I stumbled upon OEC Bob one Saturday, looking for a place to stop and spend a little time while running errands. I was welcomed with a friendly smile and conversation from the manager behind the counter. I ordered a matcha latte and was later on my way. I came back a second and a third time with friends for food and on the fourth I decided to ask the manager with the welcoming disposition a few questions about her unique cafe and its fusion of Japanese, Korean and Western flavours and elements.
Laken manages Original Eco-Friendly Cafe (OEC) Bob, while her sister owns the cafe. Their hometown in Korea is well known for traditional Korean food and Laken has spent a lifetime enjoying her mother's incredibly good cooking. Admittedly a picky eater growing up, Laken's high standards are due to the influences from her childhood, with access to the freshest ingredients and surrounded by good food. This has no doubt influenced her understanding and knowledge of taste.
Although her hometown is known for traditional Korean food, OEC Bob is a welcome fusion of Japanese and Korean flavours with Western twists. Here you can delve into an ebi katsu burger where tempura prawn balls are filled with wasabi tartare sauce and placed between two soft buns and sugar fried lotus crisps on the side. The summer menu features Laken's favourites - an assortment of fresh sushi options, the Japanese cuisine of which her sister specialises in.
OEC is related to the eco and environmental consciousness that is reflected throughout the cafe. When undertaking hospitality and management studies in Sydney, the courses offered had a very environmentally sustainable focus. Laken recounts that it was only ten short years ago that the Korean government began to take an interest in nature and preserving the environment. Her studies enforced the importance of sustainability and Laken wanted to contribute her efforts and commitment to the environment with respect. Even the take away containers are cardboard boxes, where possible, in the effort to reduce reliance on plastic.
"Around the area, we saw a man delivering plants on his bike. We now fill our cafe with plants from this company, where they provided training to people who needed jobs and this included using bikes to deliver plants to people. We wanted to keep the focus to be as eco-friendly as possible, a local artist painted on our walls some interesting art with environmentally friendly paint and gave us the idea to re-cycle second hand furniture, tables and chairs from the second-hand shop, with the designs done by us."
The cafe has an interesting feel to it, the service is so friendly and warm and the team at OEC are committed to their customers and friends. Not to mention, the playlist of music is great - say hello to some sweet 80's tunes and a little Bob Dylan. In terms of the winter menu, Laken's recommended and favourites are the Bulgogi kimchi burger and the soft shell crab burger, where the lotus crisps are sprinkled in chilli and salt flakes. The bibimbap is also a notable choice, although keep in mind that the ingredients that make a traditional bibimbap what it is are not necessarily included, as the flavours cater to a majority of Western tastebuds.
The curry is warm, mild and perfect for winter, coming with a generous cup of miso soup. The tonkatsu is crispy but not dry and although it looks a little heavy, it is far from it. It smells and tastes great and is incredibly similar to Japanese curry restaurant in Tokyo, but with the seaweed salad and daikon on the side adding fresh relief balancing the dish. You can also choose if you'd prefer deep fried chicken, pork or tempura prawn on soft steamed rice.
The takoyaki is generously sized and all pieces have octopus inside them, unlike some restaurants that do not always include octopus in each bursting mouthful. What's wonderful about the takoyaki is that it's available all day. Especially if you have cravings at particular times of the day, OEC Bob has it covered.
The drinks menu has some interesting options which also include fairy floss affogato and hot chocolate. If you are wanting something sweet, check to see if there are any home made baked cheesecakes in the fridge, because they are seriously so good. OEC is the perfect cafe for a catch up with friends, a burger or even some alone time over a good cup of coffee and a novel. If the weather is good, the patio is the perfect place to sit. The cafe also offers free wifi for customers.
For Laken, the most rewarding aspects about running and managing the cafe is the "interaction with customers, and providing a true service. If I didn't want to provide a true service I could just shut the door. [...] When I first arrived in Perth, I didn't know very many people, but after running this cafe I have made good friendships with customers and have gotten good ideas and feedback through the time spent with them. I can walk down the street and feel a bit like a movie star, with people stopping to say hello!"
In addition to the earnest exchanges with valued customers, the ability to use her knowledge and commitment to eco-friendly values, is the aspect of having freedom to change and direct the design of the cafe, the menu and the layout to incorporate what the customer wants while running the business.
All dishes have such unique twists to wholesome and hearty staple meals that are incredibly flavoursome. The food, presentation, quality and service is consistent, with plenty of regulars wanting to keep this cafe a secret for themselves. I kind of cannot blame them, the atmosphere is welcoming and warm, much like Laken and the staff at OEC Bob.
Shop 1, 145 Newcastle Street, Northbridge
Monday - Saturday: 8am - 6pm