It begins slowly. First the second-hand clothing store is replaced by an up-and-coming designer boutique; maybe the dollar discount outlet by a sushi shop; the run-down settlement agency shifts to a cheaper spot. In their place come some funky cafes, drawing in more people, and it snowballs from there.
Gentrification, it's sometimes dismissively called. As a near-decade-long resident of Bassendean, my friends and I - like To the Woods' regular Beth - have been waiting a while for a place like this, which is taken for granted in Maylands and Mt Hawthorn.
Former phys-ed teacher Jodie Fairclough has transformed this once shabby site into a sleek, timber-lined, modern cafe. She's passionate about what she does, inspired by a friend who had cancer to finally take the plunge and run the cafe she dreamt about.
This story explains the cafe's name: a reference to the famous quote by American poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau, who implored people to live authentically and "suck out all the marrow of life".
Fairclough originally planned to only offer coffee and cakes. But she bowed to constant customer requests and now serves a smart, succinct produce-driven menu, including cold-pressed juices served in cute mini milk bottles.
Many of the dishes are gluten free, which Woolies and Coles will tell you are among the fastest-growing product ranges around. Fad or problematic pattern? Customers are clearly voting with their feet.
A generous mound of "smashed" avocado on toast ($14) was topped with silken smoked salmon - refreshingly served not too chilled. Capers and an under-dressed thatch of rocket completed the dish. Thin corn fritters (bound by gluten-free flour, $15) with poached egg, wilted spinach, bacon and a house-made tomato relish, were fluffy and pan fried like pancakes, not deep fried and oily.
Other house-made dishes include baked beans, quiche of the day ($6), salads and a raft of sourced quality cakes - including toasted banana bread ($4), with pear and raspberries or blueberries. Coffee from Canning Vale roasters Crema is mild, but full-flavoured.
Finally, a note about the score. I'm often asked: "Why did you only give a restaurant 13.5? Didn't you like it?" On the contrary, , 13.5 for a suburban cafe with an affordable, solid, but limited, menu is high praise, definitely recommended.
Think of it as the limitation of a scoring system designed to capture fine-diners through to fresh fast-fooders. Time to see the trees from the woods.
To the Woods
Address Shop 9 Old Perth Road, Bassendean
Phone 9377 2952
Open Breakfast and lunch (kitchen closes 1.30pm), Monday-Saturday.
The buzz Funky finally comes to Bassendean. This stylish bolt-hole churns out quality coffee and simple, well-thought-out, value-for-money cakes and more substantial cafe fare.
Like the other eating spots in the area, To the Woods uses nearby public toilets.