Child’s Play


mailife - - Contents - Words and Photos by RA­JAN SAMI

Child­hood friends Ela Le­dua and Lor­raine Pat­ter­son met in Class 1 at the In­ter­na­tional School in Suva. Some 26 years later, they’ve launched The Mad Hat­ter Hut, a child- and fam­ily-friendly café down the road from Vic­to­ria Ten­nis Court on Dis­raeli Road in Suva. It’s a small but bright and airy space once oc­cu­pied by a neigh­bour­hood cor­ner store bet­ter known for its steel bars and dark and dingy in­te­rior. Peo­ple still rock up ask­ing for packet noo­dles and recharge, says Ela, whose il­lus­tra­tor hus­band Tui has lent a hand with hand-painted art for the café’s walls. A DIY ap­proach runs through­out the cafe’s quirky in­te­rior: table­tops were fash­ioned out of wooden ship­ping crates, tea cups and saucers found at a St Vinny’s in Bris­bane were turned into hang­ing lights at the counter by Lor­raine’s hus­band Athony, while class­room chairs were sourced from Toorak-based school fur­ni­ture maker Rat­tans and painted by hand. The cafe’s menu also dis­plays a sim­i­lar DIY ethos. Along­side the usual café stan­dards (cof­fees, teas and other drinks and eats), the duo has in­tro­duced their own sig­na­tures with an em­pha­sis on lo­cal in­gre­di­ents. Their Kailoma smoothie uses Batiri orange or boiled pineap­ple juice as a base to which paw­paw, pineap­ple and ba­nana is added. Bure­sala Coboi is of­fered hot or iced, the lemon­grass comes fresh from the Pat­ter­son fam­ily farm on Le­vuka via boat each morn­ing to Suva. Savusavu Bliss is a nod to Lor­raine’s mum’s home­town. It’s their take on a lay­ered co­conut slice where a sponge base is topped with grated co­conut and fin­ished with caramel sauce and a dol­lop of fresh cream. For the health-con­scious, the duo has in­tro­duced wraps, sal­ads, overnight oats, whole­meal dried-fruit muffins and is slowly in­tro­duc­ing gluten-free op­tions like choco­late chip brown­ies. Thank­fully, the Mad Hat­ter Hut is fussy about cof­fee. Baris­tas Lesi and Max (fa­mil­iar faces from the café scene in Suva) make beau­ti­ful cof­fee us­ing dou­ble-fil­tered wa­ter and Aus­tralian Pi­azza D’Oro espresso beans. De­spite be­ing some­what out of the way, peo­ple have been mak­ing the trek since the Mad Hat­ter Hut opened its doors on March 13. Be­sides fam­i­lies and chil­dren, you will find grand­moth­ers, free­lancers and of­fice work­ers in the mix on any given day. The in­spi­ra­tion to cre­ate a space that caters to fam­i­lies and chil­dren came from their own lives: both women are moth­ers with three kids each, all under 10 years old. Lor­raine, who moved to Bris­bane 10 years ago, says once a month she takes her seven-year-old Aurora on a moth­er­daugh­ter date. “We go to a café where I get a cap­puc­cino and she gets a hot choco­late. Then af­ter­wards, we go buy her a cos­tume or a dress,” she says. “It’s a chance for us to con­nect and bond and I wanted to of­fer some­thing sim­i­lar here in Fiji.” One side of the cafe is lined with cloth­ing, cos­tumes, swim­mers and shoes for kids aged 1 to 12, to which the women plan to add lo­cally-made tropical things for kids.

The Mad Hat­ter Hut, 22 Dis­raeli Rd, Suva. Opens 9.30am to 5pm Monday, 8am to 5pm Tues­day to Fri­day and 9.30am to 4.30pm Satur­day. Closed Sun­day.

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