WHEN chef Hanna Kadi had her first baby four years ago she got more gifts from her regular diners than from her family.
Given that she comes from a big-hearted, generous and tight-knit Lebanese family of seven, this was really saying something.
“I love getting to know people,” she says.
“When I had my little girl I got so many presents from my customers.
“I missed them all so much on maternity leave.”
It’s very apt that the new co-owner of Albury’s Electra Cafe will this month rebrand the business to Thick as Thieves – meaning close or friendly.
Together with her brother Sam, Hanna took over the iconic Border eatery in November.
Having worked together at their first business Hawthorn cafe Who’s Harry?, the siblings were drawn to the region after their friends opened a restaurant in Albury about two years ago.
AJ Alkady and Matt Webber started Downtown Pizzeria in August 2015 at the Dean Street eatery formerly known as Casa Bella Cafe Restaurant, another dining icon.
Hanna says they were immediately smitten with the Border and its thriving hospitality scene.
She says the perfectly-placed Electra Cafe has served Albury well but they want to put their own stamp on it.
“We offer a modern Australian menu with our touch of Mediterranean,” she says.
“It’s all about Melbourne but in Albury.”
On trend dishes include poke (pronounced poh-kay) bowls – the popular Hawaiian staple – of brown rice, chicken teriyaki, sauteed kale and poached eggs. Other brunch staples are chilli scrambled eggs, Sriracha eggs benedict and lamb souvlaki roti bread.
Having grown up tied to their parents’ apron strings, figuratively-speaking, at the family’s woodfired pizza restaurant at Ashburton, Sam says hospitality has been ingrained in the five siblings from a young age.
Now a passionate barista, Sam says his dad still remains his mentor both in life and business.
“He taught me everything from from handling people and staff to the books,” he says.
“He taught me everything except coffee; he makes a great coffee but mine is better!”
Hanna says their parents gave them a fierce work ethic and strong family bonds.
“I get on great working with my brother; it’s rare to have that with a sibling,” she says.
“Our parents never allowed us to go to sleep fighting!
“Even as grown-ups we’d still have family nights, three to four times a week; we’d have dinner and cards.”
Now settled in Albury with her husband and their daughter Elissa, 4, Hanna says they look forward to putting down roots here.
Electra Cafe will close on March 19 for a five-day renovation before reopening as Thick as Thieves on March 24.
It offers breakfast and lunch seven days and will add dinner services Thursday to Sunday from July.