• Moon Rabbit might offer the best idea since sliced bread. (Audrey Bourget)Source: Audrey Bourget
This environmentally friendly venue is also a training ground for young people with learning disabilities.
Audrey Bourget

27 Apr 2018 - 11:59 AM  UPDATED 23 Apr 2018 - 1:19 PM

“I have a son with a learning disability and he has experienced dreadful things in workplaces, like being exploited and being bullied,” says Chris Lombardo, executive officer at The Bridge, the not-for-profit behind Moon Rabbit in Melbourne's Preston. “I learned a lot out of that. I learned how a lot of it could be better for young people – being able to get out and get meaningful work.”

The social enterprise has now been open for about a month, transforming the weary facade of The Bridge’s Preston headquarters into a lively outdoor cafe.

A training ground

The concept behind Moon Rabbit is simple: give young people with additional needs vocational training paired with work experience, so their transition into employment is easier.

“For vulnerable people, that initial placement needs to be in a very supported workplace,” explains Lombardo.

Pennie Walford is among the trainees taking part in the six-month pilot program. "It’s a great kickstart to the hospitality industry. It's fun, laid-back and very easy to learn the various skills, and I am hoping to have a kitchen-hand position afterwards," she says.

The concept behind Moon Rabbit is simple: give young people with additional needs vocational training paired with work experience, so their transition into employment is easier.

The Bridge also works with potential employers so the trainees have work opportunities when they finish the program.

Sustainability breeds community

Moon Rabbit tries to be as environmentally friendly as possible by not offering single-use coffee cups and plastic takeaway containers, straw and bottles.

“A lot of our customers are locals, so I’ll give them their coffee or jaffle on a plate and they’ll bring it back later,” says Sam Fisher, the cafe manager. “I think the most beautiful thing that came out of that is that people will give themselves five minutes to sit down and enjoy their coffee instead of having it on the run.”

For those on the go, cardboard takeaway containers are available and reusable cups and bags are for sale.

Jaffles for everyone

The social enterprise concept might be the main purpose of Moon Rabbit, but the food and coffee (roasted by Padre) are not an afterthought. The menu is composed of simple, but tasty jaffles, muesli and cakes.

Most of the jaffles, like the "Rabbit Food" flavour (pumpkin, sage and walnut pesto, rocket and cheese) are vegetarian and can be made vegan and gluten-free. There are two meat options, the "Hambo" (ham, herb-roasted tomatoes and cheese) and the "Lambo" (halal spiced lamb, sweet potato hummus, feta and rocket).

The sweet tooths will want to try the dessert jaffle with caramelised banana, coconut, berry coulis and coffee-soaked French toast. Oh and you can add Nutella. But make sure to keep some space for a classic lemon slice or Florentine made by Lombardo’s 80-year-old mother, Maureen. 

If you need any more convincing, all of the profits from Moon Rabbit go to community and disability training programs at The Bridge.

Moon Rabbit

218 High St, Preston VIC 3072

Mon – Fri, 7.30 am – 2 pm 

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