The first thing you notice about the Little Shop of Waffles is the smell. It’s sweet – like sugar and batter – reminding me of Sunday’s spent baking in my Nan’s kitchen. The big difference being my Nan never made bubble waffles and until a few weeks ago, I had never even heard of them.
The idea for Little Shop of Waffles, Sydney’s only bubble waffle café, began as most great ideas do – with four female friends (Irene Zalami, Saskia Schuck, Naomi Mourra and Alex Potter) sat around a table reminiscing about their time overseas and the amazing food they’d enjoyed. One such food was a street food in Hong Kong – the bubble waffle – and they decided to bring this unusual dessert to Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
What began as something fun to make for friends at home has blossomed into a successful business, one that had unusual beginnings. While the Northern Beaches was in the grips of a COVID-19 lockdown, The Little Shop of Waffles officially opened its doors on 1st January 2021.
While for many, choosing to launch a café during a global pandemic would seem a crazy idea, it’s one that proved advantageous for the four friends, with Co-founder Irene Zalami saying that launching during a lockdown turned out to be a positive move for the business, commenting, “We started with takeaway only and we saw that even in lockdown, people were looking for something that would bring some joy to their day.”
And who wouldn’t find joy in a Pavlova Bubble Waffle, complete with seasonal fruit and crispy meringue, or a Banana-Carma, filled with caramel gelato, fresh banana and caramel popcorn. It’s all my sugar-filled dreams come to life.
So what’s so special about a waffle? Each bubble waffle is baked fresh to order, the batter is handmade in store and there are vegan and gluten free options available. Every creation is palm oil free and the business is dedicated to giving back to a community that has showed them so much love over the last five months.
Partnering with Northern Beaches Women Shelter (NBWS), one dollar from every sale of Banana-Carma goes towards the essential work the shelter does in the community and just this month the café started working with Kindness Coffee with a pay-it-forward initiative. When you donate $4 on a pay-it-forward coffee a ping pong ball is added to the Kindness Jar and anyone in need can use a ball to redeem a regular hot drink.
The café is also dedicated to sustainability, with no single-use plastic used with their orders and if you show up with a bag they’ll fill it with their used coffee grounds for your compost or garden.
Little Shop of Waffles has recently launched a small savoury selection – Cruffles – croissants lightly toasted in the bubble waffle maker and topped with your choice of smoked salmon, avocado and feta or Mediterranean style with hummus and olives. There is also always the option to build your own creation with toppings of your choosing.
There’s no denying how difficult the last 18 months have been for small businesses, and the uncertainty brought about by COVID-19 has not evaded the café completely. A finalist in the Northern Beaches Local Business Award, the four owners and their small team of dedicated staff are grateful for every busy day they get and hope to continue to serve the Northern Beaches community their fill of bubble waffles well into the future.
But the big question is – how does it taste? It tastes like Sunday’s spent in my Nan’s kitchen – and that’s priceless.
You can find Little Shop of Waffles at 7/7-9 The Corso, Manly 2050 or order online.
They’re open from 10am-5pm on Wednesday and Thursday; 10am-9pm on Friday and Saturday; and 10am-6pm on Sunday.