The House of Machines Café and Motorbike Shop in Cape Town

Meet the Mother City’s new specialist in custom choppers, menswear and premium coffee 

The House of Machines, an edgy new city centre space that marries a café and bar with a motorbike shop and men’s fashion outlet, is prime proof of the sort of innovative brilliance that comes out of eclectic collaborations.

Opened in late-August 2013 in a century-old building on Cape Town’s Shortmarket Street, the dynamic haunt is the fledgling project of three creative visionaries – Brewers & Union co-owner Brad Armitage, fashion designer Paul van der Spuy and long-term bike builder Drew Madacsi – who came together to create a spot that mirrors their various interests and passions.

“The space complements the kind of lifestyle we like to live,” explains Brad, who, in addition to being the co-founder of one of the Mother City’s hippest craft beer joints, also had a hand in launching Vida e Caffè in South Africa. “The philosophy behind it is simple: we’ve combined things we really dig and think others would like too.”

As all three of the creators are avid motorcycle enthusiasts, the heart and soul of the rustic coffee shop is La Macchina Speed Shop, a glass-enclosed bike workshop that rests right at the back of the store and is linked to a larger US-based outlet also owned by Drew. With the aid of this overseas business and other bike manufacturing experts, this facet of the venture sells once-off, custom-made café racers, street trackers, cruisers and more that combine retro styling with the latest in technology to ensure top-notch performance.

In fact, this theme of marrying the old with the new is rather central to the streetside hangout, which seamlessly pairs contemporary, biking-inspired décor with a yesteryear look and feel (think weathered ceiling beams and raw, exposed brick walls that give away the building’s age). Most notably, this concept plays out in the eye-catching range of men’s apparel and accessories available here.

“The thinking behind the clothing is that it’s modern traditional,” says Paul, who worked with fine Japanese cottons and denims to design a few limited edition collections of top-quality garments especially for the store (the core range is titled THoM). “It’s the sort of stuff that Steve McQueen would be wearing if he were still alive.”

Thus, on the fashion side, customers can pick up both simple, understated button-down shirts and pieces adorned in bright Florida- and woodlands-inspired prints, alongside a small selection of graphic T-shirts. And on the accessories and product side, everything from men’s cosmetics, sunglasses and soap dishes to letter openers, cufflinks, pocket knives and hip flasks are on offer (tip: this section is great for guys’ gift ideas).

But The House of Machines isn’t only aimed at burly males and bike aficionados; rather, as Brad stresses, it’s the type of space that’s meant to be accessible and open to anyone, including those less interested in menswear and motorcycles and more concerned with munching on something tasty.

Hence, the front of the upmarket shop functions as a comfy café, selling well-balanced, full-bodied coffee (the Evil Twin brand they serve is made from organic arabica beans sourced from Honduras), and a range of small, healthy breakfast and lunch bites. More specifically, as far as the food’s concerned, patrons can order options like granola with yoghurt and honey, avo and tomato on rye, raw, vegan pizza, homemade spicy tomato soup, fresh sandwiches or a Frankie Fenner biltong and droëwors meat bowl.

What’s more, in the near future, once a liquor license has been secured, the owners intend to open up the ‘Prohibition Bar’ facet of the business on Thursday and Friday evenings. When this concept is up and running, visitors can pop in for a relaxed artisan ale (both Brewers & Union beers and US-sourced ‘craft in a can’ will be on offer), an old-school cocktail, a glass of wine or a high-end, small-batch bourbon, gin, whisky or rum (the founders have sourced super special spirit brands all the way from America).

Needless to say, this hip new spot is bound to make regulars of a crowd that’s as diverse and dynamic as the innovative individuals that created it and the top-notch offerings resting under its roof.

Tip: The House of Machines is available for hire for private functions, so keep this spot in mind the next time you plan to host an event with a difference.

The Bill: Quality is the cafés ultimate hallmark, so customers can expect to pay a little more for such high standards. Coffee ranges from R18 to R22, breakfast and lunch dishes sit between R30 and R70, and items of clothing go for between R200 and R1000 a piece. Bike enthusiasts should contact the shop for a quote.

Opening Hours:  Monday – Friday: 7am – 4pm; Saturday – Sunday: 9am – 2pm (in future, the bar will also be open on Thursday and Friday nights from 5pm to 11pm)

84 Shortmarket Street (between Bree and Loop streets) | City Centre | Cape Town | +27 (0) 21 426 1400

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Read about another multi-faceted Mother City business, I Love My Laundry in Cape Town.

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