When we hear the word 'waffles' we think of cheap, fast, and thoughtlessly made bricks, laden with ice-cream and drowning in a puddle of syrup. Little do we know, this heavily loaded dessert bears little resemblance to the culinary delicacy that originated from Belgium.
Thankfully for us South Australians, a devoted team of waffle makers have been brewing up an empire that remains true to their traditional heritage.
This Friday, waffle maker Antonino Malvetti (or Nino for short) and co-owner Kenneth Bertram (also known as Ken), is whisking us away to the magical kingdom of The Waffle King.
Inheriting the title
Growing up in a small town in Victoria, Ken was initially a scientist in biotechnology. After finishing university in Melbourne, he moved overseas for a few years before moving back to Australia to work in Sydney. After receiving another job offer, Adelaide became his new home. It was then that he had met Nino and asked the young man to do some work around his house. The two became fast friends.
Born in Belgium with parents from Italy, Nino has been making waffles for as long as he can remember. "Since I was a kid, I learned to make waffles from working in the street caravans in Liege," he excitedly recalled.
"Now that waffles are in high demand, the traditional methods of waffle making have given way to mass production. Even in Liege, it is difficult to find waffle makers who know the art of traditional waffle making. Nino, however, is one of the very few in the world who possesses this knowledge," said Ken.
Feeling deprived of his beloved waffles from home, Nino ventured to bring his fine craft to Adelaide. Starting off with a wholesale business called 'Nino's Waffles' with his friend, Gavin Foster, he spent his time cooking up the beloved snacks in Gavin's home kitchen and supplying them to local restaurants.
Royal Copenhagen and The Intercontinental hotel are just a few of the big clients that have approached Nino for his delectable treats.
Eventually, Ken stopped his work in micro biology and decided to help Nino with the business. "I used to work with yeast, I'm still doing it here at Waffle King!" Ken said heartily.
Rise to power
When the team came across an old pizza shop on Sturt Road in Dover Gardens, Nino finally had the chance to do what he had always wanted: to have customers sit down in his own cafe and serve them fresh handmade waffles straight from the kitchen.
"All our equipment was made in Belgium and delivered here. When it comes to making waffles, the waffle iron is just as important as the dough."
Standing in front of the tables and chairs is an open kitchen where you can watch as the waffle maker works his magic. "The idea was to reflect on Nino's memories of working in the street caravans and bring that concept right into this store. We want our customers' experience to be as interactive as possible."
"As a trained cabinet maker, Nino did all the renovations himself," said Ken as he gestured to the floor and the birds nestled in the tree branches lining the corners of the cozy restaurant. On the back wall is a painted mural by Matt Jonsson, featuring a spontaneous take on the last supper with mountainous waffles and Nino as the King.
"We open at night on weekdays because we still work on wholesale orders during the day. Every waffle is handmade."
Conquest for new land
When we asked about their new location in Glenelg that just opened last month, Ken explained, "We've always had the idea of opening a second store and were already making negotiations for the location 12 months ago, it took much longer than expected."
"The store at Glenelg is primarily for takeaway, there's not much seating for that very purpose. All the waffles are served in takeaway boxes, much like how you would find them in Belgium."
With its traditional European interior, Waffle King in Glenelg facilitates a larger kitchen where Nino can experiment with new recipes and combinations, their latest topping being the warm ginger syrup.
Their business model is set to allow for franchising opportunities in the future, and Nino is hoping to share more love for his craft by expanding his delicious empire. (Waffle domination? If it's made by these lovely people, count me in!)
If you've been to Waffle King, you'll know that the staff will always go the extra mile to explain the menu and help with your decisions. After all, Ken has always found it to be the most rewarding part of his experience.
"Our customers are all special in their own way. It's wonderful to see regulars who choose to come to our store for their special occasions.
"The eldest customer we've had is a lady of 103 years old, and the youngest we've had is a baby at 7 days old, whose mother insisted on coming to Waffle King right after her recovery."
You won't find a cozier place to snuggle up in Winter than their original store in Dover Gardens, and when summer comes along, never look past their Glenelg takeaway store with its creamy soft-serve ice cream.
The sheer amount of care and attention that has been put into their work shows with every bite. You know it's been done right when you're happy to order a plain waffle on its own, no toppings, just the original work of art with its rich flavour and fluffy texture. This is a rare gift Adelaidians, so get on it.
Recommended Items: Liege Waffle with toppings - Belgian syrup, Belgium chocolate, peanut butter, fruit syrup, ginger syrup, bananas (Ken's favourite), speculoos, marzipan, cream. Savoury Crepe with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and shallot finished with rocket.
85 Sturt Rd, Dover Gardens SA 5045
Wednesday - Friday: 6:00 am - 10:00 pm
Weekend: 10:00 am - 10:00 pm
61B Jetty Rd, Glenelg SA
Monday - Friday: 4:00 pm - Late
Weekend: 10:00 am - Late