What makes a Melbourne café?


The Melbourne café scene is revered around the world. It’s even got to the extent that Melbourne (and Sydney) style cafes are popping up in London and New York. So, what do they do that’s so special? What’s the secrets behind a great Melbourne cafe?

It all starts with the coffee

First rule: serve great coffee. It sounds so simple, but this little fact seems to escape cafes in other cities around the world. In many parts coffee is simply regarded as something mixed with hot water and milk. In Melbourne however, the approach of café owners could not be more different. It is no overstatement to say their fervour is akin to an artist and his craft. The search for improvement is never ending – some would call it an arms race.
For example, when some Melbourne café owners started roasting and blending their own beans, others rose to the challenge and flew off to Colombia to source their own beans. Quite simply, there is no end to the lengths Melbourne cafes will go to improve their golden drink.

Have a great name

Besides the quality of their coffee (which is always excellent), Melbourne’s cafés have to have a great name. Fun, a bit arty, and preferably no reference to food – that pretty much sums up the naming convention around this city. Here’s some of the best: Pope Joan, Dr Jekyll, Auction Rooms, Three Bags Full, St Ali, Street Organics, Brunswick St Alimentari, Fifty Acres, Jardin Tan.

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Pope Joan Cafe in Brunswick East, image: Pope Joan

The Food

Of course, if a Melbourne café wants to make it (i.e. onto all those blogger’s lists) its food has got to be seriously good. Simple bacon and eggs on toast will not suffice (unless its brioche toast and served with chilli jam). But what’s the mark of good food? Well, people have got to be prepared to cross the city for it. As a (cheeky) rule of thumb, the more things on the menu that are thick cut, homemade, wild grown, smoked and cured the better. But the non-negotiables for a café to be a hit is that it has to work wonders with eggs, and do waffles, pancakes or French toast that make you drool.

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Eggs Benedict from Friends of Mine, Richmond, image: Friends of Mine

The site and décor

If the coffee and food is of killer quality (and it has a cool name) Melburnians won’t care where a café is located. But there’s always extra points if it is situated down a laneway, inside a refurbished heritage building or in an old industrial site. As for the décor and design, well an open kitchen, and a minimalist aesthetic that highlights exposed brick and beams, and maximises natural light is where it is at.
Oh, and one more thing, the water has to be served in old brown beer bottles!

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Auction Rooms, North Melbourne, image: Auction Rooms

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