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 July 31st 2011
Wherever you are in Melbourne, there's always a café within walking distance. Most claim to have the best coffee, or the best food, and it's hard to judge between them. Since most people don't have the hundreds of hours or the small fortune it would take to visit them all, here's a few suggestions for the five best cafés in Melbourne.
Degraves Espresso Impossible to exclude from a list like this, Degraves Espresso is the heart of a street that typifies the best of Melbourne café culture. Situated at 23-25 Degraves St, Degraves Espresso is right in the middle of the CBD. The coffee is frankly spectacular and while the food may take a while to arrive, it's worth the wait. Try the soup of the day for an inexpensive option, and relax in one of the comfy leather chairs. Aside from the toast with vegemite, this café wouldn't be out of place in the laneways of Paris.
A favourite for professors looking for an off-campus latte, Animal Orchestra is at 163 Grattan St just opposite Gate 11 of Melbourne University. The coffee is predictably good, but the much-touted baked eggs don't live up to their reputation – they're a touch overcooked. Luckily the soups and paninis – especially the chicken panini – are excellent, and the trendy décor is only improved by students arguing about socialism or the Hegelian dialectic.
The most famous coffee in Melbourne.
While Brunetti has opened franchises near Federation Square, Camberwell, Fitzroy – and, most recently, Bourke St Myer – the true Brunetti is the original at 194-204 Faraday St. Like Degraves Espresso, it's a Melbourne icon and a must-visit for anyone with a sweet tooth and a taste for pastries. Grab a coffee and a cake and enjoy. Unfortunately, Brunetti's excellence is the cause of its main problem: crowds. Getting to the cake counter is a challenge in itself, and service is slightly delayed by the constant volume of orders. If you're looking for a quiet coffee, try somewhere less popular.
In the same building as the City Library (253 Flinders Lane), Journal Canteen – or just Journal – is the café of choice for people visiting the library. Roomy and comfortable, it serves coffee and savoury food by day; wine and antipasto by night. While the tables can fit large groups of people, plan to arrive early if you're looking for lunch – this place fills up fast. And for good reason: the quality of the meals and the coffee is reliably excellent. Away from mealtimes, Journal becomes a great place to study, with its long tables and bookish atmosphere.
Coffee Vault The final café is an unlikely choice. Located in Vault 1 Banana Alley on Flinders St, halfway between the station and Docklands, it's tiny and rarely open. Even if you find it open, there's a decent chance they'll have run out of coffee – which is odd, since that's almost the only thing they serve. The reason it's on this list is because it's run by the fantastic T-Roy Brown, certified café genius, and Coffee Vault's single origin espresso is an excellent contender for the best coffee in the CBD. Out of the way, rarely open, mindblowingly amazing lattes – Coffee Vault is the unacknowledged soul of Melbourne, representing everything that's good about a thriving café culture.
Now that you know the best cafés in Melbourne, there's nothing to stop you from experiencing a lifetime of great food and excellent coffee. Why not impress relatives from out-of-town, or organize a caffeine odyssey around the city? Regardless of your plans, an appreciation of Melbourne's cafes is an invaluable asset in your daily – and romantic – life.
Bruntetti's?? Really? Every time I have been there- the original Brunetti's off Lygon St the coffee has been awful and the pastries stale....
Degraves Espresso? If any one will serve you then the coffee may be okay....
By rhond25 - reader Thursday, 4th of August @ 02:12 am
Good Article. Degraves Espresso definitely upholds itself as a great cafe. Great coffee, great brunch options, and the leather chairs are certainly comfortable. Will try Animal Orchestra, I love a good chicken panini.
By Emily Pong - senior reviewer Friday, 5th of August @ 07:04 am
Hi sean: Im T-roy Brown! Love your write up on these cafes, especially as Animal Orchestra are lovely people and also use Atomica coffee! Like me. Im not always open though?? My hours are Mon - Fri 7-3:30pm. Perhaps this is a story with a mix of the past tenant? Once called Coffee Vault? But it is my address and it certainly is clear in your cool write up. Keep up the insights mate: really liked it. p.s: I do Jaffles and Soup now!! (and certainly never run out of coffee)
By Anonymous Wednesday, 10th of August @ 05:01 am
I reckon Proud Mary, Penny Farthing and Monk Bodhi Dharma would have to be up there with the best.
By Anonymous Friday, 12th of August @ 12:15 am
Brunetti and Degraves Espresso for coffee? They are hardly considered the best. How about Brother Baba Budan, Proud Mary, St Ali....
By Anonymous Friday, 19th of August @ 10:18 pm
good article, but seeing i live in windsor i love my local cafe Eugenius which is hidden away in Hornby Street (nr. corner of High St)... great coffees & also they have their own tea blends...
By sally143 - reader Monday, 22nd of August @ 02:28 am
Proud Marys in Collingwood is so delicious. The only down fall is that is it very small and cramped, and you will wait a while for a table. When you are in there u feel like u have to be in and out.
By deede2 - reader Wednesday, 14th of September @ 03:12 am
I used to live next door to Animal Orchestra but didn't get around to trying their coffee/food. Must try it next time.
A popular cafe in North Melbourne is Auction Rooms, the breakfast menu is unique and the coffee was nice (I posted a photo of their "shady deal" breakfast). Another cafe I particularly enjoyed was Le Cirque, in Docklands.
By Winnie - senior reviewer Wednesday, 21st of September @ 10:49 am
Check out Mr Close. . .
By hanna - reader Wednesday, 5th of October @ 01:59 am
Thanks for this article ... stuck in Melbourne for a day and wondering on what to do ... we decided to try your 5 coffee shops recommendations ... It filled in an entire day as we accidently 'discovered' many amazing places along the way while we traversed the city by foot often lost looking for the cafes.
1st: Degraves Espresso - exceptional coffee, exceptional vibe, exceptional atmosphere through the whole street.
2nd: The Journal - great coffee - lovely atmosphere
3rd: The Vault - though not called this anymore as T-Roy Brown points out, and not manned by the character you talk of ... but great coffee and the vault district is just "cool" ... love the Fight Club, will be back this week for a Spin Class.
4th: Animal Orchestra - the friendliest staff of the day, awesome vibe, bustling and quaint all rolled into one. Only rated 4th because the coffee could have been a lot better - but as you have uni-students manning the espresso machine - we'll forgive them!
5th: Brunetti - yuk! Sorry, but this should be taken off your list of best coffee. Visually the place is Amazing (and you could eat the place with your eyes) but the coffee quite frankly was BAD!
By Anonymous Monday, 10th of October @ 10:15 pm
Brunetti = Nice to look at (Carlton) but overated and stuck up staff
By Anonymous Sunday, 16th of October @ 04:51 am
i have to admit the staff at Brunetti, rude and stuck up but i admit iv had there coffe and ive enjoyed everytime but by far not one of the best place to have a coffe gello bar in lygon street brunswick kicks ass for there coffee i would give them a go
By Anonymous Sunday, 12th of February @ 12:27 am
I am a coffee addict and I would love to spend anything for a good cup of coffee. I found this place on the corner of Drummond and Queensberry St, i believe its called Coffee on Drummond. The coffee is bloody good and the food is very reasonable priced for a student. There is nothing above $10 at the cafe.
By pgt_r - reader Wednesday, 27th of March @ 10:17 am