Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
They say that Balwyn is a wealthy suburb. I know why. I have squandered most of my wealth there on my coffee habit.
It is a parochial place where the church bells toll on Sundays and coffee shops close at 4pm. So for a coffee fix you have to get in early.
And as life is too short to waste on bad coffee here are a few recommendations. And they can be trusted as I spent years doing the rounds and have knocked quite a few contenders off the list as unacceptable.
I can accept that some cafes are crowded but I can't stand paying for mediocre coffee, or coffee shops that have terrible radio stations playing in the background. You know the kind. Those that permit "Hello Hello" from Chris and Marie or worse still Frank Walker from National Tiles.
I ask for one thing only. The first sip from my caffeine has to knock my socks off. I have to be able to say "Ah, that is a great cup of coffee. I can face the day." The following places fit my tall order and also do a short black.
This little cafe is renowned for its great coffee and food. Only problem are the crowds. It is always packed to the hilt and noisy to boot. They will usually smuggle you in somewhere but elbow to elbow coffee drinking is not my idea of fun. You need bigger premises guys.
Still if you haven't been here you should stop in and try their great coffee and breakfasts.
Cash only) 95 Whitehorse Rd, Balwyn 9816 891
Possibly the best in the strip and there are many coffee shops in the area
This coffee shop has been there for a few months now. It has a couple of things I love in a coffee shop - great coffee and quiet. While the front can get busy there is an inner sanctum known by only a few. It has one of those old fashioned replica open fire-places and it is a wonderful place to sit and work. I met a young mother hiding there and doing her PhD and another writing a novel. How long they had been there remains unclear. There is also a courtyard out the back for summer. Rhimini's is surrounded by other coffee shops (including the famous Laurent but the coffee and ambience at Rhimini's are in my coffee-fuelled opinion the best on this side of the strip. Only trouble is the coffee is about 50 cents dearer than anywhere else. But if that keeps the hordes away then sometimes I'll begrudgingly pay it. But would probably have two coffees if it was that little bit cheaper.
Red Brick Cafe has been reviewed by another local WeekendNotes reviewer here when it first opened. It is increasingly another personal favourite. The coffee is great and most of the time it is not overcrowded. Plus the young staff are very friendly and helpful. The cafe makes its own bread and cakes which you can also buy to take home. There is a quiet ambience and you can usually park outside because there is nothing much else in the area except for houses. It is in Mont Albert Road, which is also known as the "Golden Mile" because of the price of the real estate. So it is worth a walk along the road as well as stopping in for a coffee.
I think this is my home away from home. It is the first really good coffee I ever had in in the area and I have been coming back ever since. Food can be slow but worth the wait. Everything here is freshly made to order and always tastes great. Recently a couple of other coffee shops have opened up in the Hamilton Street strip but the quaint old Orient Espresso just keeps on pulling in the crowds. Sipping coffee on the pavement area there on a warm sunny day is one of the nicest ways I know to relax.
They often also have a saying of the day up on the chalkboard. Today's was: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." (Albert Einstein) That thought kept me pondering long after my cup of excellent coffee.
17 Hamilton St, Mont Albert
Further afield there are a couple of places in North Balwyn.
Being such a scandalously small coffee shop it is pretty much always full. But I have learnt to forgive them that because they roast their own coffee and it is just so damn good. This tucked away little gem in suburbia's heartland is more Italian than Lygon Street. People are known to detour off the Eastern Freeway, at Doncaster Road, just to get a take-away coffee from Caffe Romeo, and then drive back on again. For a review and opening times click here.
319 Doncaster Road. Drive down into the group of shops. Look for the red umbrellas.
The owner Stefano Romeo also also roasts the coffee for Pure Italian which is also in the same vicinity. Again it pulls in the crowds.
If I have one bone (probably a ham hock) to pick with Pure Italian it is that it should be open at night time. A coffee come lunchspot it is also an Age Good Food Guide standard restaurant but because of its limited hours and the crowds on the weekend it is hard to relax here. Having longer hours might spread out the patronage. For a full review of the great food plus opening times click here.
249B Belmore Rd, Balwyn North
Bin 3 - Fine Wine Merchants & Coffeehouse
This in the heart of bloom season
An ever increasing favourite is Bin 3. Heaven really. I drop in here after my morning swim to warm up and catch up on the news. The have broad spacious solid wood tables with all the days' papers spread out including the Australian. Or there is a courtyard with a hydroponic garden. They only do coffee, and a few yummy homemade slices but what they do they do to perfection. The coffee is "ChosenBean" - a gold medal winner at Golden Bean, the biggest coffee roasting competition in the Southern Hemisphere. For a review and opening times click here.
Opposite Coles Supermarket, near the roundabout at Union Road and Belmore Road, Balwyn.
Urbane with great coffee
Just a bit further afield is Box Hill the land of Asian food shops. The stand out here is Platform 3. Urbane modern and architecturally designed. The coffee is usually great depending on who makes it. Plus it is the only coffee shop in the area that is still open at 5pm. The food here can also be fabulous especially any of the baked good which are again done on the premises. For my full review on Platform 3 click here.
One entrance is in Bank Street the other is through the Food Court. Look for the large neon sign. Logistically it is just above Platform 3 at the underground Box Hill Railway Station.
Have I left off your favourite coffee hot-spot off the list? If so would love to hear about it. Like all coffee addicts I'm always looking out for my next fix.