In Australia you wake up with the sun. You get an early start to your day by stopping by a cafe before work, having a coffee and a nice sit-down breakfast while catching up with a friend or family member. It’s a nice, calm morning before beginning your workday. It’s not rushed like the weekday mornings so often are in America. It’s a Sunday brunch kind of morning… and, did we mention, it’s every day.
When friends Giles Russell and Henry Roberts moved to New York from Sydney they were disappointed to see the difference. “It seemed that the mentality in New York and America was you wake up, go to the bodega, get a coffee and bagel and then eat it on the run,” says Giles. They longed for that camaraderie of a friendly neighborhood cafe where everyone knew each other— somewhere that served real, healthy food, and somewhere you could have an enjoyable and stress-free start to the day.
When they couldn’t find one quite up to Aussie standards they decided to make their own. They were both working at restaurants in Soho and thought if their current bosses could run a restaurant in the hectic-ness of the NY restaurateur world, then why couldn’t they?
They knew they had something special to offer. “We felt we had a concept that was really unique. We wanted to use our voices to tell people about eating healthy and having community cafes. We wanted to create a community of people who cared about each other,” Giles explains.
The two mates planned for about two years, carefully mapping out their game plan and their vision. “We both think of business in much the same way. As cafe owners, we’re essentially paid to meet people and hang out with people… and that’s what we both like to do— it’s essentially why you’re here on earth,” says Giles. “It’s truly where you get your real enjoyment.” Armed with the idea that they would bring those good vibes and their mutual love for creating relationships to restaurant form in New York, they opened Two Hands Cafe on the border of Chinatown and Little Italy. It immediately saw success when they tapped into those not-yet-catered-for 8-11am breakfast hours.
After a year of seeing constant growth, making relationships, learning how to run a kitchen, a coffee program, and dealing with a food menu that was constantly growing they realized they could expand. They set their sights on creating a full-scale Two Hands restaurant. They found an area in upscale Tribeca that was essentially undernourished— “It was a wasteland for healthy food,” laughs Henry. “Sure there are amazing restaurants in Tribeca, but they’re all dinner. They’re all really high-end and expensive places and they aren’t the type of places you go to and know everyone. We really felt that Tribeca deserved that.”
Excited to be in such an up-and-coming and growing area of New York they knew they had set the bar high for themselves. Not wanting to let Tribeca down, they stayed true to the design in the area. They kept the arches in the building, used a lot of concrete, put a nice bar in and designed it with a mix of beautiful and simple design. “We wanted it to be bright— a place with an awesome vibe where people could catch up, collaborate, and connect,” says Henry. They wanted it to feel like home. “We asked ourselves, if Tribeca had a beach and there was a bar or cafe on that beach, what would it look like? And this is what we saw.”
Two Hands, the restaurant, has been open since February, and has since become thee hot spot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The two attribute their success to a few things: “The food’s great and the coffee’s addictive, but at the end of the day, what people are really addicted to is good relationships.”
And you can be assured, Giles and Henry are there every day to make sure those relationships are maintained over a nice long Australian-style breakfast every, single, morning.
Lindsay DeLong is the Managing Editor of The Fullest. If she’s in NY, you can find her at Two Hands for breakfast, lunch, happy hour and dinner. (Yes, it’s that good.) You can also find her at email@example.com or on social media via @lindizzaster.