Less than a year ago, I was a fully-signed-up member of the coffee avoiding masses. Memories of overly sweet and milky instant coffee haunted me, and the extreme bitterness of the double ristretto favoured by my extremeophile then-husband-to-be just didn’t appeal. Then, I accepted a job in Sydney. Wanting to have a chance of blending in I was persuaded to face the demons once again, and some experimentation later (via Blue Bottle Coffee and Hot Numbers), I worked out that my coffee style of choice was the macchiato: cute, rounded out with a little milk, and strong enough for the now-husband to feel he had succeeded.
So, moving to Sydney, all went well: Sunday morning coffee became an institution, and my caffeine reliance slowly built up. Scouring the inner west for my next fix became a preferred weekend activity, and so it seemed sensible that, with a few days of leave to take, I should head to Melbourne for food, wine, art and coffee.
Our coffee tour of Melbourne began at Brother Baba Budan. We almost walked straight past the corner cafe on Little Bourke Street, but luckily we grabbed a couple of stools and someone was quickly over to take an order. I then learned that, in Melbourne, there is both a short macchiato and a long macchiato. I opted for short. I got exactly what I was looking for, and added this new terminology to my vocabulary. The coffee was good, as were the cakes (though cakes and pastries are the limit of the food here), and the sea of chairs hanging from the ceiling added a quirkiness and slight claustrophobia much replicated in the cafes of Sydney.
The second day brought a coffee tour of South Melbourne and caffeine overload. Dead Man Espresso‘s house blend was the perfect start – bright, citrussy, rounded. We moved on to lunch at St Ali: the Chickadee chicken burger and Prawndorf roll proving sufficiently substantial and tasty to balance the toasty coffee. Our final stop was Chez Dré, partly for a final coffee, but more importantly for dessert. We chose a passionfruit tart, complete with tiny macaron, perfectly sharp and sweet, and a chocolate raspberry mousse, the chocolate exterior hiding layers of raspberry mousse and a hazelnut chocolate base. Absolutely worth a special visit.
On the final day, breakfast came courtesy of Manchester Press. A menu full of bagel-based goodness hit the spot. Blueberry-passionfruit jam was balanced and cut through mascarpone, whilst strawberries and pistachio dust worked well with the fruit and nut bagel. Cafes in laneways always bring that little bit of excitement, and the decorated fire extinguishers and robot decorations of Manchester Press are a worthy payoff.
The final stop was Sensory Lab (also by St Ali), located just inside David Jones on Little Collins Street. Replete with coffee syphons, this place really lives up to the science lab-look they’re going for. There’s a steady stream of custom at the takeaway window, but we settle in at a table to try the El Salvador single origin from the Slayer machine. My (short) macchiato was fruity but without overwhelming acidity, very well balanced and a fitting end to the coffee tour of Melbourne.
As my allegiance to Sydney grows, it slightly pains me to admit that it’s very true that Melbourne knows its coffee, and certainly had a thing or two to teach me (though I’m still not quite sure what a long macc is). Deadman and Sensory Lab tie for my (short) macchiato title, and no visit to South Melbourne should be complete without pastries from Chez Dré. Now to find some more leave from work to take in all of the places I didn’t get round to visiting…
Brother Baba Budan
359 Little Bourke St, Melbourne CBD
Dead Man Espresso
35 Market St, South Melbourne
12/18 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne
287 Coventry St, South Melbourne
8 Rankins Lane, Melbourne CBD
David Jones, 297 Little Collins St, Melbourne CBD