It makes sense that the icon associated with Vancouver coffee roaster and cafe brand Nemesis is a single heart. That’s because at the core of this expanding local business is a people-centric philosophy that aims to create community and build relationships – all while serving single-origin coffee, decadent pastries, and food made with thoughtfully-sourced ingredients – there’s a lot to love.
Vancouver’s love affair with Nemesis began in 2017 with the debut of its Gastown cafe. Coffee and brunch lovers crushed hard and fast, and it was about a year later the business won the bid to move into an eye-catching flagship space on Great Northern Way on the new Emily Carr University of Art + Design campus.
But the unique red-tiled flower-shaped building – and the work needed to kit out the interior – took some time to become reality, and in the meantime, Nemesis launched another outpost on the North Shore at the Polygon Gallery at the end of 2019, further cementing its connection to the art world and as a coffee, treat, and daytime eats destination. The COVID-19 pandemic also interfered with the timeline, but with indoor dining back in B.C. and the summer months ready to bless Nemesis’ spacious new patio with ample sun, the Great Northern Way flagship location is ready to open its doors to the public on June 9.
The building was designed by Vancouver’s Perkins+Will for PCI Group. Aptly, among the many local and international projects with the Will+Perkins touch include the visitor centre at VanDusen Botanical Garden, which also has a flower-like exterior shell.
Eye-catching on the outside…but also stunning on the inside
Curiously, with its striking non-linear silhouette, the inside of Nemesis GNW was designed with lines top of mind. Panels sail across the ceiling in tidy rows while lines on the floor align perfectly with the placement of light fixtures at the front counter and breaks in the glass that transitions to mirrors along the rear wall behind the counter. An oculus and ground-level windows allow light to stream in at various angles, with the character of light changing throughout the day.
If you’re peeking through the glass behind the counter you’ll see Nemesis’ new roastery HQ for their direct-trade and traceable coffee program; their buyer works closely with a farmer to source beans, and Nemesis is transparent about what they pay for the beans, which is above the base market rate.
Coffee at Nemesis is prepared by drip, pour-over, or via the espresso machine. The goal is to welcome guests in search of a less-rushed and more personalized coffee experience to grab a seat at the pour-over station, where they can chat with baristas one-on-one.
Though it is a counter-service spot, Nemesis prides itself on offering a more elevated cafe experience, so once you’ve perused the online menu (accessed via the now-ubiquitous QR code) and placed an order at the counter, you can take a seat and staff will bring your food to you – no numbers, buzzers, or name-shouting.
What’s on the menu at the new Nemesis
When it comes to meals, Nemesis GNW will launch with daytime service, featuring a menu of small plates and share-ables using seasonal and local ingredients. Known for leaning into the brunch category for dishes, you can expect to see things like a thick slice of milk loaf french toast topped with poached rhubarb and a ricotta made in-house using milk that would otherwise be poured down the drain after making cappucinos, as well as plant-based offerings like an avocado and asparagus toast.
Also in the “on toast” vein, but borrowing from the U.S. south, is a dish like fried chicken on a slab of cornbread drizzled with a house-made hot sauce and topped with pickled rhubarb and fresh dill. The brunch vibes are strong with a sausage and potato hash with a poached egg a green garlic hollandaise; though they are bringing in the sausage to start, the chef says once the kitchen staff is humming they’ll be making their own sausage on site, too.
And to start, Nemesis will be open in the daytime only, but once the liquor licence is approved there are plans to stay open later and offer more “day-to-night” items like charcuterie, as well as a dinner menu.
Taking into consideration the location – on a campus and in an emerging neighbourhood (called “South Flatz”) that bridges Mount Pleasant and Strathcona – Nemesis is hoping the new flagship will serve as a connecting point that’s welcome to a diverse array of customers, from students in seek of a great cup of coffee and a snack on the go to Vancouverites keen to share small plates and enjoy a table inside the sun-dappled interior. As envisioned by design, the striking red flower that holds Nemesis is meant to draw people to its centre, like a real-life flower and bees.
Nemesis (GNW) is located at 555 Great Northern Way in Vancouver, and is set to open on June 9, 2021. The cafe will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.