Going wherever the wind blows me and enjoying the ride.
Published May 1st 2013
The Cafes That Will Never Fail You
Pillar of Salt Cappuccino
It appears that some how, like the subtle creeping of the tide on the beach, I have become a cafe snob.
It was not (I promise) originally a conscious decision to be made. I once enjoyed my coffee break at Starbucks, Gloria Jeans and I must confess even Mc Donald's from time to time.
It started innocently with a barista course here, a cupping session there… But as time goes on, I have caught myself, wrinkling my nose pretentiously at venues stocked high with poorly made, mass produced, culinary riff raff.
I now find myself becoming accustomed to the raw competition that has led to high quality imports, house roasted blends and gourmet micro-herbs garnishing my plate. With the competition accelerating, every dish and mug is perpetually trying to out-do the next, to satiate and surprise the customers and hopefully bring them back for round two.
Salad at Chez Dré
I'm not saying I don't J'adore my bi-monthly cheeseburger and other assorted street foods. My qualms lie with the pumped up places you enter, order a "gourmet" chicken focaccia and find your lettuce tastes like limp, day old grass, your bread is stale and your chicken might as well be rat.
So, to avoid disappointment the next time you plan to cafe hop, here is a list I have compiled of some of my very own "Never Fail Cafes" in no particular order.
This is the café that just keeps giving. Before I write anything else, I must forbid that you go to Three Bags Full and not try the Cheesy French Toast. I still have no idea how they make it, but it is just the tastiest, naughtiest thing I have eaten all year. If your eating habits are somewhere between a bird and a cat, you'll probably need to share this one since it's quite a heavy dish or perhaps have your partner order something lighter and then split both meals. Coffee packs a punch and is not for the faint hearted. For those who like a stronger blend, this is the one for you.
2. Axil Coffee Roasters This place is just a little bit special. I love when food surprises me, and there is no shortage of surprises on the menu at Axil. I had a brioche French toast with figs, caramelized macadamias and honeycomb when last I visited. I'm not even going to bother describing it. Just look at the picture below and I believe the deliciousness will translate. You can expect the same attention to detail with anything you order here including the coffee.
Axil French Toast
3. St Ali
My love affair with St Ali has continued well into this year. This grungy alley cat is full of surprises with it's high-class menu items and coffee that has quickly created a cult following. I tend to avoid peak eating times because you might be waiting a while for a table but even so, you'll find it's more than worth the wait.
4. Pillar of Salt
A recommendation from my sister, this is one of her fail-safes that has yet to disappoint. Even her wee baby hasn't stopped her queuing up and waiting for a table to empty many a day. And anyone who has had a baby knows you don't waste your time at just ANY cafe. It needs to be worth your while if you are going to frock up and bathe said gremlin to make a respectable appearance. So it's only natural you expect your cafe of choice to offer you an acceptable offering for your efforts. I loved the quinoa salad with preserved lemon & crumbled oven-roasted salmon.
Pillar of Salt Burger
5. Il Fornaio
What can I say? I love Il Fornaio. I can't remember a single time I have been disappointed with anything they have served up and the friendly staff make you feel like you are part of the Il Fornaio family. Food is fresh and vibrant with Italian roots. They make their own cheese, what more could you ask for! I'm not sure I could say what my favourite dish is because there's so much to love. My advice here is to experiment with something you might be scared to order somewhere else, because more likely than not it will still blow your socks off. In one word: YUM.
6. Chez Dré
It's really not even fair to all the other sweets in the sweet kingdom just how good the cakes are at Chez Dré. It feels irreverent to even call them cakes. I feel we need to come up with an entirely new word to describe what goes on in that kitchen. You can be sure that whenever I have something to celebrate, a new job, a pay rise… a really good hair cut, it's off to Chez Dré to indulge. I'm always reminded of Heston Blumenthal and all his marvellous culinary creations when I slice through any of Chez Drés multidimensional delights.
7. Backstreet Eating
This delightful little alcove is nestled in the back streets of Fitzroy. One of the specialties is the house made charcuterie. For those wondering, charcuterie is essentially cured meats, but these are prepared using old artisanal methods. The menu is rich and dynamic. There are also plenty of fine wines on offer and once you're done dining, you can amble down to the underground Provedore store for some take home goods which are available for purchase.
8. Captains of Industry
This is where all the cool kids come for coffee. Definitely one that with strike a chord with the lads and lovers of all things old school. It is literally a door in a wall down an inner city alley. It's once you walk through that door that you'll have the shock of your life. It opens up to a sizeable cafe built into what appears to be an old sewing factory. The food is simple but delicious and you'll find your daily menu on the communal chalkboard. You'll also find on the premises, a boot maker, a hairdresser and a tailor. As for coffee, when I come to Captains for coffee, it is never one and always two.
9. Dead Man Espresso
Dead Man is like a little gold nugget in an industrial part of South Melbourne. Perched on the corner of Market Street, Dead Man is pumping out consistently good coffee with fabulous latte art daily. With a constantly changing menu, you can be sure you will be eating something seasonal and more importantly FRESH.
Deadman Latte Art
10. Clement Coffee Roasters
Great, (I must emphasize) GREAT Coffee. Not much else on offer, but a no fail supply of creamy cappuccinos, the silkiest lattes and the flattest of whites. More frequently than not, there are two different blends on offer and I usually try both.
What are your no fail cafes? Feel free to share with a comment below.
Am visiting Melbourne and just had lunch in the Block Arcade at what looked like a great Italian Cafe. So disappointed was I. Service was slow and food was very ordinary.
Your review was so "spot on".
Thanks for the recommendations.