I’m a fan of ‘A Fan’s Notes’. It’s a little bit weird, a little bit crazy, and a whole lot of cool. The quirky bar is eclectic, dimly lit, mismatched in its furnishings and has a killer vegan menu – basically everything I look for in a destination. And of course it doesn’t hurt that there’s a consistently awesome soundtrack either.
Named after the 1968 Frederick Exley novel, A Fan’s Notes, the venue, and its owner, have a story of their own.
It’s the creation of Tamlyn Martinovich-Faulkner, who is the sole chef, manager and event organizer, and who is as unique as the space he’s created.
I spoke to him about his inspiration, his passion, and the history behind the bar.
A Fan’s Notes is the second venture for Tamlyn, who previously co-owned The Breakfast Club in Northcote with a friend.
But, Tamlyn says, “that went the way that all business partnerships do, and one too many knife fights later he bought me out so here I am.”
And here is A Fan’s Notes – a restaurant-cum-bar that was born out of Tamlyn’s desire to create a unique business, “without all the bells and whistles.”
It’s a homely space, all comfy lounges and walls of worn posters, which makes sense when Tamlyn tells me that the bar doubles as his lounge.
“I live upstairs with no furniture, as all my possessions are adorning the walls downstairs. Those are all my books, all my records, all my posters and a massive statement about what’s important to me,” he says.
“The space I was looking at creating was like walking into someone’s lounge in the middle of a great house party.”
There’s a certain buzz in the air at A Fan’s Notes that makes the possibility of a party seem entirely possible.
Tamlyn also explains that former staff and customers have started contributing, with books, posters and ‘zines being donated to the space.
“I am slowly connecting with a community that really appreciates what I am trying to do here,” he explains. But it’s been a slow build.
Tamlyn opened the venue in 2014, buying the café (previously known as ‘Figs’), and throwing the doors open, “all full of youthful arrogance and hubris” assuming the “hordes would come.”
It didn’t quite go according to plan.
“What I hadn’t counted on was the fact that ‘Figs’ client base was an incredibly conservative collection of eccentrics who absolutely despised me and everything we did as a harbinger of change and gentrification.”
“I had an actual man cry at the front counter as we no longer were making premade refrigerated Camembert sandwiches,” Tamlyn reminisces.
Within a month A Fan’s Notes had a customer base of zero.
But, driven by a passion mingled with desperation, Tamlyn kept going.
It helped that he’s addicted to “the oddly sadistic pleasure of being physically and mentally exhausted at the end of a successful night.” Opening hours doubled, and slowly, many full days and late nights later, A Fan’s Notes community began to build.
“Being a small business owner, I think you either have to love that journey,” Tamlyn says.
“For me, these are all my ideas, every success and failure is mine, it’s my personality that shapes and influences the space, and nothing is more wonderful than seeing people connect with that.”
Today, A Fan’s Notes a space for everyone, a hub for the “freaks, weirdos, outsiders and artists,” and a meeting point to share ideas and create bonds.
Tamlyn hosts regular trivia nights, the odd degustation and this month, the venues first record fair.
“Ultimately I try and provide a space that caters to everybody,” he says, which is where the inspiration behind the creative vegan/vegetarian menu comes in.
“I always try to make sure that at least half of my menu caters to vegans and vegetarians. I am a full meat eater [but] I do try to be open to dietary concerns and ethical issues. And mainly, I just really enjoy the challenge of imposed limitations on cooking!”
As expected, Tamlyn’s approach toward the menu at A Fan’s Notes is wholly spontaneous.
“My menu changes daily, I self sabotage and make things difficult for myself, but being a small business and a solo chef I can pretty much implement any far flung idea as they grab me. I go shopping for my own stock and I can pretty much just adapt things on the fly.”
He is devoted to this job, that much is clear, as he tells me how his 8 years at university and 3 degrees failed to provide him with anything that matched the rapid intensity of the kitchen.
“I absolutely adore cooking, I love the energy, that sense of accomplishment and creativity that the job can provide.”
It’s this passion that has driven the progression of A Fan’s Notes.
All the long days, sluggish business, crying men and late nights have finally cumulated into a place that magnificently combines Tamlyn’s own personality and creativity.
And he gets just as much out of it as his customers.
“There is so much reward for me personally…being able to help create those spaces that connect with people and being able to feel that there is a community being formed around this nucleus,” Tamlyn says.
“I have been incredibly lucky.”
A Fan’s Notes is located at 787 Nicholson St.
Monday – closed
Tuesday – 5-11 pm
Wednesday – 5-11pm
Thursday – 5-11pm
Friday – 5-11pm
Saturday – 10 am – 11pm
Sunday – 10am – 11pm