A particularly bleak day had fallen upon Melbourne. Not ready to face the world, nor willing to brave the outdoor elements, I had remained in bed with the heater blasting away, hoping the day would cheer up. Three hours later, it was 11:15am, and I had still not Carpe Diem-ed.
Finally, I harnessed my energy, having decided it would be simply unacceptable for a woman of 25 with no physical ailments to spend her day in bed. Having grudgingly torn myself from the warmth and safety of the blankets, I decided I deserved a coffee to face this dismal day, but where to go?
Looking for a warm place to hide, but not wanting to battle the crowds in the city or cram onto a train (what, with all the rain sodden pedestrians that one always encounters on such a day, crushed up against you at peak hour on public transport, and somehow, just somehow, you always happen to end up right next to 'that person' whose wet jumper smells like week old sardines), I decided to take a drive, and see where the road lead me.
As a general, you may think the Western Suburbs are somewhat of an 'ugly duckling' in the Melbourne family, and in most cases, you would be right. But that day, I discovered a café that could hold its head up high on the Melbourne coffee scene, and finally, a place where Western Melburnians can rejoice and be caffeinated.
In the most unlikely of places a gold nugget lays hidden. At Victoria University, Footscray Park campus, building 'P', I happened upon… The Reading Room.
Don't let the fact that this café is on a university campus deter you. The Reading Room is definitely worth a visit, and who knows, you may even enjoy a walk through memory lane as you watch that unique creature, 'The Uni Student', and reminisce the past. Alternatively, if you don't want to show up during a school week, you could make your visit on the weekend, since the café is now open Saturdays and Sundays.
The inside of The Reading Room welcomes you like an old friend. As I sat down, I could have sworn I had been there before, although I knew I hadn't. It's just the kind of genial atmosphere that makes you feel like you are in the family kitchen at the home you grew up in. The walls are lined with bookshelves and other odds and ends that also add to the warmth and character.
As you enter, a display cabinet simply bursting with every café delight you can think of, greets you, forcing you to decide if it will five, or just four items you will purchase. Being one of those people plagued with indecision, I sent my husband to do the deed, and surprise me with something to have with our coffee.
Upon placing our order, we received an enormous, green, wooden, letter 'C'. This is The Reading Room's clever way to keep track of their order numbers, which was quite a novelty for me. As the wooden 'C' was taken away, a chocolate croissant and apricot Danish appeared in front of me, as if by magic. Flavoursome, flaky but not overpoweringly sweet, they were obviously made by a skilled pastry chef. Then out flew the cappuccinos, garlanded by gorgeous tulip and Rosetta latte art.
Something I have learnt being a regular café hopper is, amazing latte art often means an amazing coffee. This is in part due to the fact that, it is almost impossible to do great latte art with poorly textured milk, but also because, any barista who can master latte art to the level I received in The Reading Room, generally knows their stuff.
Sourcing coffee from a variety of roasters, including Sensory Lab (St Ali) and Small Batch Roasters (The Auction Rooms), there is little to not love about this particular caffeine hit. On the day I was there, my cappuccino was on the stronger end of the scale and definitely packed a punch that was not for the faint hearted. If you like your coffee strong and bold, then this is the blend for you.
That's not all on the coffee front folks. There is also a 'Coffee of the Day'. This is a third alternative to add to your decision making process and it is sourced from minor roasting companies throughout Melbourne, and also small plantations.
The Reading Room also has Siphon and Cold Drip Specialty coffee up for grabs. If you come on a weekday though, you will be disappointed. This coffee is only available on the weekend.
But wait, there's more! The Reading Room is also available for your catering needs. Simply fill in the online catering form, and you could be the toast of the town for your next soirée. Catering options include: Morning Tea, Lunch, Afternoon Tea, Evening Bites and assorted platters.
Who could have dreamed that all this would be found in the heart of a University Campus in the Western suburbs of Melbourne.