossom, minted yoghurt & granola crumb above.
Also popular as a healthy option is the Coconut and citrus bircher with roasted pistachio & lemon balm.
A stunning and popular dish (see above and below) is the Ricotta and smoked trout, soft scrambled eggs with a chive coriander pesto and toast. This dish sang on the plates, with smoked trout flavours through the scrambled egg, with the richness of the ricotta. The chive and coriander pesto set off the dish, and the toast was a perfect accompaniment.
CH James also hit the high notes with this Hungry Vego dish of Three grains, roasted pistachio, activated almonds, seasonal veg, lemon yoghurt & a poached egg. When I look at the menu as a whole there are a number of healthy style dishes. This is modern cuisine and on trend.
Many will enjoy Dr Martys Crumpets, served at CH James with whipped butter & rooftop honey.
The Brunch menu also features the popular Seared Silver Trevally, radish, cucumber & caperberry salad. The presentation is superb. Franck loves to cure the fish himself, and the portions of trevally are generous. The salad accompanying is fresh and zesty and the dish is in perfect balance.
The World Loves Melbourne was impressed with this dish and intends to imbibe it again on return. A similar version is available with the Lunch menu.
CH James has an impressive Lunch menu featuring options such as Baked buffalo ricotta cake, Corn zucchini and fetta tart, and Cod croquette with gribiche, salad and crispy bread.
The World Loves Melbourne was taken with the House made gnocchi with roasted tomato asparagus & broad beans. This was "comfort food" heaven. Franck has cooked his superb house made gnocchi in butter and sage - a killer combination - and the roasted tomato, asparagus and beans bring great balance. This dish has been a standout since CH James opened.
Coffee here is excellent and served in proper glassware. CH James spent time sourcing the best sugar to match its specialist coffee, and uses Coconut blossom sugar, which features a slightly caramelised taste.
Drinks list includes Small Batch coffee, Mork chocolate, and Tea by Chamellia. Wine list includes boutique World Loves Melbourne favourites, Maddens Rise and Medhurst, as well as other boutique wines. Another favourite is Pizzini Prosecco, our favourite Australian Prosecco. Craft beers are sourced from Victoria, including Hargreaves Hill and Holgate Brewhouse. An interesting option is Lager from Keo, Cyprus.
The World Loves Melbourne spotted Franck (right) in the kitchen with his team.
CH James has developed an amazing courtyard area next to a church, featuring plantings of fruit trees and fresh herbs, used in its cooking.
Check out the chilli plant thriving in its large planting box.
CH James is a great new addition for the northern suburbs and Melbourne.
Says the website -
"We are proud to open CH James café and are inspired by the story of CH James. He had a vision of the “opportunity” of the north that we see some 150 years later. Some of us live in streets with names linked to CH James. Legend also has it the laneway culture of Melbourne was also formed by the legacy of CH James who developed the laneway next to his large French inspired residence.
At the height of his fortunes in the 1880s CH James was considered to be a millionaire and riding high. He and his wife Harriette entertained Melbourne socialites with lavish balls featuring dancing into the early hours, decorating their residence with “fine palms, exotics and blossoms.” Can we add interior designer to the list? Towards the end of his life CH James had his ups and downs (hit by the Depression) but his legacy in the history of Fairfield and the northern suburbs of Melbourne is entrenched.
CH James is a "trio of festive spaces" and nod to the entrepreneurship of CH James and his sense of adventure, innovation and love of the northern suburbs. CH James is a place to relax and imbibe, with casual dining and rewarding menu choices using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Not to mention personable service and fine coffee. A garden courtyard adds to the ambience. We think CH James with wife Harriette, five daughters and their son, would imbibe the community vibe and coffee culture at CH James in Fairfield."
CH James has character in spades and boats several attractive dining spaces. Service is top notch, the coffee excellent, and the menu compelling and on trend. Highly recommended.