Those who believe that pipe dreams are mere flights of fancy haven’t met Ravi Prasad. His was Parliament on King, a multi-use social space/cafe which, as of last year, became a reality.
Take that haters.
You’ll be forgiven for having walked past this hobby-cum-social experiment of Ravi’s without registering its existence. The cafe/bookstore/social space/living room has an unassuming frontage no wider than your typical Erskineville townhouse — which it was up until a number of months ago.
“We were looking for a place on the main street [of Newtown],” says Ravi. His requirements were specific and unchangeable: “It had to have an on-street storefront and be something we could afford.” Which is how Parliament on King ended up on the “dead end” of King Street (Ravi’s words, not ours). Ideally, it would have been nice to have claimed a spot somewhere on the more traffic-heavy commercial end of King. But as financial constraints and kismet would have it, Ravi and his wife Della secured this charming homestead instead.
Along with their newborn, they rule the upstairs of the house. The front room however, is all ours. Well, ours and a number of (other) kitschy knick-knacks. It’s the size of a living room and fitted out similarly. A two-seater sits in the centre and random seats and coffee tables lay claim to whatever space they can negotiate. Walls of makeshift shelving and Ravi’s personal collection of books (which you can buy/borrow/read on the premises) stretch toward the ceiling. “I want to add another shelf to that one,” he says, referring to a library that’s already tickling the eaves. “I was thinking of doing it today…” Hmmm. Maybe tomorrow.
Paintings collected over the years, primarily by known Australian artists, like Ben Frost and Sidney Nolan, hang haphazardly on the walls. As does a taxidermied billy goat. Origami artists have ninja'd paper pieces in nooks and crannies and even a Ducati, Ravi’s old machine, is furniture. One day he’ll resurrect it and ride it again, but for the meantime, it’s content moonlighting as a bookshelf.
A record player from circa 1975 spins in the corner. It blares music from speakers of the same era as coffees are drunk and coins are left on the counter in a complete state of trust. It’s the kind of quirky hole-in-the-wall hidden-whatsit you’d stumble into from the backstreets of Berlin and Paris. And that’s pretty much how Ravi envisioned it. Growing up in the “most boring place in the world”, (we won’t name names, but it was somewhere in Adelaide…) Ravi became enchanted with these cities and their bustling art scenes and dreamed to import them here.
He’s doing well. Already his outfit has hosted its fair share of poetry readings and band photoshoots and is the meeting ground for Ravi’s underground publication Warhol’s Children.
Oh, did we forget to mention it offers free WiFi?
It also sells locally sourced and homemade delights. Coffee comes courtesy of The Little Marionette, bread is sourced from The Bread and Butter Project, the bircher muesli is mixed by Della and the cake of the day is baked that morning by Parliament’s head barista Ben Sutton, of Kings Cross pop-up Yellow House fame. Try it. It’s delicious.
For the kids and those surviving on a student diet, there’s fairy bread, cookies and milk and an assortment of jaffles — all of which come served on such an odd mish-mash of crockery you’ll think Ravi pillaged the bric-a-brac section of St Vinnies to amass it. Not surprisingly, it’s his own collection that’s on the table.
He’ll likely have to pillage his cupboards for more in the coming months as he’s currently nutting out the paperwork for a liquor license (ETA July). “I’m not quite sure what we’ll serve yet,” he says. “I’m thinking three of everything; spirits, wines.”
Anticipate bottle bookends on these shelves by year’s end.