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Proud Mary Keep on Burning

Proud Mary has been crowned Best Cafe in The Age Good Cafe Guide awards and is one of the best cafes in Melbourne. 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.

The breakfast rush is on every day and the place is humming after 8am. A great option is to have breakfast here and then go on into the city for work. Love the breakfast menu! Great breakfast with the Crispy Hash a standout for me – large crispy not too greasy hash brown with stringy fibres of potato with crispy bacon, buttery spinach, a poached egg and bagna cauda. Too good! Especially with a great coffee.

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!