When it fits, it fits. Take Jamface in the Adelaide Central Market. Poh Ling Yeow’s eclectic and homely–looking new cafe feels like it’s been there for years even though it set up shop just two months ago.
The cooking identity and TV host says her cafe had to fit in into the Market’s “worn-in” character, which it does with an inviting cubby-house bric-a-brac feel; the perfect setting for the honest and homely food of Ling Yeow. “ They didn’t want flashy – someone who’s going to put up new things,” Ling Yeow says. “ The Market’s got a real worn-in characteristic about it and they want people that come in to fit in. They want it to still have that feel of it being here a while. That’s what makes it appealing.”
Following Comida Catering Co and Le Souk’s recent moves to the Central Market, Jamface is another reason to head to the Market for breakfast, lunch or a co ffee. The permanent stall at the Central Market is a continuation of Ling Yeow’s Jamface brand, which for the last few years has been found in pop-up mode at the Adelaide Farmers’ Market and The Market Shed on Holland, selling treats and pastries. Curiously, Jamface was originally meant for the Central Market.
“We were asked to put in a proposal,” she says. “Two years ago I put one in and it got turned down. It was the same concept but the CEO at the time couldn’t wrap his head around me cooking French-like Australian food,” she laughs. “He was like, ‘We’ve already got lots of patisseries’. I said, ‘Yeah but mine’s going to be di fferent. We are making everything from scratch. It’s all made inhouse.’ And I think that’s all you need for a little point of di fference. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You just have to have to something that people can latch onto that’s authentic. There are no tricks.”
Looking back, Ling Yeow feels doing the pop-up stalls before setting up a permanent home in the Central Market was the right order due to “understanding that simple thing of what you think is good is not what everyone thinks is good”. “Your audience will tell you what they will want to eat and don’t want to eat,” she says. “You have to find that happy medium.” The food at Jamface is honest and delicious fare with mouth-watering sandwiches and delicious pastries and sweets that are all made from scratch. For Ling Yeow, she wants to serve food that people will dig straight into rather than photograph.
“You’ll find the menu and the way we serve everything is very homely. Deliberately, I don’t plate my food in much of a fancy way at all. It’s all about enticing people to dive into the food as opposed to people looking at it and taking photos of it, which I feel is too much of a trend. Recently, I’ve eaten so much bad food that’s been plated beautifully. I’m almost trying to reverse [that trend] a little bit. When you look on social media, there are whole sites dedicated to the art of plating. I’m like, ‘how about the flavour?’ So, the food looks very much like how your mum might serve it. Obviously it still looks nice and tidy, it’s more about how I want people to eat the food – that’s how it’s plated. I don’t put cream on the side, I put it on the pancakes.”
Ling Yeow owns Jamface with her best friend Sarah Rich, who like Ling Yeow, comes from an arts background. The two, as well as their partners, pretty much built and designed the whole place themselves including the Jamface logo, which was painted by Rich.
“We really wanted everything to have a very personal touch,” Ling Yeow says. The two friends have fantasised about opening a place like Jamface since they went to uni together. “People assume I opened this because of my MasterChef experience but it’s always been something that’s been ticking away. And it’s almost like it’s one of the reasons why I did go on MasterChef. My interest in food was always there and obviously allowed this to be a success. It’s always been in the back of my mind.” But Ling Yeow says going on MasterChef (where she finished runner-up in the first series) gave her the confidence to open a business such as Jamface. The setting up of Jamface will be covered in the second season of Ling Yeow’s SBS program Poh & Co, which returns to screens in May.
“We absolutely cover the building of it and the space getting con firmed, so the whole process of us getting approved and everything is covered,” she says. Ling Yeow is applying for a liquor license for Jamface to hopefully match wine to three-course set menus on Friday nights.
“At the moment it’s really just a cafe with breakfast and lunch. I love the fact that being at the Market I don’t have to be really concise about what I do. I can do a Thai night or a French night and have a bit of fun with that. At the moment, Friday nights are just pizza fritta nights, so we are doing that because we’d prefer to be licensed when we do that [three-course set menus], so we can do dinner and wine; get some local wineries on board. Pair up with a local winemaker and make a beautiful house wine. Very salt of the earth. It’s all about making good food accessible.”
Jamface by Poh
Tuesday and Thursday, 7am to 5pm, Friday, 7am to 9pm, Saturday, 7am to 3pm jamface.com.au