(Home page photo courtesy of Ewen Bell)
Here is a review of some of Melbourne's best cafes/coffee houses:
1. Operator 25 - CBD- 25 Wills St CBD - Food 9.5, Coffee 9, Ambience 9.5
Operator 25 is a revelation cafe set in a former telephone exchange located in the legal district in the Melbourne CBD. The place is pumping with interesting dining spaces full of patrons, featuring an intergenerational crowd. The World Loves Melbourne decided to visit this cafe in a heritage building having heard rave reviews. We were not disappointed.
Operator 25 has made an effort with its fit out with exposed brick walls, quality furniture, funky blackboard and top class artwork throughout...
The World Loves Melbourne enjoys a cafe with a decent drinks list, including a local favourite pale ale... In summer heat they delivered with their own spiritzer - Operator's Spritzer - cold drip coffee, maple syrup, lemon, poached pear, mint, tonic water and sweet micro herbs.
Hello Operator! The young crowd imbibed the delights of Operator 25 on stolls and high tables...
The menu was compelling from ex Bacash chef Valerie Fong, with extra class in options that are not the usual Melbourne brunch fare. On recommendation we chose what proved to be one of the dishes of the year - Sweet corn fritters, fried duck egg, tomato salad, goats curd, and herb oil. Spectacular presentation and spectacular taste. Ticking all the boxes, this dish provided generous portion of fritters and the fritters themselves were fresh and moist and full of flavour. Complementing was the oozy duck egg - together with the fritters so rewarding! The salad wasn't a token but fresh and crisp. A welcome addition to the equation is the goats curd, creamy and delectable. The balance of this dish is superb and a cacophony of culinary delight! Kudos to Head Chef Felipe Guedes.
Yes we are raving but this dish was a highlight in terms of brunch for the year. The menu also offers compelling dishes such as Breakfast Tortilla filled with Scrambled Egg Mixed Mushrooms, Aged Cheddar and Green Harissa, or the House Benedict ‒ Potato Rosti, Grandmother Lamb Ham, Poached Eggs, Mustard and Tarragon Hollandaise.
For lunch try the Beer Battered Soft Shell Crab, Thai Style Salad, Toasted Peanuts, Tamarind Dressing and Sesame Rice Crackers or the Balinese Pulled Pork Burger ‒ Pulled Pork, Fried Egg, Cabbage and Carrot Slaw, Chilli Mayo, Coriander on Brioche Bun with Sweet Potato Wedges.
Says the website -
"Set in a heritage listed Melbourne building, with a modern rustic ambience, Operator25 cafe serves breakfast, lunch and everything in between, daily.
Conveniently located on the Melbourne CBD fringe within minutes of the leafy Flagstaff Gardens, there is something for everyone at Operator25.
We also cater for vegetarians, gluten-free, have a kid friendly menu, and serve specialty coffee using the finest beans from Melbourne’s own Code Black Coffee Roasters."
Operator 25 is an exceptional cafe in the Melbourne CBD, with strong points across the board and prices affordable. Fun and finesse. Highly recommended.
2. Crabapple Kitchen - 659 Glenferrie Rd Hawthorn - Food 9.5, Coffee 9.5, Ambience 9.5
Crabapple Kitchen is a stunning cafe on Glenferrie Road Hawthorn that makes a huge impression with its interesting dining spaces, array of gourmet services, friendly engagement and charm. Greg Feck is the luminary behind this establishment and brings to the table fine dining and a love for travel. Experience Crabapple Kitchen and experience the world. Their Friday Night Flights are something to behold, focussing on cuisines of the nations.
The World Loves Melbourne visited one Saturday morning for our first brunch visit and are keen to return. Having imbibed literally hundreds of cafes in Melbourne we felt Crabapple Kitchen is a standout.
There's a sense of playfulness and vibrancy here - a place of colour, flair and creativity. Upon entering Crabapple Kitchen the sound system was playing Madonna "Into the Groove" - so apt.
Get into the groove boy
You have to prove your love to me
I was getting into the groove at Crabapple Kitchen from the "get go" as its conviviality central. I want to bring my partner here, and indeed my mother in law... It's that kind of place.
I've always felt you can tell a foodie destination within seconds. Crabapple Kitchen displays nuances and finesse and a good deal of care in its menu. Walk in to a world of charm, where seating material reminds me of my childhood with blooms of floral against cream. The fitout brings the charm of yesteryear with a splash of modern, notably the exposed brick and naked bulbs (not totally naked with clear jars as coverings).
Crabapple Kitchen has some of the most engaging staff around. Some cafes struggle because staff are not certain or confident beyond a basic level of information. Ask them if they recommend a dish and staff at some cafes just reply, "Don't know, never tried that one." Here at Crabapple Kitchen that's certainly not the case with staff abreast of the menu and eager to make recommendations. Staff at Crabapple Kitchen are foodies (I know some people hate that word but not sure how else to put it). They know their stuff.
Enjoying my little elongated old school table (charm again) I ordered some of Crabapple Kitchen's fine coffee. My latte was impressive and had the required strength for a Saturday morning. Check out the caramel hue on the latte below...
Crabapple Kitchen has one of those menus you can choose from blindfolded throwing a dart. I could see I was going to spend 20 minutes in sweet indecision trying to choose, so I asked the waitress to help me with a recommendation. Having leaned towards the pancakes, I leaned back to embrace her recommendation of Sweet corn and chilli fritters w grilled Cyprian haloumi, avocado, tomato, cucumber, red onion and mint. Her expert advice was to order sides of a poached egg and a serving of chorizo. The wait staff told me the chorizo would set the dish off - and she wasn't wrong.
Crabapple Kitchen is such a revelation
Dining here is a sweet sensation
Such a pretty dish from a team that understands nuances. Hail the mint to give extra zest! My impression was of a refreshing hearty breakfast imbibing fritters with kick and a bevvy of indulgences including the haloumi and chorizo.
So pretty was this dish, I took this photo (above) to post on Instagram with filters.
Crabapple is pumping baby on a weekend. When I sent a shout out on Twitter several people messaged me about their love for the Friday Night Flight Nights where Crabapple Kitchen somehow manages to create amazing themed dining experiences of various countries and regions. On the Friday following my visit you could experience the best of Portugal.
What is different here to your ordinary plain vanilla cafe/restaurant is these guys have several top chefs and a crack team in the kitchen. Not just executive chef but sous chef for goodness sake. I'm keen to return for lunch and dinner, with my eye already on the Free range chicken schnitzel and Judy's pork chops.
Crabapple Kitchen floats my boat.
Going to get to know you in a special way
This doesn't happen to me everyday
3. Cumulus - Flinders Lane CBD - Flinders Lane CBD - Food 9.5, Coffee 9.5, Ambience 9.5 -
Cumulus exudes passion for a food culture and brings a sense of fun and an air of sophistication to the Melbourne dining scene. This is where the foodies go. And it stays at the leading edge of culinary Melbourne after several years. Cumulus has a warehouse/studio type vibe - with studio type lighting, high ceilings, and large windows fronting Flinders Lane. There are 3 positions for viewing – either sit at the kitchen bar on a stool watching the expert chefs art work; or sit at the bar overlooking Flinders Lane on a stool watching the baristas at work; or sit in the middle and observe the hip collective in the room.
One of the best breakfasts in Melbourne! Even the stock Cumulus breakfast is a winner with amazing yoghurt, perfect egg, 3 slices of toast and preserves and juice and coffee - everything an officer worker needs to kick start the day. And so well put together.
But when doing breakfast one must at least tackle the "full English" also a popular mainstay. Be ready to engage some wonderful blood sausage.
Twice I have enjoyed the Shashouska (sounds like a Kate Bush song?) with baked eggs, tomatoes, onions, peppers and marinated Persian fetta with chives – in a pan. Next to that on the large plate is served great seed bread. Wow! A hearty breakfast indeed which comes piping hot (be careful of the pan). Also a nice touch is the little bowls of pink salt and pepper.
If you sit at a communal table you may overhear conversations about gyms, personal trainers or the latest business deal. Coffee is excellent at Cumulus – using a La Marzocco top rank Italian machine.
Staff are professional and engaging. You are warmly greeted for breakfast by friendly staff who show you to a table or stool, decked out with tulips on the tables and 3 different newspapers. Service is consistently great. Tested by moi when ducking in to Cumulus one summer’s day just to have a glass of water and a coffee – staff obliged but I wouldn’t do this often. For lunch and dinner the lamb is to die for - shared for two (but find someone who is not hungry). As good as lamb gets.
Often queues out the door due to no booking policy. I can't believe I was there at the crack of dawn and the place was packed and pumping with jazz on a weekday! Enjoying music from the five Bose speakers mounted around the room! Friendly barista explained to me that the bank vault door to the side of the current modern door is a heritage piece – and it adds to the vibe. Cumulus is a continual culinary joy.
4. St Ali, 12-18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne – Asian/Middle Eastern - Food 9 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9
St Ali is a hip cool fun uber café with amazing ambience, stunning coffee and excellent creative menu choices - hidden down a laneway in South Melbourne. This is one of my “go to” places in Melbourne and have loved each of my many visits.
Walk in to a hip if not grungy establishment with industrial themes. The friendly staff are so warm that you don’t mind waiting that 10 or 15 minutes for a table (no booking policy). The staff are also helpful in arranging tables to fit in those groups. We arrived on one occasion to meet an old friend and her partner. The attentive staff were accommodating to find us space as soon as it became available. Another time we met with friends from both Adelaide and London – dazzled by the vibe of St Ali – and staff managed to find us space during a packed Saturday brunch session.
The menu options excite, are creative and show a sense of fun. Brunch highlights include From Chickens With Love options such as eggs anyway with sides or My Mexican Cousin corn fritters. Or for lunch go the Smokey and the Bandit Victorian rainbow trout. Or order the Chris-P confit pork belly. The Chicadee whole chicken thigh burger is a sensation.
The cakes and pastries are also a highlight at St Ali and great with any coffee.
Music pumping, grungy concrete floor, awesome flower arrangements, and the mirror ball, all add to the ambience. Love the communal tables. Love the different interesting areas to dine.
At the present time of writing they are launching a Balls pop up restaurant in July.
Loved lunch here, meeting a good friend from Jo’burg now moved to London. He rated St Ali as a top café to be found anywhere in the world. I found him in a state of bliss when I walked in, already reading a paper and ready for his second amazing coffee. We both enjoyed a legendary lunch and felt many memorable meeetings and catch ups involve St Ali.
Known to be one of the best coffee establishments in Melbourne, St Ali exudes a serious coffee devotion. The house blends are great. Single origin options are dazzling – just look up and check out the board. Panama. Costa Rica. Colombia. Honduras. And others. St Ali brew amazing Cold Drip, Pour Over and Syphon coffee. It's hard to have just one coffee - usually a coffee or three here. St Ali is a coffee wholesaler and roasts it’s own coffee, supplying notable establishments across the city.
St Ali is spectacular.
5. Proud Mary, 172 Oxford St Collingwood - Food 9 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9
Proud Mary has been crowned Best Cafe in The Age Good Cafe Guide awards. Nestled in a warehouse like premises in Collingwood, Proud Mary with its uber fit out, is the coffee summit. Inspired by owner Nolan Hirte, it exudes rarefied air of coffee excellence. Hirte's stamp of excellence is on every aspect in terms of ambience, passion, coffee sophistication and the notable cuisine. Proud Mary is a benchmark for roasters and coffee lovers in Melbourne and along with its sophistication has the charm of a river boat queen.
We had an amazing private session with the owner Nolan Hirte - an unforgettable Melbourne moment. We were visiting the cafe as part of our work custom to visit a different cafe each Friday - known by us IT guys as eFriday (experimentation Friday). Nolan overflows with coffee passion (a good match with the Creedence song) and none of the flame has died from his many years in the industry. Proud Mary keeps on burning.
Just listening to Nolan speak about his trips to source the world's best coffee and his belief that great coffee can bring change, is contagious and inspirational. When he speaks about his recent trip to South America there's an excitement.
Nolan gets off the plane and into the vehicle that takes him to an incredible coffee estate in Guetemala. There he spots some amazing coffee and is able to pay the owner a premium to source coffee he says "just exploded with flavour intensity in my mouth". I'm there brother! Nolan was able to persuade the owner not to sell that coffee at auction but he paid a premium to have it airlifted to Australia and its currently on the menu at Proud Mary. These are the lengths Nolan will go to to lift coffee excellence to dizzying heights.
The complexity of the Panama filter flavour was astounding. Nashi pear flavours.
Nolan has a mother of a Synesso, custom made, that can handle several blends at once. This $40,000 heavy artillery is perfect for espresso lovers. My creamy latte had such an intensity of buttery and caramel flavour I just wanted to sip it slowly and let the flavour resonate. Nolan then took us through the filter and cold drip processes at Proud Mary. This is where science and coffee and passion comes together. The Costa Rica Geisha cold drip has such an intense flavour that lingers for some time. Manuka honey and green apple flavours. There's a sweetness as the cold process is less acidic. The word is "geisha" baby - grab yourself one. The pour over filter was a V60 filter process, a manual process giving complete control over brewing time and temperature.
Hipster staff work hard (big wheels keep on turning) but super friendly and engaging every customer like long lost friends! The service from barista Courtney was awesome as she engaged our table on several occasions, made great suggestions, and was personable. Happy to recommend menu options and super passionate about the coffee. She told us about coffee culture in Toronto but was sure Melbourne was at a higher level and sophistication.
Love the ambience here with loads of light coming in, huge windows, exposed brick, high ceilings, large tables and stools along the bar. Also a door handle with character.
Many times I’ve been here and I’ve been on a coffee high all morning at work from my experience at Proud Mary! Also basic breakfast is great with perfectly cooked eggs and herbs on sourdough... As I say great places cook the simple things well with class and attention to detail.
The lunch menu is also great! Best Sammy I've ever had for lunch with Dench bread, chickpea, goat cheese, rocket, roasted capsicum, eggplant, and roasted zucchini... Being a meat lover this vegan combination actually rocked my world! Not to mention the home made chutney... Great friendly table service. Sensational.
Proud Mary gets busy. Came here with interstate friends on a Saturday afternoon and was devastated that there was a 20 minute wait for a table with our car parked over in Smith St . with time running out on the meter – so couldn’t do. But a great place to take out of towners. Hitch a ride on this river boat queen!
6. Bossy Boots Cafe - 106 Bay Street Brighton - Food 9 Coffee 8.5 Ambience 8.5
Bossy Boots cafe is a revelation to The World Loves Melbourne, being super popular with Brighton locals and now fast growing in its gourmet take home food offerings. Bossy Boots café is the masterstroke of Melbourne chefs Ben Forehan and Rachael Browne who have taken their cooking talents working at notable Melbourne kitchens such as Stokehouse, Circa and Dench Bakers, and 10 years cooking to the rich and famous on super yachts, to create a unique foodie haven in Brighton. The World Loves Melbourne stopped by for lunch to check out the amazing large gourmet sausage rolls and delectable salads.
Bossy Boots café lays claim to the best take home food in Melbourne. Locals are flocking to the café each day to grab dinner or a meal to take home. We were amazed at how many locals visited in the couple of hours we were there on a weekday lunchtime. This is a unique foodie experience in Melbourne with few if any cafes as successful at providing such quality take home food options. Each day the kitchen team prepare 3-4 tasty curries, salads, pastas, Tuna and Sweetcorn patties, filled crepes, and a killer Eggplant parmigiana.
For time poor professionals Bossy Boots is the perfect destination to get an impressive dinner, desserts and gourmet treats. The display cabinet is spectacular with take home treats on display. You will find it hard to resist the choices.
In recent years Nonna Thomasina (known as Nellie) has graced the kitchen at Bossy Boots and delivers some of the best lasagne and cannelloni you’ll taste in Melbourne. Salads here are super popular including a Tuna Nicoise and Moroccan cous cous salad.
According to Ben, “We thank Brighton locals for their support over the last 7 years. We pride ourselves on the fact that everything is made in house from scratch. We want to deliver honest exceptional food to Melburnians with no short cuts.” Bossy Boots has 5 talented chefs working in their large kitchen, all with extensive experience.
Bossy Boots has a large local following and is known for its relaxed ambience with chic courtyard and large windows inviting bright spaces. Tables on iconic Bay Street are popular imbibing the local Brighton atmosphere.
During their time on the super yachts Ben and Rachael cooked for the rich and famous such as Cindy Crawford, Mel Gibson, Mike Tyson, and Paris Hilton. They also did all the catering for Pamela Anderson’s wedding when she married Kid Rock on a super yacht in St Tropez. Says Ben, “We have taken skills we learned on the super yachts into the Bossy Boots experience.”
Ben Forehan and Rachael Browne are classically trained having both studied Vienoisserie at E’cole Le Notre, in Paris, and have been able to bring their passion and skills to the café scene. They have control over the whole cooking process making everything from scratch. Ben takes care of the main kitchen while Rachael is in control of the separate pastry kitchen.
The menu is about fresh honest food, with a mix of brunch and lunch staples and a nod to Italian fare.
Check out these Bee Stings with brioche infused with custard. (We groaned on consumption.)
Bossy Boots also produce arguably the best vanilla slices in Melbourne...
Ben and Rachael are the master of pastries with Bossy Boots making their own Danish pastries, high end French cakes, and the best pies, quiche and sausage rolls in Melbourne. Around Easter Bossy Boots is also famous for its Hot Cross Buns, contender for best in Melbourne.
The breakfast menu features Homemade muesli, Vanilla Poached Pears, or for the hungry try Ben’s Big Breaky, with poached or fried eggs with bacon, baked beans, mushrooms and chipolatas. Check out the House made baked beans with crumbed feta on toast. Customers love the sides including Regal smoked salmon, Istra bacon and house made baked beans.
The World Loves Melbourne enjoyed this selection of large gourmet sausage roll and delectable salads. The sausage roll has a superb flaky pastry with full butter pastry, and quality mince and sausage. The relishes included the standard relish and the one with some kick. Both were made from scratch. The salads were exceptional, healthy, and interesting. Everything was high quality.
The sausage roll and salads were surprisingly filling, but I also enjoyed a large portion of Swiss Roll Pavlova.
Popular dishes on the lunch menu include Traditional lasagne, Eggplant parmigiana, Traditional Italian meatballs, Cannelloni of the day – all served with fresh tossed garden salad. Indulge also in Quiche of the day, Chicken Jalfrezi served with fragrant basmati rice, or the Butter chicken with rice.
Suppliers include some of Melbourne’s finest including T2 teas, Phoenix organic bottled juices, and Meredith goat’s cheese.
Coffee is from Supreme and served expertly from the large La Marzocco machine.
And where does the intriguing name come from?
Ben and Rachael shared a dream for opening a café/foodstore for years. While working on a super yacht called “Bossy Boots” Ben and Rachael travelled from San Diego through British Colombia and spent the summer in Alaska. This was a memorable trip and the couple decided to come home to further their dream.
Ben says, “Most of the time the conversation was about food, but one night the topic of the business name came up. We both had quite a few glasses of red, so neither of us can remember who first suggested “Bossy Boots.” We both thought it was kind of catchy and probably quite fitting for the suburb of Brighton.”
Bossy Boots is an iconic café with its own style, creating a convivial hub that is unique to Brighton and Melbourne.
7. Hard Pressed, 76 Wellington Parade East Melbourne - Food 8 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9
Hard Pressed is a refreshing addition to the Melbourne cafe scene with a Latino influenced menu, stunning fit out using recycled materials, a plethora of exotic plants, and first class coffee. Having worked in Jolimont in a previous life, The World Loves Melbourne knows how this precinct has struggled for decent coffee and a killer cafe fit out. Hard Pressed serves up some of the best coffee in Melbourne and since opening late 2014 they have not looked back. The World Loves Melbourne has visited a couple of times and each experience has been spot on.
The World Loves Melbourne loves the plethora of exotic plants, timbers and white tiles, and the odd quirky piece. The design has come together under the influence of Mimi-Myrtle + Co of Spotswood and builder Callum Wallace. With split levels, you can choose to hang near the large windows overlooking iconic East Melbourne, or step up to the top level where there's a jungle mural on the wall. Owner Phil Gijsbers has tried to make the cafe an extension of the nearby Fitzroy Gardens, hence the plants theme. Hard Pressed somehow reminded The World Loves Melbourne of the film Casablanca (with Humphrey Bogart) with the whites and exotic palms.
Gijsbers previously ran Station St Cafe in Nunawading for four years, another cafe we have frequented - and if you can make a cafe work in the outer eastern suburbs you can make it work anywhere.
Muffins and bagels delight for those who want a light breakfast or just a little something with their coffee.
A breakfast and lunch highlight is the Hard Pressed famous Cuban sandwich "El Cubano" featuring 12 hour slow cooked charred pork neck, with citrus, mustard, Swiss cheese and pickle, between two lightly toasted buns.
The El Cubano was flavour intense and tangy, with a generous portion of the pork neck. The World Loves Melbourne found this to be a rewarding breakfast and one of the best sandwiches in Melbourne.
Hard Pressed offer coffee sophistication with its French press, pour overs and cold drips, using coffee from Axil Roasters in Hawthorn. After dipping our toes in the water with a latte we progressed to the pour over. The Ethiopian pourover (below) was a sensation. The rich fruity flavour of the coffee burst forth on the palate as I imbibed. Our pour over arrived steaming, as you can see in the photo.
The menu is the masterstroke of Jay Van Rhee, ex Seven Seeds and De Cleiu. Here you can build your own breakfast. As we were in a hurry to get to a meeting at Melbourne Museum the Breakfast Bagel delighted as a light breakfast option.
After visiting Hard Pressed a couple of times I noticed the busyness of the cafe, with mums with prams, group catch ups and solitary diners enjoying this exciting ambience in East Melbourne. There's also something about exposed brick and naked bulbs.
Here is another photo of my pour over. How good is it when your coffee arrives with tasting notes attached. Ethiopian Irgacheffe coffee in all its glory...
Irgacheffe is a town in central southern Ethiopia an an important coffee hub. The sweet flavors and aromas of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee are its strongest asset along with a medium to light body. Overall the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe coffee is very spicy and fragrant, often with a slightly chocolaty or nutty quality. Subtleties include notes of citrus or tangerine (which is why it is often preferred for iced coffee).
These beans undergo a wet processing. The wet processing of coffee beans involves first washing off the coffee fruit (coffee cherry) in order to remove and fleshy or fruity material on the fruit. This is done right after harvest while the fruit is still moist. This is done to remove the pulp from the Ethiopian Yirgacheffee coffee fruit and then the next step is to remove the mucilage through the process known as fermentation. Typically the coffee beans are soaked in water in order to soften the fleshy material and then they are de-pulped and placed in a fermentation tank in order to remove the mucilage. The benefits of wet processing are that it produces what is termed as a “clean cup” of brewed coffee. The benefit of a clean cup of coffee is that the acidity allows the coffee to “shine.”
Hard Pressed also impresses with its use of plants and foliage. It gives the feel of an exotic cafe hidden away from the bustle of the city.
Exotic undertones with cement blocks, recycled timbers, jungle mural, rambling exposed brick, quirky pans, naked bulbs and plants.
Recycling overdrive here with floorboards from an old primary school. Tabletops come from an old paper mill. And the antique dough maker is a talking point. Throw Agaves, palms and ferns into the equation and you have exotic central. Hard Pressed is a friendly cafe with helpful staff, even when the pressure is on and the place is packed to the rafters. The El Cubano was made available to me for breakfast (normally lunch menu), and I noted the 7 or so other sandwich choices. Thanks Hard Pressed for your flexibility.
Hard Pressed has one of the best ambiences of a cafe in Melbourne and the locals are loving it.
Hard Pressed is a chic and impressive cafe on the edge of the city, well worth a visit. Get your Cuban on!
8. CH James - 86 Station St Fairfield
CH James, a trio of festive spaces, has launched in Station Street Fairfield. Locals are keen to experience the modern menu and character of the venue, which includes a stunning outdoor courtyard. The World Loves Melbourne was invited to experience CH James and some of its signature dishes. The ambience here is a standout, with large welcoming windows and bright spaces, giving a feel of light and airy. Fascinating farm implements adorn the wall, a reference to the period of CH James and heritage. The fit out is such that the indoors and outdoors meets seamlessly, with the windows opening up to accommodate the coffee bars, and its an easy stroll to the courtyard.
CH James is modern but features a nod to yesteryear with its compelling story of local CH James who was prominent in the northern suburbs in the halcyon period of Melbourne's development. Charles Henry James was a businessman extraordinaire in the 1870s and 1880s, and hugely influential in forming the unique community dynamic of the north we love today. Dreamer, innovator and fiercely local, CH James was an influencer who was keen to “have a go”, connect with his community and he conducted his business with distinctive flair. CH James became a model and mentor to young businessmen of the era.
CH James represented the interests of the northern community in the Legislative Council and was a champion of Fairfield, Alphington and Thornbury as well as suburbs such as Essendon, Brunswick and Flemington. CH James was also a man of style and could be spotted handsomely gowned in his silk brocade with heliotrope ribbon and fine diamonds with spangled sleeves. Hipster and fashionable. CH James and his wife Harriette were keen supporters of local charities, community projects and help to the underprivileged.
Station Street has its own place in Melbourne history. With diversity and an eclectic vibe, Station Street is quintessentially Melbourne. CH James spent much of his time on Station St Fairfield and in 1884 established a horse tramway, which ran the length of Station Street. We think this is very Melbourne.
CH James is well equipped with a coffee bar that faces iconic Station Street. Customers can pull up to the bar for top notch Small Batch coffee and the barista skills of Yuta Tanaka ex Auction Rooms. The World Loves Melbourne sampled two lattes perfectly made with fine latte art to boot.
Service here is excellent with Chris Krambias and the team personable and on their game. Chris has extensive experience in hospitality at top hotels such as the Park Hyatt in Melbourne and has a flair for service excellence.
CH James features an interesting and fine brunch and lunch menu, with Frenchman Franck Verschaeve (ex Pope Joan) the Head Chef classically trained from a fine dining background, but who has brought his skills to the cafe scene. Franck is a chef who likes to make his own pasta and jams and relishes, for example.
The Brunch menu boasts refreshing and healthy dishes like the Watermelon, orange blossom, minted yoghurt & granola crumb above.
Also popular as a healthy option is the Coconut and citrus bircher with roasted pistachio & lemon balm.
A stunning and popular dish (see above and below) is the Ricotta and smoked trout, soft scrambled eggs with a chive coriander pesto and toast. This dish sang on the plates, with smoked trout flavours through the scrambled egg, with the richness of the ricotta. The chive and coriander pesto set off the dish, and the toast was a perfect accompaniment.
CH James also hit the high notes with this Hungry Vego dish of Three grains, roasted pistachio, activated almonds, seasonal veg, lemon yoghurt & a poached egg. When I look at the menu as a whole there are a number of healthy style dishes. This is modern cuisine and on trend.
Many will enjoy Dr Martys Crumpets, served at CH James with whipped butter & rooftop honey.
The menu also features the popular Seared Silver Trevally, radish, cucumber, and caperberry salad. The presentation is superb. Franck loves to cure the Trevally himself, and the portions are generous. The salad accompanying is fresh and zesty and the dish is in perfect balance.
The World Loves Melbourne was impressed with this dish and intends to imbibe it again on return.
CH James has an impressive Lunch menu featuring options such as Baked buffalo ricotta cake, Corn zucchini and fetta tart, and Cod croquette with gribiche, salad and crispy bread.
The World Loves Melbourne was taken with the House made gnocchi with roasted tomato asparagus & broad beans. This was "comfort food" heaven. Franck has cooked his superb house made gnocchi in butter and sage - a killer combination - and the roasted tomato, asparagus and beans bring great balance. This dish has been a standout since CH James opened.
Coffee here is excellent and served in proper glassware. CH James spent time sourcing the best sugar to match its specialist coffee, and uses Coconut blossom sugar, which features a slightly caramelised taste.
Drinks list includes Small Batch coffee, Mork chocolate, and Tea by Chamellia. Wine list includes boutique World Loves Melbourne favourites, Maddens Rise and Medhurst, as well as other boutique wines. Another favourite is Pizzini Prosecco, our favourite Australian Prosecco. Craft beers are sourced from Victoria, including Hargreaves Hill and Holgate Brewhouse. An interesting option is Lager from Keo, Cyprus.
The World Loves Melbourne spotted Franck (right) in the kitchen with his team.
CH James has developed an amazing courtyard area next to a church, featuring plantings of fruit trees and fresh herbs, used in its cooking.
Check out the chilli plant thriving in its large planting box.
CH James is a great new addition for the northern suburbs and Melbourne.
Says the website -
"We are proud to open CH James café and are inspired by the story of CH James. He had a vision of the “opportunity” of the north that we see some 150 years later. Some of us live in streets with names linked to CH James. Legend also has it the laneway culture of Melbourne was also formed by the legacy of CH James who developed the laneway next to his large French inspired residence.
At the height of his fortunes in the 1880s CH James was considered to be a millionaire and riding high. He and his wife Harriette entertained Melbourne socialites with lavish balls featuring dancing into the early hours, decorating their residence with “fine palms, exotics and blossoms.” Can we add interior designer to the list? Towards the end of his life CH James had his ups and downs (hit by the Depression) but his legacy in the history of Fairfield and the northern suburbs of Melbourne is entrenched.
CH James is a "trio of festive spaces" and nod to the entrepreneurship of CH James and his sense of adventure, innovation and love of the northern suburbs. CH James is a place to relax and imbibe, with casual dining and rewarding menu choices using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Not to mention personable service and fine coffee. A garden courtyard adds to the ambience. We think CH James with wife Harriette, five daughters and their son, would imbibe the community vibe and coffee culture at CH James in Fairfield."
CH James has character in spades and boats several attractive dining spaces. Service is top notch, the coffee excellent, and the menu compelling and on trend. Highly recommended.
9. Auction Rooms, 103-107 Errol St North Melbourne – Café - Food 8 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9
Auction Rooms is a standout café in Melbourne and exudes industrial chic as well as being a serious coffee haven. Housed in the old WB Ellis Auction House it is an oasis of coffee perfection in trendy North Melbourne. Loads of serious coffee lovers descend on Auction Rooms in its accessible location on Errol Street.
It’s famous for its serious coffee but Auction Rooms also serves great food! Hearty interesting meals are prepared with flair. The menu selections feature inventive names playing with the auction theme such as “opening bid” (two free range poached eggs on sourdough with bacon, field mushroom, grilled tomato and sautéed spinach on Dench sourdough) and “shady deal” (Moroccan style tomato and chorizo stew with eggplant served with poached eggs, olives, dukkah and feta and flatbread).
At lunchtime the Roasted pork belly served on a corn crepe with coffee BBQ sauce is a popular menu item. Then there are the fine cakes to go with that coffee!
There are so many dining areas here such as the outside street tables, the high stools at the bar, the small tables in the lower level, the communal table behind the counter and the courtyard.
Auction Rooms is a powerhouse café in a coffee mad city. Well worth a visit as a great example of the Melbourne coffee scene.
10. Stagger Lees, 276 Brunswick St Fitzroy - Food 9.5 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9.5
Some menus feature "must haves" and the menu at Stagger Lees has a compelling Mork chocolate milkshake for the discerning.
Stagger Lees is the brainchild of the folk at iconic Proud Mary in Collingwood. Many would know the song about the muderous dude who murders over a hat. In Brunswick St this may be a vintage hat or some cowboy boots. In any case the Americana theme at Proud Mary continues on at Stagger Lees.
He wore rat-drawn shoes and an old stetson hat
Had a '28 ford, had payments on that
- from Nic Cave version of the song Stagger Lee, very Brunswick...
The menu selections are all appealing here. My friends are health conscious but when Mike saw the Fat Bacon Toastie featuring Apple wood smoked bacon, gruyere fondue, fried egg served with winter greens and chutney, he was hooked. The toastie was served with eggs on top open style. This dish would impress Elvis.
Having eaten scores of burgers around Melbourne I found the Stack & Billy Burger to be one of the best around. A chart topper featuring Black Angus shin patty, bacon, American mustard, catsup, aioli, pickles and cheddar served with bacon croquettes and greens. The balance of flavours is perfect. The patty is magical. Brioche buns are a great texture and mild sweetness. Much thought has gone into this burger including killer aoli, quality pickles and cheddar. Please remind me to put this burger in my "Best burgers of Melbourne" section. Kudos to Head Chef Chris Hamburger (do I say the obvious?)...
The burger comes with amazing creamy croquettes that are almost a meal in themselves. When I said to the waitress, "Wow, I didn't realise these amazing croquettes come with the burger!" she said "Read the damn menu." But she said it in a playful kind of way that didn't offend. Banter in Brunswick...
So we ordered two of the Toasties...
And we love the T-shirt behind the dish. Subtle branding.
Triology of dude food from Stagger Lees...
My Canadian friends Mike and Deb are familiar with Vancouver (the other most liveable city) and are taking mental notes re cafes in Melbourne. (Suitably) impressed.
The fit out at Stagger Lees is stunning with large windows looking out to the prime of Brunswick St, exposed brick rustic look, concrete floor, as well as savvy timberwork and retro chairs and modern cabinets (with tasty treats). Spot the hipster at Stagger Lees.
Stagger Lees also has a liquor license. If it wasn't for the Mork chocolate milkshake this would have been our preferred source of refreshment.
As for coffee this place offers only the best - check out the single origins on the board. Come here and you'll find Stagger Lees to be a keeper...
11. Three Bags Full, Nicholson Street Abbotsford – Café - Food 8.5 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9
Three Bags Full is a Melbourne darling and one of our more eminent cafes. The vibe on a pumping Saturday brunch time is fabulous. Its another foodie haven and the coffee is seriously excellent.
Some confusion at first as to whether I was in Richmond or in Abbotsford. The colour scheme suggested I was in Richmond (bright yellows) but we were in fact in Abbotsford. Great ambience here. Walk in and immediately fall in love with this place.
Three Bags Full boasts a large open space and natural light. Plenty of tables but often they are packed. Wondered whether the name Three Bags Full had anything to do with it always being packed out. Love the long communal table which people seem to gravitate to.
I should speak about the coffee. These guys are passionate about coffee and provide a great selection. They provide pour over, Clover and single origin offerings. I’m happy to come here just for the coffee and even line up for the privilege. Knowing they use Five Senses is comforting.
This ex warehouse is very cool and features polished floors and exposed brick. This may lend to a noisy room but who cares, I’m into that. Venture outside to enjoy the ambience of the precinct at small tables.
Three Bags Full a great name as one of the best breakfast/brunch places around. These guys cook the eggs perfectly and serve everything on quality bread. Interesting options ranging from killer muesli to the big breakfast to a delightful remoulade. And not forgetting the Veggie breakfast.
Great stories of people waiting half an hour for a table. It’s not like there’s heaps to do nearby in the neighbourhood of leafy Abbotsford. So good commitment. Tried one Saturday to come with a group last minute, but the estimated wait time was imposing.
Three bags Full is also a great option for breakfast on the way to work in the city. Love the friendly service. Busy, busy, busy – but still attentive and personable staff. When paying or just ordering coffee you're invariably standing in line and eying off their gourmet products to take away.
Three Bags Full is a stellar cafe that continues to shine.
12. Pellegrini’s Expresso Bar, 66 Bourke St Melbourne – Café - Food 8 Coffee 9 Ambience 9
Pellegrini’s, a Melbourne icon, puts a big smile on my face. It's easy to fall in love with Pellegrini's as it exudes so much charm and nostalgia. Classico! Often misunderstood in a sea of nouveau cafes and restaurants, Pellegrini’s is unique.
It feels like ‘real’ Melbourne with its history and standing. I’ve been there a few times and love it. Where else can you go for such quality banter, home cooking and strong coffee?
I tried entering Pellegrini’s very early one morning and couldn’t get in the door. That’s right! The owner (I think it was), came and unlocked the door and showed me in! That was cool.
First the coffee. I asked for a latte (in one size glass) and was poured something with an extremely dark colour - telling me this one is as strong as steel. I love a strong coffee. I asked the barista whether this was a triple shot? “No” he said, “nothing to do with shots. It’s about the blend and the way it's made. If the shots are no good the coffee is no good – so what’s the point of shots?” You gotta love that philosophy.
I then asked whether the Pellegrini’s blend was a particularly strong blend? “Yes!” the barista said. Pellegrini’s use Vittoria coffee. I then saw the picture of Al Pacino (the Vittoria representative) on the wall. Underneath it said “We know coffee.” This was macho coffee territory. In fact I could imagine Al Pacino in Pellegrini’s knocking back a strong coffee or two and delivering a few macho quips.
Then the barista went on to show me the way Pellegrini’s coffee is made. “See this”, he said pointing to my coffee. “See the colour is dark”, he said, running his finger down the glass. “See I put not as much milk in the coffee. Less milk makes it stronger.” I had to smile as I love a creamy latte – but I had to again recognise the philosophy of Pellegrini’s. Nouveau coffee establishments may come and go but Pellegrini’s belts out it’s no nonsense strong coffee for decade after decade. Nothing flowery or cute here!
I cheekily asked about the coffee machine – whether it was the original – and of course it isn’t. “We’ve had a few over the years”, the barista said. This latest one is apparently eight years old – almost new in Pellegrini’s lifetime.
Ordering breakfast was also classic. I asked about the menu and the barista told me they do a simple breakfast and something about bacon and eggs. So I said “I’ll have the bacon and eggs then.” The barista looked at me and said, “No, something simple, we don’t do bacon and eggs!” I smiled. That’s cool. What do you suggest? He recommended a salami and cheese toasted sandwich. That was fine by me!
Plenty of regulars grace Pellegrini’s in the mornings. Some of them speak to the barista in Italian. I can only make out a few words like “bongiorno!” and “ciao”! A hilarious conversation took place between the barista and a lady customer in Italian. I kept hearing a word in English, interspersed in the conversation, which caught my attention. The barista and the owner nearby realised I must be wondering what was being said! The commotion and laughter and interaction between staff and customers that ensued was highly amusing. I doubt whether this delightful cameo would have ever taken place in a nouveau café?
Nostalgia everywhere! Love the long bar area with the iconic stools, and the mirrors along the other wall (also with iconic stools). Love the memorabilia on the shelves with celebrities posing with Pellegrini’s.
Pellegrini’s is a classic Italian espresso bar in Melbourne. Sometimes misunderstood you need to appreciate it for what it is rather than what it isn’t! They do pasta and delightful Italian treats well… I still have smile on my face! Ciao! Ciao! And Pellegrini’s really knows coffee!
13. Seven Seeds, 106-114 Berkeley St Carlton – Café - Food 8 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9
Seven Seeds is credited as being a highly influential coffee powerhouse that has shaped the coffee culture of Melbourne over many years. The World Loves Melbourne believes Seven Seeds is better than ever and continues to shine its love and significant influence on the cafe and coffee scene.
Seven Seeds is one of those Melbourne institutions we can take for granted. Walk along a nondescript street in Carlton that appears quiet and sleepy. Then stumble upon a packed house of uber coffee lovers at an unspectacular entrance almost devoid of signage (apart from a painted name on the wall).
Seven Seeds is a super passionate roastery and cafe. The lab here indicates the seriousness and passion for all things coffee. Seven Seeds never stands still but moves on ever evolving. The quality of coffee here shows no hint of dropping off, unlike some others that have diminished over the years. The coffee menu features Seven Seeds roasted coffee of course!
We visited Seven Seeds with friends from Canada (also a great coffee culture) to show them Melbourne's finest.
A converted warehouse, Seven Seeds features large amounts of exposed brick, tiles, concrete floor, mounted bikes, and the large windows allow plenty of natural light. They even led the way in cafe fit outs with many since copying the Seven Seeds look. With universities nearby Seven Seeds attracts its fair share of students. It's an eclectic mix here of the young and fashionable.
The menu at Seven Seeds has never been more exciting (and all day breakfast baby). The World Loves Melbourne believes the standard of food matches the peerless standard of coffee. Check out The Elvis french toast stuffed w/ banana caramel, whipped peanut butter and shards of candied bacon. Decadent and spot on. Have to love the candied bacon (tell yourself the acidity of the coffee cuts through all this dude food)...
Would you think of Seven Seeds in the hunt for Melbourne's best burgers? Well they should be. Several of us ordered the burger and all raved. Juicy with quality patty, right amount of salad, and curly fries to die for...
No to mention Eggs benedict on English muffins with prosciutto, hollandaise and rocket...
Then its down to serious pour over coffee. My first coffee was the entree. The Panama Pour Over (only $6) just explodes with flavour across your palate. Served with tasting notes like a fine wine. One of the best coffee experiences of my life - and there's been many thousand...
Staff were excellent and accomodated our group of 16 on a Saturday morning - we even secured a large table for the whole group. This place gets packed on a weekend and you can expect some sort of wait - but hey after all these years Seven Seeds is still super popular.
Seven Seeds has close ties with its growers and sources the best coffee. From the website -
"Seven Seeds takes its name from the precious cargo which Baba Budan smuggled out of Yemen and into India during the 17th century. By strapping seven seeds of fertile coffee to his waist, Brother Budan broke through the tightly regulated system which had, until then, kept coffee cultivation within the confines of the Arabic world. Because of Baba Budan and his determination to spread coffee around the world, we are now able to source beans from the Americas, Africa and Asia.
We are a micro roaster, cafe and retailer based in Melbourne. Coffee is our passion and we source, import, roast and sell what we believe is among the best coffees around the world. We aim to maintain close relationships with these producers and regularly travel to origin to work on securing exceptional coffee. Like all fruit, coffee is seasonal which means our coffee offerings are constantly changing throughout the year. We are careful to roast each new coffee to bring out the best and tastiest characteristics and are one of few roasteries to cup what we roast on a daily basis. Not only do we love roasting coffee, we love to serve it. Drop into one of our cafes for a chat and a brew.We also work very closely with the extended Seeds family and absolutely love what these guys do, teaming our coffee with their top quality food and service."
We note Seven Seeds has been inducted into the Herald Sun Coffee Hall of Fame. Shine on Seven Seeds, keep evolving and leading the way...
14. The Little Mule Cycle Co. and Cafe, Somerset Place – café - Food 8.5 Coffee 9 Ambience 9
One of my favourites in Melbourne! Want to keep coming back! Visited Little Mule spontaneously for lunch with with my mate Shane. Off the beaten track this was a gem! Located in Somerset Lane you could say Little Mule is part of the coffee triangle with amazing cafes nearby... This one is unique and up there with the best of them...
I love the diversity of Melbourne cafes! What a great combination of cycling and cafe!
This is serious! The founders and co-founders are bike enthusiasts! Awesome bikes are mounted on the walls! These bikes aren't just for decoration but the real thing! They are fair dinkum, custom made and for sale. Not just for vibe but for the road! That's cool! Lifted the tag on one and it was $1300 - so more for the serious rider than mon ami.
The vibe is enhanced by the tables and cosy lounges... This is not the house of pretense but the house of hospitality.
Great coffee from hipster but friendly baristas! Keen for a chat it's not just the coffee that does the talking. Adds to the ambience. And some of the best coffee around!
The food matches the standard of coffee... Some tasty sangas with decent seed filled bread! Shane enjoyed his fresh tasty baguette! Was going for the hot chorizo dish but the rice cooker was on the blink. Didn't care. Simple but great food... Plus there's melted cheese toasties! All made with fresh ingredients from the Vic Markets!
Time for a second visit… Loved the breakfast here! Asked about popular breakfast choices by friendly staff and was recommended the Baked Eggs with secret tomato mix, chorizo, and Spanish blood sausage. Also recommended the Avocado on toast. So I went for both! The baked eggs came in a piping hot ceramic bowl/tray and it was superb! Also melted cheese in the mix. The secret tomato mix was incredible featuring quality deep red tomatoes with a bit of a kick. This was a great breakfast option! And the avocado was also great sliced and arranged on two pieces of quality seeded bread. Coffee was brilliant again!
Noticed early morning breakfast crowd congregating to the communal table rather than all the individual tables. It is a great vibe there looking across at barista and chef and then observing all the bikes mounted on the walls. Love the cool black couch in the corner – for romantics or for therapy? Many also like to sit on stools facing the bar and read the papers provided.
Hang on – just noticed a bloke wearing a wide brim Spanish hat just walk in – must have smelled the chorizo! This café is cool and lay back and offers much!!
Open for breakfast and lunch...
15. Brother Baba Budan, Little Bourke – café - Food 8 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9
Extremely popular hipster joint which makes highest standard coffee. Soul brother café to Seven Seeds and de Clieu. For those that know their coffee history, it was infamous revolutionary Brother Baba who in the 17th C smuggled seven seeds of coffee out of Yemen and into India where the plants thrived. This started a global coffee revolution which has culminated in the sensational coffee scene we see here in Melbourne. BBB is passionate about coffee and in particular specialty coffee.
Look inside the window from Little Bourke and invariably see wall to wall people, some at the communal table reading but many lined up for some of the best coffee in town. Single origins, filters and awesome blends. It always looks like a cool party. Took my friend from Dubai here and he had to concede that Melbourne has such an awesome coffee culture.
A talking piece is always the curious montage of chairs hanging from the ceiling (spectacular but really hard to photograph). I asked a barista if it was ok to photograph and he said a lot of people photograph the ceiling chairs – so I felt better. Limited room in here for many to enjoy a sit down experience – there are a few tables with stools. Most people gravitate to the communal table by the window or indeed the communal table behind the baristas with a selection of cakes and biscuits above.
The star of the show is the coffee. The default is the Seven Seeds blend which is awesome. A smart drinker will order the Coffee of the Day single origin. It makes sense as it is only slightly more expensive.
The food options consist of pastries from Brioche by Philip. A tasty almond croissant. Or how about a ham and cheese croissant for breakfast? Or a gourmet cake? While impressive it's really all about the coffee at BBB and the baristas are on fire here working over the Synesso. They are super friendly (everything is amplified in a small café)! I noticed four staff working hard one morning (two guys and two girls) and had the evil thought that they might actually be Abba seeing the two guys were bearded. My coffee was so creamy with nutty characteristics. So good! You can also purchase Seven Seeds coffee here…
Cool having a mounted ipad playing music selections. The barista decided while I was there one morning to change to the sunshine collection (blend). I thought it might be Mow town but it wasn’t. There's also a retail section here where you can pick up your Aeropress. One of the best!
16. Manchester Press, 8 Rankins Lane, CBD Food 8.5 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9
Manchester Press is a spacious funky cafe that you'll want to come back to. This deserves to be a global sensation like Manchester United.
Possibly my favourite café in Melbourne - it's agreat place to meet with friends. Another laneway gem where coffee meets art. Manchester Press is part of the coffee triangle (as opposed to the Bermuda Triangle) with nearby places like Brother Baba Budan and Captains of Industry.
This is a huge spacious cafe - a former gallery and named after the former printing press business. Friends of mine remember it's former life - the renovation has been impressive. The mystery is accentuated by the fact that you need to pull back the sliding door to enter.
Coffee here is amazing with highly skilled baristas that have a knack with latte art.
This place has a rustic and at times retro feel (check out the menu with old school labels on perspex). Also check out the water jars on tables (with hydrochloric acid labels). Don’t worry the coffee is acidic - but not that acidic! You can really relax here – read the paper and check your emails. Chilled! So relaxed here that a customer went to the bathroom and on passing asked me to protect his back pack and belongings. I passed the test. (I now live in Rio).
The breakfast options including the raisin bagel with jam and ricotta are outstanding – good value and huge dollops of both jam and ricotta. In fact Manchester Press does bagels really well with other options (open sandwich style) and toppings available. I was told by the waitress that all menu options were available at any time – not just divided into breakfast and lunch. And that the menu changes whenever the chef feels like it… But some bagel options are more suitable for breakfast.
The soft egg bagel with salmon breakfast option is a sensation – sounds simple and harmless but it packed a mighty punch! You crack open the top of the soft boiled egg served in a cute egg cup with oriental figurines, then smear soft egg all over your piping hot bagel. Then you place some salmon from the generous pile on the plate on top of your egg and bagel! So gooood! There’s lemon to squeeze over the salmon and a great little salad with lettuce, tomato, onion and cucumber - with a killer dressing. Don’t think it’s just about the coffee and the vibe here – check out the simple but awesome food! Coffee here is sensational and of the highest quality! Creamy and comes with amazing latte art (love the coffee meets art theme here).
Check out the art on the walls by artist William Montgomery.
Came here again for breakfast with the family and we all loved it! Now thinking of bringing the mother in law! Great chorizo and peppers with bagel option – some real kick in the chutney! My wife ordered the salmon bagel option - this time even more salmon than mine from earlier in the week! My 7 year old son went the baked eggs and chorizo and absolutely loved it!
My daughter went the coco pops (great option for kids as well as kids at heart). My son ate the rest of the coco pops my daughter couldn’t eat. And I ate the rest of my wide’s salmon that she couldn’t eat. Took some happy snaps with shades of the Griswalds! Even coco pops look good on Instagram. The regular coffee is quite small so I think I’ll always go for the large in the take away cup. The kids hot chocolate had amazing latte art (except it wasn’t a latte). Hot chocolate art?
Sensational service every time with staff friendly and willing to explain stuff (interesting they place the bill in a glass on your table). We have a ritual - I keep going to the counter to pay at the end of my meal without producing the bill in the glass – so they go back and grab my bill from the table again. On leaving I noticed a mirror ball mounted high in Rankins lane casting an interesting light array down the lane. All adds to the coffee and the art experience!
17. The League of Honest Coffee, 8 Exploration, CBD – Food 8 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9
One of the best coffee houses in Melbourne with a strong following. This is the crew from East Brunswick Project and Padre Coffee. They've really outdone themselves with this latest addition to the Padre family.
After 8am this place seriously hums. I should know - I've been coming here for months! Serious coffee devotees come here for their next fix! As a regular I am yet to receive a poor offering (or dishonest coffee) and always leave this place on a coffee high!
The League of Honest Coffee present great Pour Over and Cold Drip Options. I'm prone to a creamy latte which is a bit old school but these guys do it so well! Love the bowls of coffee! In life I reflect that sometimes bowls of latte lose their punch in the compromise of too much milk! But this is amazing. Here is an important point -The League of Honest Coffee use decent milk in their coffee unlike a lot of cafes. (My barista training taught me that milk quality is a major factor in a great coffee).
This café has a great ambience with a spacious well thought out design and functionality. Love the cool suspended mezzanine feature. Love the use of funky stools and tables. Love the massive communal table by the enormous window! You can spread out with a newspaper....
Love the use of green (is it jade?) and brown. Love the polished grungy concrete floor. Love the wood paneling. Staff are super friendly, skillful and knowledgeable! No-one here is condescending (have you seen the You Tube Coffee Snob clip?).
The League of Honest Coffee totally lives up to its name. It's about the coffee. Single origins are a great way to go and there's plenty of them! This morning I enjoyed Honduras single origin latte with nutty characteristics. The Padre Blend is also amazing and as the barista told me, is extremely flexible when making milk based coffee.
These guys do their own roasting. I took them up on the deal to get a coffee container for $14 then get your first beans for half price. So I took home some of the tantalising Padre blend.
More action behind the counter than finals at the MCG! A large counter/bar area is witness to a throng of baristas and staff passionate about all things coffee. And skilful! Their equipment is amazing and these baristas have more artillery than US Forces - in fact they could win a war with that machinery!
Food options are simple but gourmet. A recent addition of killer Quesadillas is welcome, notably the Otway Ham and Smoked Chicken varieties. The egg and bacon tart is a great breakfast – gourmet tart for only $3.50. I've had about 40 of these things by now - so addictive including the pastry!I also love the breakfast vegetarian tart and the almond croissants are sensational.
18. Patricia's, Little William Lane – Cafe - Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9.5
Another nondescript entrance greets the coffee lover as you try to find Patricia’s in a laneway next to the 500 Bourke St precinct. Behind that nondescript entrance is a world of serious coffee devotion and a fresh concept from Bowen Holden (ex Seven Seeds) that delivers with class and flair.
The high note is the coffee, which is simplified by the 3 options of black, white and filter. But behind the simple options there is much thought and acumen and the great idea of sourcing the best coffee from popular Melbourne coffee spots. It’s great when you can promote Proud Mary and Seven Seeds in the same breath. Or Market Lane and Small Batch in another.
The philosophy around a 3 options coffee choice is that most white coffees are separated by a degree or two of froth. Yes only 3 options, but the 3 options are great! What is great is if you consume on site they will supply you with decent mineral water, indeed a palate cleanser, which draws parallels with wine tasting.
As there are no tables here it is not a place to linger for hours. It’s tailor made for city workers who have limited time to grab a coffee and head back to meetings and the mountain of emails.
With serious coffee equipment and friendly baristas and an up tempo feel (David Bowie Lets Dance playing over the system), it is hard not to love Patricia Coffee Brewers. Patricia Coffee Brewers is a standout café sure to become many coffee lovers’ new favourite place.
19. Small Victories, 617 Rathdowne Street Carlton North – Cafe – Food 9 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9
Small Victories is a stellar new cafe in leafy historic North Carlton making its mark. Transformed by Arlic Hansen and Ben Farrant, notable Melbourne culinary identities, Small Victories is taking Melbourne by storm. Come here for superb gourmet meals, great coffee and excellent ambience. You know its going to be good when a cafe makes its own produce in house - such as the yoghurt and the smoked bacon. It's a cafe that attracts foodies with its clever nuances and flavour combinations. Small Victories rises above the pack in a highly competitive precinct.
Dining is enjoyable with several (counted 5) dining spaces with cosy timber tables and sleek communal sharing tables, stools by the counter or along the window, upstairs dining area with mini skylight/atrium or you can sit outside and enjoy the ambience of Rathdowne Street.
Coffee here is top notch with the star inclusion of Dane Johns barista extraordinaire ex Wide Open Road. Small Victories uses Wide Open Road blends and the coffee is seriously good. The lattes have nutty and buttery characteristics and are of a decent strength.
Decor is modern and cool with large naked bulb lighting (revealing a groovy filament), grey couch backing along the upstairs wall with mirror above, a marble bar and great use of timbers. Not too much on the walls giving a sense of modern chic and not old world clutter.
Funky music adds to the vibe played on a turntable with vinyl selections.
There is a menu brimming with imagination and flair. The breakfasts are wonderful. The Small Victories mixed grill is sensational with Eggs, bacon, beans, blood pudding, croquette, and two pork sausages.
This is no clumsy fry up or predictable big breakfast. The leek and cheddar croquette was superb and creamy inside and I could have eaten about six. The eggs were perfectly cooked and runny. The sreaky bacon was high quality, smoked and prepared in house. The blood pudding was delicious and served fresh and had some moisture - unlike other black puddings elsewhere which have been dry and caked. And the sausages were gourmet, tasty and not too fatty. The beans were also impressive with gremolata on top. The accompanying toast was also excellent.
I was also tempted to go with the Corn (creamed) and streaky bacon breakfast with lardo soldier and thyme salt, which looked like something different and imaginative. The toast soldier with melted lardo is awesome.
These meals come in terracotta dishes. At the time they'd run out of big plates, so my mixed grill came in two seperate plates - no problem.
The small bowl of pink salt placed on the table with the meal was a nice gourmet touch.
Or you may want to try the Granola with elderflower, poached rhubarb, lychee, organic yoghurt and berry powder.
Small Victories also excels with its lunch selections including gourmet soup, pastas and sandwiches.
Small Victories is a super impressive and chic foodie haven that excites.
20. Hardware Societe, 120 Hardware Street, CBD – Cafe – Food 9.5 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9.5
Hardware Societe is a great place to go for a Sunday morning lazy breakfast in Melbourne! It captivates with French sophistication and charm, and a high quality dining experience.
If you’re looking for a restaurant that’s able to offer something more than the usual brunch options, with a certain je ne sais quois, then Hardware Societe is the place for you!
Any restaurant worthwhile in Melbourne may involve a table wait and I’ve gladly waited for 20 minutes for a table at Hardware Societe. Spectacular news is that Hardware Societe are now spreading out and have taken over the building next door. The revolution is spreading!
All eyes are on the white uniformed rock star chefs with awesome tattoos who perform wonders in the kitchen for all to see... Each dish has amazing flair and bathed in TLC. There is a French attention to detail!
After a big night out you may prefer the Banana bread with caramel and crushed nougat. Or Fried brioche with nutella, strawberries and toasted hazelnuts.
Even the sourdough fruit toast is sensational, served in a pretty arrangement on a wooden board with an extraordinary amount of butter. And it comes with a cute butter knife…
Be impressed by the communal table and chic plastic chairs. Where space is at a premium they’re functional but also can be fashionable.
The décor has a cool factor to a sublime degree including damask dark wallpaper imported from Germany and interesting lighting arrangements with naked bulbs. The whole place has an upbeat colourful feel to it...
Coffee here is also great and sometimes underrated. The crema is velvet, and the coffee showing superb consistency, flavour and strength. A nice touch is the small round donut that comes with each coffee.
Service is fantastic with hipster staff wearing aprons to set a French tome. They are both engaging and attentive. Open for breakfast and lunch but not dinner. Popular and a talking point around Melbourne. Rightly so!
19. Badger v Hawk, 333 La Trobe Street CBD – Café - Food 8 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9
Badger v's Hawk is a cool cafe on La Trobe and a great find for those who frequent the precinct. It shines with great coffee, personalised service, cool fit out, and a killer back courtyard section. I noticed they use Proud Mary coffee and they acknowledge Proud Mary is on fire at the moment.
First I'm impressed by the signage and large windows facing La Trobe. Enter into a coffee haven with light streaming through the windows. An iconic barista by the name of Cosmo Hawke will engage you and pour you a spectacular coffee using a La Marzacco. Go a cold drip or a pour over or a great espresso.
Food selection includes simple lunches from 11-2pm and a killer breakfast brioche with crispy bacon and a mustard aoli. The lunch sandwiches include the classic Rueben.
Coffeehead is a groovy and serious coffee destination in Camberwell that soars high above the pack. Coffeehead is another masterstroke of Paul Mathis, who is taking all before him in the Melbourne cafe and restaurant scene. Coffee devotees are impressed with the wide range of Melbourne's and Australia's top coffee brands and blends available for consumption. Check out the row of great coffee brands for sale along the wall including Gridlock, Plantation, Coffee Supreme and Padre or go online and order.
I rocked up to Coffeehead as part of my prep for the AFL Grand Final. I needed some coffee and carbs before the big game. This was essentially Hawthorn territory although a few Swans supporters were also at the cafe that day.
Coffeehead always has several coffee choices on hand (five rotating off the bench). I didn't ask for any in particular trusting that anything they poured me would be great. My coffee was smooth and strong through the midfield. Coffeehead offers nearly every conceivable technique of coffee making.
Coffeehead combines retro with a modern fit out. There's quirky and retro pieces including neon concert posters, cool lamps, retro chairs and modern stools, recycled metal tables, communal tables that are grungy being ex-factory benches, retro yellow tiles along the counter, and floor which is partly tiled and partly carpet.
Coffeehead has some serious cuisine - it's not just a coffee haven. To be honest I absolutely raved about my bowl of Spag Bol with gruyere cheese on sourdough. Perfect pre match prep that warmed my stomach. Hearty and gourmet as they make their own pasta. A triumph. I checked out the Big Head breakfast and Coffeehead baked beans, which looked amazing. I've also heard amazing things about the Coffeehead steak sandwich.
Coffeehead offers the coffee lover some great accessories. I noticed the Aeropress was only $49, much cheaper than elsewhere. For people that want a great coffee experience at home you can also order their coffee product and accessories online.
Coffeehead is a large spacious place with a great ambience and has a large open kitchen and roastery area. The day I visited it was packed and a wait for tables.
Coffeehead has some serious coffee artillery such as the manual lever La San Marco and DC Pro espresso machine. At the back of Coffeehead are two impressive roasters.
Coffeehead describe themselves as a super duper warehouse and coffee playground.
Coffeehead is an awesome find and the humble nondescript entrance belies the coffee royalty inside.
22. Top Paddock, 658 Church Street, Richmond – Mediterranean, Modern Australian - Food 9 Coffee 9.5 Ambience 9
Top Paddock is already one of Melbourne's standout cafes with its spacious modern fit out and extensive imaginative menu. Meeting here in a trendy part of Richmond with my salubrious brother (Melbourne businessman and food critic extraordinaire) we commented that "these people know what they're doing". And they surely do being of the stable of Three Bags Full, APTE and Two Birds One Stone - some of the best cafes in Melbourne. Chatting with one of the owners Nathan Toleman at the restaurant, the team have pulled their experience from the other cafes and have even progressed the cafe concept.
What I love is that the team have not reproduced their earlier successes but sought to give Top Paddock its own identity. In the early days of Three Bags Full it seemed there were similarities with the menu of stalwart APTE. Which is fine. But here at Top Paddock the menu options are distinctive and even exploring new ground. Kudos.
Top Paddock has a light and airy feel with plenty of space (and is accessible with nearby parking) and great use of timber paneling and modern fittings. Some serious coin has gone into the layout and to great effect. Top Paddock has a superb ambience for romantic escapades or catching up with friends. Check out the tiling along the wall, dark timber floor, semi industrial ceiling, cool world music (at the time) and the cute display cabinets with treats. The spacious outdoor area is also alluring on a fresh Melbourne morning.
I waited at the communal table weighing up where to sit for our catch up - but soon realised this place was filling fast on a Saturday morning so grabbed a table on the top level.
This is not predictable cafe fare. Head Chef Jesse McTavish is on fire with inventive dishes and sources his own ingredients. We were impressed with the Top Paddock menu options, most of which are available all day. Many brunch menus in Melbourne appeal to me with 2 or 3 standouts from the litany of choices - here at Top Paddock it was a case of 6 or 7 intriguing possibilities. If you feel like Muesli or Fruit Toast then go for it - there is always a group that are wanting simple options. Ricotta hotcakes with blueberries, maple, seeds and organic mascarpone beckon. Then there's the Pulled pork on rye with prunes, leaves and goats curd. Tempting.
Further dowm the menu there are even more exotic choices such as Kingfish with chilli fried egg, avocado, salsa and lime and blue corn tortilla. Or the Three mushroom omelette. Something of a signature dish has been the Soft shell fresh Qld mud crab roll with fennel, dill, lime mayonnaise in a brioche bun. Not to mention the Top Paddock breakfast with house made sausage, pickled onion, bacon, Adelaide green tomatoes, poached eggs and relish on toast. And the list goes on...
Yet we ordered the Gin and lime cured ocean trout with beetroot relish, potato galette, poached eggs, leaves, and goats curd with toast (as pictured below). This was a sensational dish visually, and the cured ocean trout was divine. The potato galette went superbly with the trout as did the acidity of the relish. Cracker.
The waiter recommended the White anchovies and jamon serrano with fried eggs, pedron peppers, and manchego on toast. I admit I expected a few key but tasty ingredients on a small choice slice of toast. I was delightfully wrong. Another generous portion of gourmet delights with visual appeal. Garnish heaven. The white anchovies brought a hit of salty seafood but not overpowering as they seemed to be cured. The fried eggs were cooked to perfection and went superbly with the anchovies. The highlight was the generous amount of quality jamon. Yeah baby. The pedron peppers (wonderfully slightly blackened) were delicious as was the manchego Spanish cheese. Of course all this came with quality bread. A Spanish style breakfast that was for me one of the best I've had in Melbourne.
And my breakfast was enhanced by a superb side plate of the house made sausage. Even that came with garnish.
Top Paddock excels in so many areas, including the coffee. The coffee devotee can grab a filtered coffee. My strong latte had a great crema and hit the mark (we enjoyed 2 lattes each). They even offer the soy coffee option that frustrates some baristas in Melbourne - but come on, the customer is king.
Check out Top Paddock's signature mud crab roll below on sexy brioche - indulgent and popular...
Top Paddock also excels with its cakes and desserts...
Little things make all the difference. Top Paddock even offers a kid's breakfast egg and bacon on toast for only $6.50 - they know what customers are looking for... Pleasing to me was the opportunity for reasonably priced side plates, fresh juices on offer and reasonably priced mineral water. Yes and wait staff provide table service here. And did I mention there was a Pork belly and fried egg roll with relish for $12 and a killer Steak sandwich - dude food heaven - and on my bucket list.
Top Paddock has gone to the top of the charts for me and I left the place raving. I have a few other loves in Richmond I will be faithful to no doubt. But I found Top Paddock compelling. The crew from Three Bags Full etc haven't come here half baked but fully loaded. This is a serious culinary destination.
23. Long Shot, 727 Collins St CBD
Long Shot has opened with its A grade game from the start launching with consistently brilliant coffee and surprisingly gourmet tasty cuisine. A crack team has assembled here with Josh Willis (above) ex Proud Mary as the head barista and the brilliant Shaun Quade behind the cuisine. Having been here about a dozen times I can vouch for exceptional coffee every time using St Ali coffee.
Long Shot impresses with its breakfast and bakery options such as the Breakfast brioche with jamon. These are small portions but rich and intense - they actually suffice for breakfast. With amazing coffee and one of these for currently $6.50 is a great breakfast option.
Long Shot has a bevvy of attractive bakery treats including gourmet croissants and cakes... Not to mention gourmet muffins that are actually moist inside (I'm tired of dry muffins in the CBD) and filled with ingredients such as Corn or Potato.
Pastry Chef (Long Shot, Bar Nacional) Shaun Quade’s cooking style strikes against the mould of conservative food ideology, setting the pace for contemporary attitudes towards food composition.
He has worked with culinary institutions that push the boundaries of food preparation (Quay in Sydney, Biota in Bowral, Urbane in Brisbane), creating food that is stimulating to all of the senses.
“Having people ask ‘Why?’ closely followed by ‘Why not? Why has no one done this before?’ - that’s what I get a kick out of,” he says.
Quade’s Burnt Orange Crema Catalana, a decadent dessert served at Dockland’s Bar Nacional, was recently listed as one of Gourmet Traveller’s best dishes of 2013. Quade attributes his unique style to a restless creativity that draws inspiration from the produce itself and that pays homage to the pastry craft.
Check out this rustic and indulgent Cassoulet I enjoyed for breakfast...
Long Shot gets down to the business with expertly made coffee from experienced baristas. I have sampled this coffee over many visits and can vouch for the consistency. I'm told the guys arrive early and test the coffee across the spectrum, just to get it right.
Here we have David from Long Shot in relaxed mode with Mario from Melbourne Sensory...
Long Shot deserves acclaim for both its coffee and cuisine. Myself and Mario from Melbourne Sensory visited and both decided on the Thick cut maple syrup bacon and creamy scrambled eggs on rye. What a start to the day. This was rich and indulgent and just the right portion.
The breakfast menu caters broadly for those who want a tasty pastry on the run or sit down for something more substantial... This vegetarian dish with potatoes and peppers also hit the mark.
It was then that we ordered more coffee including this cross between a latte and a picolo. Amazing and intense.
Not to mention this long mac.
Long Shot adds to the scene in Collins Square and Docklands in a big way with exacting standards and passionate staff. It raises the bar in so many ways. With seating expanding and an ever evolving menu Long Shot has quickly established itself as a premium coffee and cafe destination in Melbourne.