Best Stylish Cafes of Melbourne
Melbourne loves its stylish cafes. Not just the Paris end of Collins Street but all over Melbourne, sophisticated stylish cafes are enhancing the cafe scene with their certain je ne sais quoi.
Here are some of our favourite stylish cafes -
1. Hardware Societe
2. Le Petit Creperie
3. Chez Dre
4. CH James
5. Pellegrini's Espresso Bar
6. Patricia Coffee Brewers
1. Hardware Societe - Hardware Lane CBD
Melbourne enjoys both stylish cafes and laneway cafes, and Hardware Societe delivers on both. French style abounds in terms of décor as well as menu options. For several years Hardware Societe has been a mainstay of the Melbourne brunch scene, housed in foodie hub Hardware Street. 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 cafe 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.
The counter is a visual feast with brightly coloured tarts and macaroons, extraordinary brown chocolate creations, crème brulee and a host of amazing French sweets. Resistance is almost impossible.
Hardware Societe offers some of Melbourne’s favourite dishes such as Baked eggs served in a French pan with chunks of chorizo and cheese. This is a cacophony of taste and flavour. These kinds of hearty dishes warm the stomach and leave you with a feeling of pleasantness for hours.
2. Le Petit Creperie - cnr Swanston and Little Collins St CBD
La Petite Crêperie is Melbourne’s smallest, authentically French take-away crêperie. Located on the footpath, on the corner of Little Collins and Swanston Streets, it was a former stainless steel newspaper stand which has been converted into a glistening, cylindrical ‘exquise crêpe bâtiment’, the first of a kind, that is bringing a touch of Paris to the heart of Melbourne. It's also super popular and often attracts long lines of people keen for their quality crepes.
3. Chez Dre - Coventry St South Melbourne
Chez Dre exudes a chic part industrial vibe with oodles of character and outstanding food and coffee to match. It’s again that nondescript entrance (off the laneway) that is so Melbourne. In a cool location on Coventry Street opposite the South Melbourne Markets this French influenced beauty is currently talk of the town.
Chez Dre is unpretentious but French chic, letting the fresh produce and amazing sophisticated pastries do the talking. The World Loves Melbourne is struck by the red concrete floor, the open kitchen with chefs in their white finery, the breathtaking counter with macaroons and pastries, large gourmet baguettes, and the lounges and retro tables.
Chez Dre shows what you can do with a warehouse in a great location and a passion to bring a great culinary experience. You can tell this place has an inspiring vision as the marks of excellence are everywhere. It’s a superb patisserie but more than a patisserie. With several pastry chefs, the patisserie products are out of this world. Yet the coffee is also great and worth talking about. People rave about the baguettes in terms of freshness, quality of bread and gourmet fillings. With the market across the road, there is an awesome accessibility to fresh and seasonal ingredients.
4. CH James - 86 Station St Fairfield
CH James in Fairfield resonates with style with its outdoor coffee station, garden area and menu from Frenchman Franck Verschaeve. 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.
We caught up with Franck Verschaeve and asked him about the Melbourne culinary scene and his role at CH James...
Q. Franck, tell us about your culinary background.
Franck:Since an early age I've been a chef. It's my passion. Starting in France I worked in many fabulous kitchens including a two Michelin star restaurant, and was trained in a great cooking school there. Here in Australia I've worked with Philippe Mouchel, as sous chef at The Windsor, Head Chef at Centonove in Kew, at Circa, Pope Joan and now at CH James. In recent times I toured France with Luke Nguyen for his SBS cooking series.
Q. What makes a great cafe dining experience?
Franck: Simply, the chef needs to put "heart" into the food. No shortcuts. Talent and vision is needed, but a key element is sheer hard work. We make everything from scratch.
Q. Franck, what is your philosophy of food/cooking?
Franck: Keep the food simple and honest, while bringing out the flavours. Bring loads of technique but keep the food simple, not over produced. Always use fresh and seasonal produce.
Q. What do you think of the culinary scene in Melbourne?
Franck: Great, I love the cultural diversity. This is a culinary scene that is completely open. It's open to new ideas. Melbourne has become a great food centre of the world. You can mix many influences here. You can create dishes here that start with Asian influences, then move to Middle Eastern and North American influences in the same kitchen. I like to take the best of different cuisines, for example the nuances of spices from Asian cooking. The diversity displayed in the Melbourne culinary scene is amazing.
Some of the restaurants of Melbourne blow me away. Apart from the food here at CH James, I enjoy Estelle and Merricote in the north, as well as Cumulus and Bar Lourinha for example.
Q. What are your major influences in cooking?
Franck: While I obviously bring my French influence to cooking, I also love to bring Asian influences to the kitchen. I enjoy a fusion approach. In terms of people, I was strongly influenced by a teacher during my schooling in France. This teacher was well travelled and opened my eyes to great ideas and things of life. I have made many friends in the kitchens of Melbourne and still keep in touch with my chef friends.
5. Pellegrini's Espresso Bar - Bourke St CBD
Pellegrini's is the original Italian cafe in Melbourne and has charmed Melburnians for decades since 1954. Come here for strong coffee, engaging baristas and a fit out that hasn't changed much since the 1950s. Some consider you're not a proper Melburnian till you've visited Pellgrini's - like a rite of passage. Pellegrini’s, a Melbourne icon, puts a big smile on our 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. The World Loves Melbourne has been there several times and love it. Where else can you go for such quality banter, home cooking and strong coffee?
First the coffee. We asked for a latte (in one size glass) and was poured something with an extremely dark colour - telling us 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.
We then asked whether the Pellegrini’s blend was a particularly strong blend? “Yes!” the barista said. Pellegrini’s use Vittoria coffee. We 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 we 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 us the way Pellegrini’s coffee is made. “See this”, he said pointing to our 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.” The World Loves Melbourne had to smile as we love a creamy latte – but we 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! Iconic.
6. Sbriga Espresso Bar - King St CBD
Sbriga is a cafe in the Melbourne CBD legal precinct caturing the Italian spirit of espresso. This is stand up Roman espresso style - something rarely seen in Melbourne.Mario and the team have created a unique experience in a sea of cafes which impresses in terms of coffee, concept, cuisine and style. It strikes me that this cafe is engaging - where the customer is the focus. It is in no sense aloof. It's about giving 15 min of your day to receive top notch hospitality in the Italian tradition.
There is a distinct feeling of old Europe as you stand (yes, stand) next to the beautiful golden tones of the bar that runs around the main curved wall, whilst sipping on your coffee and savouring a delicious Italian treat. Why standing room only? Sbriga (Italian for ‘hurry’) was inspired by the Italian tradition of drinking coffee and eating whilst standing at the bar.
“While I was visiting Rome recently, I fell in love with the experience of the local Espresso Bar”, owner Mario Simeone explains. “After only a few days I was convinced that Melbourne café lovers would appreciate this type of community meeting place. We’ve tried to design the Bar so that it feels like you’ve stumbled across a secret little café in an old part of Europe.”
Mario is passionate about Sbriga, "We are trying to offer Melbourne something a bit different – a true stand up espresso experience, pizza from breakfast to lunch & the Artichoke lampshades are made by me – just a few of the points of difference. As a designer myself (for the past 23 years!), I have tried to blend my passion for design into my passion for hospitality to create a holistic experience where the coffee, food, interior & hospitality is all of equal importance…"
7. Patricia Coffee Brewers - next to 500 Bourke St
Patricia's is a nod to the cafes of Europe, where patrons stand and imbibe shots of strong quality coffee. No seats in Patricia's, something you might expect in cafes in Italy. 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. The ambience and coffee culture is compelling.