Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published December 13th 2012
The long battle for dominance between the hipsters and businessmen over the city centre of Melbourne is over, and the businessmen have won. Once the preserve of bearded indie kids and coffee snobs, Degraves St is now full of suits and briefcases, and even the proud Degraves Espresso is not the reliable excellence it was in days gone by. The first franchise to move into the area, Sea Salt, was bearable - brown rice sushi, after all, is hipsterish enough - but by the time Grill'd opened up opposite the organic vegan deli, resistance was futile. The hipsters in the CBD have retreated to alley bars or withdrawn to a stronger position on Brunswick St. Brunswick St is long, though, and many of the best coffee haunts are hard to find. Which ones are worth visiting?
As a general rule, the coffee improves the further you walk away from the Coles on the Johnson St corner. While you'll find some top-quality bars in that area - Black Pearl, Naked for Satan and Libation, for instance - the coffee options are limited to the mediocre Cafe Nova and some overpriced Italian restaurants. Look for hipster meeting grounds around markets, rooftop bars and vegan restaurants for a better coffee experience.
Brother Burger and the Marvellous Brew, up the northern end of Brunswick St, ticks multiple hipster boxes straight out of the gate. The waiters are bearded, the decor is retro-diner-gastropub and there are multiple craft beers on tap. Right next door is its sister cafe, Dulcitas. Dulcitas offers South American-style food (empanadas and the like) and excellent coffee. It's open from 8am for brews and breakfast - try the baked eggs with tomato and potatoes.
Nearby is Rustica Bakery, which opens half an hour earlier at 7:30. The insides are a little less cheery, since Rustica has less window space to work with - but the pastries more than make up for it. The fruit brioche makes a nice morning snack, and the coffee is always smooth. There are also standard breakfast options like porridge and eggs available if you're looking for something a bit heartier.
The most hipster-friendly (and thus the best) cafe is located a little way off Brunswick St on Rose St. It's near the Rose St Artists' Market, which is a mecca for weird bearded coffee snobs, and it brews a latte to match. The cafe is called Grace, perhaps to acknowledge the always-smiling staff and the expansive sunny front area. Don't worry, it's nice and cool inside - and for four dollars you can buy a tall salt-rimmed glass of homemade lemonade on a hot day. For quality, atmosphere and service, Grace is hard to beat.
What do you think? Are all the good Brunswick St cafes clustered down one end, or is there something to be said for the area north of Johnson St? Let us know in the comments - we'd love to hear from you.
Take a look north of Johnson street, and you get little treats like Martha Rays and Slowpoke espresso, consistently serving top quality coffee in a cool secluded environment- both with decent food Too.
There's also Alimentari, on the corner of geeves, a Brunswick street institution (next year will mark Alimentari's 15th birthday).
My two cents, anyway..