On a foggy, grey winter afternoon I truly escaped for a couple of hours. I felt a little (a lot) like the Pevensie children from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – stepping through a humble door to a magic portal, a Narnia of coffee, conversation and music.
You don’t step in to Velos Mazeh Musette (affectionately known as VMM) in Mount Eliza just for a quick coffee – although the barista was swift! – but an ambient experience of sensory escapism.
To find your piece of Narnia, head down hip strip in Mount Eliza Way and look for the mermaid bench, the hanging planters and a black framed window and door. You’ll get the merest glimpse of what’s inside but you must step beyond the threshold. During opening times this cafe transforms depending on which vinyl record is under the turntable’s needle.
I stepped in on a foggy, moody Mount Eliza day and was warmly greeted by some soothing Blues. It was exactly what the day called for.
Sam M Cox is the one man barista, flavour ‘concoctionista’, hat donning and vinyl music addict behind this Mount Eliza gem. Here is how our conversation went – in a round-about way - in between locals popping in to get their daily fix of VMM.
The name Velos Mazeh Musette begs explanation. Google Translator didn’t help! Tell me what’s behind the name?
Actually it is a ridiculous mix of in-jokes.
Velos is our own phonetic twist on French ‘velocite’ or Latin ‘velocitas’ for speed.
Mazeh and its various forms originated from a range of languages and generally means taste.
Musette de cour or a baroque musette is like a mini precursor to bagpipes. Quirky and musical...
How did VMM come about?
Leading up to the 12th of July almost three years ago when I opened the cafe, I had a bit of a mid life crisis. The Mrs and I went and had a kid and I decided I better get it together. I was stuck in a bit of a rut and was keen to get into a different rut but one where I could embrace creativity. I really wanted to shine a light for the kid (7 year old Rumi and budding Instagram photographer for VMM on occasion).
A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do. – Bob Dylan
Tell me more about Rumi...
My small lady... She is 7 years old, a two thirds clone of my Mrs and cheeky as a mouse.
Why Mount Eliza?
I’m keen to work and live in pushbike distance. Mount Eliza has great proximity to everywhere on a pushbike. I just needed to be close to our little shack. I don’t quite understand why the weekend push bikers turn around and head back at the top of Oliver’s Hill.
A local customer joins our conversation: “That’s what’s great about Mount Eliza, it’s still a bit of an undiscovered secret.”
We lived in Glen Iris a while and we feel like we’ve a piece of Glen Iris by the bay.
What do you love about being in Mount Eliza six days a week?
I love that we’re among a strip, and a village, of owner operators. I have a lot of respect for those that have the courage to go out on their own and we’re really amongst that here. I love that there are very few ‘evil giants’ in the Mount. Our clients are different every day, but range from hip young kids (Nathan from @The Barber Shop and Co had just popped in for a takeaway) to a 93 year old holocaust survivor with incredible stories to tell.
Sam boasts a very impressive vinyl record collection and uses it to transform the mood at any one point in time. We talk about his music addiction.
It is a necessity for me to listen to music - all day. Rumi gets to soak up Bob Dylan, The Smiths and mixes it up with Taylor Swift [and other current pop artists]. One day she said to me ‘you like the Smiths and I like Taylor Smiths’! We hope it gives her a real appreciation for music.
Vinyl to me has always been. I’ve never stopped vinyl and now it’s coming about circle. There such ceremony in flipping through a collection of vinyl records (estimated to be around 600 and growing) – selecting and then bludgeoning the next customer with my musical tastes. And I love the immediate transformation of the cafe driven by the selection of music.
As if on cue, a regular customer pops in and heads straight to Sam and asks ‘You know that Beastie Boys acoustic you were playing the other day...? I looked it up on Spotify but...‘
I also love imposing my tastes on others and inspiring them to explore further, not just music but food and beverages too. There’s nothing I love more than two big buttery slabs of fruit toast and good coffee but then I’ve encouraged customers to try taste awakeners like black coffee on sliced oranges with ice. There is a humbling ritual and ceremony in preparing food as an experience, as there is in music.
There are a lot of records here, is it a growing collection?
Always, if you want vinyl, I’m a big fan of Pat from Rocksteady Records. I’ve followed him around for years. He’s one of these people that seem so much older and wiser in terms of musical knowledge – but he’s only a few years older than me. He’s the man.
As I thank Sam for his time and step out into a rainy Mount Eliza afternoon, I can’t help but smile knowing that from here on whenever I feel like escaping and tapping into memories evoked by music there is a great coffee experience waiting beyond the ‘Sorry – we’re open’ sign.
Post-script: I popped in with some friends on a Sunday morning for a coffee. Sam surprised us with a rich, perfectly extracted espresso layered on top of a layer of condensed milk and a spoon to 'enjoy the dessert at the bottom of the glass.' Delicious.
To find out more, follow VMM on:
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/velosmazehmusette
Location: 76 Mount Eliza way. opposite the post office.
Velos Mazeh Musette Opening Hours
Tue to Fri 8am to 3pm
Sat 8.30am to 3pm
Sun 9.00am to 2pm
Article funded by Vicki Sayers, Live Love Mount Eliza | Written by Julie Pearce, Content Services Melbourne