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John Mills Himself - Cafe and Bar

Home > Brisbane > Architecture | Bars | Cafes | Food and Wine | Quirky
by May Cross (subscribe)
I'm a writer, artist and keen photographer.
Published October 10th 2017
Think globally but drink locally
John Mills Himself, cafe, bar, Archives fine books
The Heritage Listed John Mills Himself Building (image by writer)

I first stumbled across the stately, red brick John Mills Himself building when I was Ghost Sign hunting in Brisbane's CBD. JMH, as it is affectionately called, houses a number of disparate businesses including the John Mills Himself café and bar. The tall, heritage listed building has an intriguing history. The name of the building caught the eye of Tony Robinson when he was in Brisbane, and he featured it on his Time Walks TV program.

John Mills Himself, cafe, bar, ghost sign, JMH
JMH Ghost Sign (image by writer)

John Mills Himself Cafe

The café that is John Mills Himself was established in the beginning of 2013 and is owned by Marcus Allison who also owns Bunker Coffee in Milton. It is a "multi-roaster" café which means it isn't contracted to any particular roaster, instead choosing to support and work with all local roasters who align with their business ethos. They currently source coffee from Mecca (Guatemalan, Kenyan and Ethiopian), Small Batch and Sample Coffee Roasters (Kenyan, Colombian and Ethiopian). On hot Brisbane days why not try a Cuban iced latte or an Iced Long Black?

John Mills Himself, cafe, bar, white hot chocolate
White Hot Chocolate (image by writer)

JMH also serves hot chocolate, which I can highly recommend. They use Heirloom Chocolate and have over 10 flavours for their 70% Dark, Dairy Milk and White hot chocolates. They source the milk locally from Barambah Organics and Maleny Dairies. You can enhance your hot choccy or coffee experience with a treat from the cake cabinet. Their cakes, including gooey chocolate brownies, and pastries are baked fresh from Crust and Co and Leavain Bakeries. The JMH café caters for office workers and shoppers and there is usually a steady flow of customers when I visit for takeaway coffee. It is very cosy inside - I counted 20 bar stools - and there are no tables just the bar to lean on or ledges to put your drink down. It's very cool and industrial style as befits the building. It is open Monday through Friday from 6.30am to 3.30pm.
View the menu here

John Mills Himself, cafe, bar
Chocolate Brownie and other cakes available (image by writer)

John Mills Himself, cafe, bar
JMH bar (image by writer)

John Mills Himself Bar

The JMH business philosophy is for sustainable profit and attempts to maximise quality, environmental sustainability and best practice ethics. The bar's motto is Think Globally, Drink Locally. Like 'Food Miles" they believe in "Drink Miles". To that end, their craft beers, are all sourced under 180kms: Stone and Wood, Newstead Brewery, and Craft Brewing. These change frequently and are seasonal so it is worth popping in often to see what is on the go. Their craft spirits are all Australian and their wines are from the Granite Belt. The bar hosts events throughout the year and fundraises to support community initiatives. For example on Friday 13 October from 4pm there will be a KARMA KEG where you "pay what you feel is right" until the keg runs dry. Doesn't sound like Black Friday to me. You can hire the venue for private, intimate parties of maximum 35 people (it is tiny). There is no hire fee but the minimum bar spend is $750. The bar is open Tuesday through Thursday plus Saturday from 4 to 10pm. On Fridays it's 4pm to midnight.
View the drinks menu here

John Mills Himself, cafe, bar
John Mills Himself Bar (image by writer)

John Mills - Himself

In 1918 the site was purchased by John Charles Mills. It is a myth that he named his business, and the building, John Mills Himself because his neighbours were John Reid and Nephews (engineers), and he didn't have any offspring himself. In fact, John Mills originally traded as Mills and Green, printers and stationers, from 1907-8 in Adelaide Street, but when the partnership dissolved, he traded alone, under the name John Mills Himself.

jmh, john mills, himself, Brisbane, printer
John Mills - himself (image from JMH website)

John Mills Himself, cafe, bar, john Reid and nephews
JMH Neighbour - John Reid & Nephews

John Mills Himself Building

During World War I John Mills' printing business expanded and he established a large warehouse at Newstead. In 1919 he moved to Charlotte Street and constructed his office, printery workshop and warehouse on this site previously occupied by a cottage. By the 1920s the business was well established, in the beautiful red brick building, attracting clients such as Steele Rudd, the famous Australian author and creator of Dad and Dave. Mills leased the remainder of the building to related businesses, including the Gresham Publishing Company Ltd from 1920 to 1933 and the Press Etching Company, blockmakers and process engravers from 1921 to 1941. Other rooms were leased to clothing manufacturers, mapmakers, watchmakers and lantern slide makers. After John Mills' death in 1934, his business was continued by his sons, John and Sam Mills. Current occupants, along with JMH café and bar, include Archives Fine Books. I like to think that John Mills, the printer, would wholeheartedly approve.

John Mills Himself, cafe, bar, sign
Signage on Charlotte Street (image by writer)

It is not easy to find JMH café and bar: it is small and hidden but that is its charm. The JMH building is located at 40 Charlotte Street. If you can find Archives Fine Books, it is handily signposted from there. Start your adventure by entering through the darkened doorway, down the stairs to basement level and go past the Save the Koala Shop.

John Mills Himself, cafe, bar, save the koala shop
Go past the Save the Koala Shop (image by writer)

You can also find it from 55 Elizabeth Street. Walk down the driveway next to Funk Café and you will see the backside of John Mills Himself.
For further information on the café and barclick here

John Mills Himself, cafe, bar, rear entry
JMH Entry from Elizabeth Street (image by writer)
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Why? It's a hidden gem in the CBD
When: 6.30am to 3.30pm (cafe) and 4pm to 10pm (bar)
Phone: 0434 064 349for the cafe or 0421 959 865 for the bar
Where: Ground Floor, 40 Charlotte Street, Brisbane CBD, Brisbane 4000
Cost: Reasonable prices
Your Comment
May always writes interesting articles and enhances her stories with great photos
by lockw (score: 2|152) 1984 days ago
You sure manage to find some quirky places, May!
by Elaine (score: 3|9210) 1986 days ago
Looks like a very interesting place to visit. Love the history. Thank you for sharing.
by Di Hill (score: 2|693) 1952 days ago
very funny
by lockb (score: 1|99) 1967 days ago
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