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Top Cafe Tour of Melbourne

Home > Melbourne > Cafes | Food and Wine |
Published May 26th 2011
Finding coffee in Melbourne isn't exactly a challenge these days. Throw a rock in any direction in the CBD, and without a doubt you'll hit a few places that serve the heavenly morning brew. This notion of best café in Melbourne is highly debatable amongst coffee connoisseurs, but the venue's I present come as highly recommended for all to experience and enjoy.

With a huge variety of cafés relentlessly spawning throughout Melbourne it does become difficult to stand out. So when I think of my favourite café experience, I try to look at everything from location, visual aesthetics, ease of access, seating, wait staff and the general atmosphere and ambience.

Now, straining hot water through roasted beans to create a cup of coffee isn't exactly difficult, but for some it can be considered an art, science, passion and almost a religion. So there is a definite focus on the food menu and drink selection. There are a huge variety when it comes to internationally sourced beans, in-house roasting and blends as well as a host of machinery, the humble cup of coffee has evolved and has become so much more.

St. Ali: 12 – 18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne
My absolute favourite post-hangover cure café bar none with its aromatic coffee and an appetizing yet quirky middle-eastern inspired menu. The café is a converted warehouse obscurely hidden in a pretty nondescript graffiti laden laneway of South Melbourne's Warehouse District. A location that also lends itself to its interior aesthetics, with an eidetic industrial and rustic atmosphere is creatively utilised to break up the main seating area to form intimate and hidden nooks blurring the ones perception of indoor and outdoor.

The menu has achieved great notoriety for being a little bit quirky. You'd be hard pressed to find the standard big breakfast, where St Ali opts to be more modern and creative even with naming its cuisine. Despite this grave omission, the food is varied without being overwhelming covering the quintessential breakfast palate. The thoughtfulness behind the creative menu pushes the boundaries a little offering toothpaste at an inflated $5.00, but it's these little eccentric jests that define and shape the cafe's identity.

St Ali is serious about its coffee and who wouldn't be with a coffee machine affectionately nicknamed 'slayer'. The beans are internationally sourced and treated with great respect and are roasted onsite to consistently make unparalleled and seriously good artisan coffee. Beyond that, there is a selection of beer, wine and tea served so there's a lot of character to St. Ali's even if you're not a coffee drinker.

There is always a steady stream of traffic in and out; however I've never had the luxury of being seated immediately. Being the unfortunate few lingering in wait, the delicious aroma's waft through the laneway are both taunting and enticing. This delightful combination makes salivating in wait all the more satisfying.

Proud Mary: Cnr. Oxford and Stanley St, Collingwood
Tucked away in the back of Collingwood in an almost cliché reconstructed warehouse, a simple combination of sheik modernism with a few rustic aesthetics. Its overall visual appeal seems decidedly not Collingwood, but to me that simply adds to the overall appeal.

The most striking feature about Proud Mary upon arrival is definitely the custom six-group 'synesso' hydra (to which i've been informed is 1 of only 250 in the world), also capable of making coffee or tea in any which way with a Clover Machine and Syphon Bar. Helmed by Melbourne's famed Nolan Hirte, Proud Mary boasts an impressive arsenal of machinery, internationally sourced beans and house blends, all in the name of god-like coffee. And I'm not one to dispute that fact.

To be honest I have not sampled the food at Proud Mary in an age; however my memories of the Duck Ravioli in sage butter being truly excellent. But I have heard marvellous things about their pork belly sandwich. From what I've observed in while I await my coffee is that the food always looks appetizing as they pass from kitchen to hungry patron.

The array or lack thereof of tables seems to be the one off putting feature of the seating area. They use of larger communal tables as opposed to smaller intimate seating arrangements is unfortunately as it has me eating breakfast elsewhere. But in truth I'm only ever at Proud Mary's for their supreme house blends.

Batch: 320 Carslie St, St Kilda
Sandwiched in the 'kosher' strip of Carlisle St, Batch café is the little home away from home for our kiwi brethren across the narrow sea. Even the name is derived from the New Zealand word for Holiday Home, 'Bach'. Upon first impressions in comparison to the other cafés on the strip, Batch stands out a little oxymoronic with an unrefined yet polished look which I personally adore.

Founder Jason Chan is another of Melbourne's famed baristas who has a brilliant ethos toward coffee making. Everything from the coffee machine to the room's humidity and temperature has been tempered for ideal coffee making. The supreme blend coffee really is the standout star, however you'll be pleasantly surprised to see it almost upstaged by the beer, wine and cocktail list. Ashamedly I have not the pleasure to indulge in one of Jason's famous cocktail concoctions but I have made it a personal priority.

Not much to say about the menu selection except its simple, honest and down to earth food with truly inspired combinations. Some menu items do change often but the food has always proven seasonal and delectable. The space is a little cramped and not very pram friendly, yet despite the cramped dining area, you'll be hard pressed to be seated immediately. Just shows what a great attitude, superb coffee and a tantalising menu can do.

Honourable Mentions:

In addition, honourable mentions to Brother Baba Budan on Lt. Burke St, great for a pick me up in the inner CBD. A little bluestone haven called Ici in Fitzroy, a great place for coffee with a unique breakfast menu. There is also Babka on Brunswick St, a delightful little bakery cafe with divine bread and some of the best sandwiches I've even had. The Service is a little hit-and-miss but still a great place to try. And finally, Seven Seeds in inner Carlton, great food and great coffee, nothing more to say really.

Unanimously, the common trait each cafe share are its enormous faithful clientèle base. Be warned and be prepared to wait even for a simple take away coffee, because unfortunately these are not very well kept secrets amongst Melbournians.

Surprisingly, coffee is not everybody's cup of tea so to speak. Luckily the café culture in Melbourne is quite robust and varied that I've attempted this comprehensive list that everybody from extreme caffeine junkies to the quaint herbal tea enthusiasts could enjoy.
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Why? To enjoy the best that Melbourne café culture has to offer
When: Best Served for Breakfast, Brunch or Lunch
Where: Melbourne City, South Melbourne, Collingwood, St. Kilda, Fitzroy and Cartlon
Cost: See Menu for Item Pricing
Interesting, I dont know any of those, yet dont mind a good coffee. Im trying to think of the best coffee place Ive ever been and cant right now. Maybe itll come to me in a dream in the middle of the night and I'll have an epithany of coffee.
By Jody Kimber - senior reviewer
Monday, 30th of May @ 03:04 am
Don't underestimate two unique cages in Melbourne, Cafe Trutrack in North Melbourne and the banter from the South American boys at Grocery Bar in East Melbourne.
By peter193 - reader
Monday, 30th of May @ 09:11 pm
The best coffee in Melbourne is in a little non-pretentious cafe in melbourne's north west suburb of Niddrie. Cafe Teena clearly does not compromise on quality and owner/barista takes care to ensure each cup is made perfectly every time! I'm a Melbourne girl through and through, and I've tried coffee at most of the places mentioned in the article and more, nothing comes close to Cafe Teena's (Keilor Rd, Niddrie)
Natalie coffee junkie
By chatt1 - reader
Tuesday, 31st of May @ 12:07 am
Cafe Teena definitely sounds like my next destination. I'm located in the north east and spend most my time around the aforementioned suburbs, but I'm really keen to try cafe's that some of the readers recommend. Cheers!
By Nathan Lai - senior reviewer
Tuesday, 31st of May @ 08:25 am
The best coffee in Melbourne is in a little non-pretentious cafe in melbourne's north west suburb of Niddrie. Cafe Teena clearly does not compromise on quality and owner/barista takes care to ensure each cup is made perfectly every time! I'm a Melbourne girl through and through, and I've tried coffee at most of the places mentioned in the article and more, nothing comes close to Cafe Teena's (Keilor Rd, Niddrie)
Natalie coffee junkie
By chatt1 - reader
Tuesday, 31st of May @ 10:30 am
Please do Nathan! I assure you, you won't look back :)
By chatt1 - reader
Tuesday, 31st of May @ 10:37 am
Hi Nathan, there's a cute little backyard cafe in the north west of Melbourne in quiet Moonee Ponds though it's worth mentioning. Garden Tuscany, like St Ali, is tucked away and has a 50 metre graffiti wall mural leading to the cafe entrance. The owners are very passionate about their cafe, and it goes beyond their coffees to their homely service, hot chocolates and Woodfired pizzas. It's fairly new and worth checking out. (Young Street, Moonee Ponds)
By Jodi_0 - reader
Friday, 3rd of June @ 07:43 am
Hi guys, regarding Cafe Teena, yes the coffee is good but they are more interested in your money than the customer service.
Coffee is half decent, but I think you can find equivalent at many places on Keilor Rd. Wont be giving them any further money after they tried to deceive me to get me off the table once i'd finished my drink by saying it was reserved. I went to shift tables and they had to admit they just wanted to get rid of me as they said they 'cant afford to have people take up their space for a couple of hours'. I'd set up early to do work over breakfast and coffee, waiting for a group of girlfriends to call to meet up for a big lunch. Lucky Cafe Teena showed their true colours before my mates turned up... I was out of there and had a great lunch and more drinks with 5 girlfriends in a much friendlier place down the road. As a local in the area who has Fridays off to regularly trial the coffee and service in the ares, I'll be steering clear of this place and would recommend same to others
By Anonymous
Friday, 1st of July @ 01:20 am
It is becoming harder and harder to find a 'good' cup of coffee these days with the amount of cafes out there serving good and evil in a cup.
Have you been to the Social Roasting Company on Racecourse road? Don't forget The Premises in Kensington.
One of the most interesting things to watch is, what a cafe does when they find out that they are fantastic.
Food for thought.
By Writer - senior reviewer
Monday, 25th of July @ 10:55 am
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