It's part bookstore, part wine bar, part cafe - and its owners want Muse to be a place for Canberrans to mingle, drink wine, engage in conversation and learn from each other.
Muse opens on Tuesday, August 25, in the East Hotel in Kingston.
Owners Paul Eldon and Dan Sanderson have worked for two years to create the business, which features a small bookshop with 2000 titles in the lower section of the shop and a spacious cafe and wine bar in the upper half.
Mr Eldon says it's a place for "people who love wine, culture, expanding their horizons". He and Mr Sanderson will host book launches, "in conversation" events and wine tastings that bring people and ideas together - like a laidback salon.
There will also be "open mic" classical nights in the corner of the wine bar, at a piano formerly owned by composer and Australian National University academic Calvin Bowman.
"The thing about capital cities is that here you have a host of people from around the world because of the government, because of diplomats, because of academics," he says. "They are doing interesting things but we feel in Canberra, where the space where they can go and engage in conversation with each other?"
They'll get plenty of time to engage in conversation - the Muse kitchen, headed by chef Sam Willis, will start serving up breakfast at 6.30am every morning this week and brunch with sparkling wine on the weekend.
"There's no deep fryer," Mr Eldon says of the kitchen. The menu will be focused around the vegetables, with the majority of dishes available gluten-free and plenty of room for vegetarians with colourful salads on display.
Mains will be available in "big" or "little" sizes and there will be a selection of cakes and pastries. Muse will eventually also open in the evening with bar plates through the night designed to match the wine list, which is curated from interesting, smaller Australian winemakers.
While the recent demise of independent bookshop Electric Shadows might be fresh in many book lovers' memories, Mr Eldon and Mr Sanderson are keeping the bookshop small - they're running a cafe and wine bar with a book section.
The inspiration for Muse comes from a similar bookshop-bar-and-restaurant called The Bookworm in Beijing, where Mr Eldon previously lived and worked.
He says he asked the owner about opening an international franchise of The Bookworm in Canberra but she told him to go ahead and use the concept, just with a different name.
The East Hotel now has three hospitality venues, with Muse opening just weeks after the equally new Joe's Bar and joining long time restaurant Ox Eatery. Mr Eldon says the three venues will work together and will complement rather than compete with each other.
Similarly, he and husband and co-owner Dan Sanderson complement each other in the business. Mr Eldon works on the wine and Mr Sanderson, a Canberra Times contributor, works on the books.
"Dan is the one of the most intelligent people I've ever met and he's just such a joy to talk to. I do passive learning through him, he reads a book and tells me about it. I drink the wine and I tell him about it," he says.
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