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Cafe culture in Melbourne: 7 inner city villages
Diverse districts find quirky places for coffee and serve it with breakfast
Street-side and hole-in-the wall, on laneways and in disused factories, Melbourne's inner city villages find a wealth of places to sip coffee.
Throughout the city grid, there’s many a nook and cranny where locals order flat whites and lattes -- announced with that characteristic Australian drawl -- for about $3.
From ethnic hoods to trendy tram-side haunts, cups of espresso and frothed milk come with a cultural flavor. And a lot of breakfasts.
Which means it's a good place for coffee.
Cold-dripped in a Collingwood warehouse
The heritage-listed former Foy & Gibson department store is typical of converted-warehouse life in Collinwood.
The brick building has been converted into apartments, and on ground level, at corner of Oxford and Stanley streets, Proud Mary's coffees are served in a siphon, as a pour-over, or as a sweeter coffee that’s cold-dripped.
The menu includes smoked salmon with herb purée and poached egg ($17).
Or, to get out of Collinwood, cross the tram tracks on Smith Street, and duck into Rosamond Café in Fitzroy, a hole-in-the-wall that does a good Vegemite on organic sourdough toast ($5).
Proud Mary, 172 Oxford St., Collingwood, +61 (0)3 9417 5930
Café Rosamond, 191 Smith St., Fitzroy, +61 (0)3 04192270
A Fitzroy Local
Fitzroy locals can be conscious of living in the “Fitzroy bubble,” as with so many bars and cafés around, where else do you have to go?
One of those places is Min Lokal, inside a heritage terrace on tree-lined George Street.
A graffito on the wall of the factory next door reads “truth,” and patrons at least get the chance to speak it on a footpath bench, communal table or back courtyard.
Baked eggs ($16) are served north African-style, with spiced pumpkin, minced beef, rocket, tzaziki and chai rice pudding with poached pear.
Min Lokal, 422 George St., Fitzroy, +61 (0)3 9417 0333
Coffee and cake in Carlton, where it all begun
If anywhere in Australia strives for European sophistication, it’s Carlton. Shops carry top fashion labels and many restaurant signs are in Italian. This one isn't: “Never mind if you don’t speak Italian, we speak a good broken English.”
Melbourne University being near, pedestrians are a mix of shoppers, locals and students. So there are many unpretentious cups of coffee.
Lygon Street Café is among the street-side dining on offer along both sides of the leafy boulevard.
On display in the window are logs -- tiramisu, lemon sorbet or hazel and mud cakes –- for $4.50 with a cup of coffee.
If they run out of coffee beans, never mind. Next door, the original Giancarlo's -- who brought the first espresso machine to Oz in the 1960s -- is now a Grinders Coffee. It still roasts beans in-house.
Lygon Street Café, 275 Lygon St., Carlton, +61 (0)3 9348 2780
Grinders Coffee, 277 Lygon St., Carlton +61 (0)3 9347 7520
Gentrify North Melbourne and learn how to make coffee
The "new" café strip in town is North Melbourne, where blue-collar heritage is becoming inner-city style. True to its low-rental roots, a couple of backpacker hostels are nearby.
Second-hand clothes, almost empty antique and trinket stores and old-world fish-and-chippies are the go here -- but there are some pretty serious coffee joints, too.
For connoisseurs, the nearby Home Barista conducts latte art classes and sells espresso machines.
Or tram-side Toast serves a bruschetta with prosciutto, tomato and grated cheese ($8).
Home Barista Institute, 225 Victoria St., West Melbourne, www.homebarista.com.au
Toast, 13 Errol St., North Melbourne, +61 (0)3 9329 9322
Retro caffeine in St Kilda
It’s a long conversation to cite differences between north side and south side. But at the southern end of town, St Kilda still hangs onto that kitsch, 1980s seaside village feel.
Just off Acland Street, Galleon Café opened in 1982 -- and it may as well be that very year inside this retro interior.
The decor is colorful, from tables and chairs down to teapots. Old-world grandma’s curtains hang on the street-side window and newspapers are scattered around the communal bench.
A healthy menu option is the morning porridge ($6-7), or toasted sandwich served on sourdough with rocket, carrot, cucumber, avocado and mayonnaise ($10).
Galleon Café, 9 Carlisle St., St Kilda, +61 (03) 9534 8934, www.galleoncafe.com.au
Balaclava's colorful hole-in-the-wall
Perhaps Melbourne’s most famous hole-in-the-wall is in Balaclava.
Prior to becoming the larger cafe it is today, Wall Two 80 was literally a gap in the graffiti-daubed bricks where locals grabbed coffee. They still do from the indigenous-colored street art wall.
It’s on Carlisle Street -- near a railway bridge that marks a sharp change in retail displays -- from antique and beauty, to the kosher stores in what is the city’s Jewish district.
Wall Two 80, 280 Carlisle St., Balaclava, +61 (0)3 9593 8280, www.wallcoffee.com.au
Coffee for sale in Prahran
Everything is for sale in Prahran. From guitars to comic books and stuff locals pawned for buck, a range of retailers trade side-by-side the small bars that line Chapel Street.
Away from the bustle of Chapel, just near boutique retailers along Greville Street, is a bungalow-style verandah. Babble Café is where the sunglass-wearing, iPad-carrying locals sit and wonder what to buy next.
Griffiths Coffee grinds during the day and wine flows at night.
To accompany a mid-morning coffee, the pancakes are served with strawberries or blueberries and maple syrup ($15), and goes well with that heritage-present, laid-back ambience Melbourne has.
Babble Bar+Café, 4 Izett St., Prahran, +61 (0)3 9510 6464, www.babblebarandcafe.com.au