The REAL Melbourne top 30 (or perhaps 15) cafes.

As ridiculous as that article from the Melbourne Magazine was and how seemingly random it is, I’m going to produce an equally ridiculous list which I hope you’ll agree is marginally more accurate. There’s no real criteria except for me making shit up.

  1. Monk Bodhi Dharma. Balaclava.
    Despite the fact they only serve vegetarian food it is great. The coffee is second to none with a real focus on roasting light and letting the beans speak for themselves.
  2. Brother Baba Budan. City.
    They don’t serve food here, but it isn’t important. Consistently pumping out the most consistent coffee in Melbourne despite the fact there is usually a massive line up of people waiting for their takeaways.
  3. Auction Rooms. North Melbourne.
    With a well executed, refined menu, and an in-house roastery ensuring a supply of great coffee this cafe has been at the pinnacle of Melbourne cafes for quite some time.
  4. St Ali. South Melbourne.
    Like each of the previous cafes, (except Brother Baba) food and coffee are on equal footing. Each day sees a different single origin on, selected from a range of exceptional coffees.
  5. Seven Seeds. Carlton.
    The menu here is more of a light lunch menu and the food is well-made and considered. But you can really forget about the food and just come for the coffee. In my eyes, the Sevens Seeds blend is the best black coffee blend in Melbourne.
  6. Duchess of Spotswood. Spotswood.
    The food at Duchess is closer to a high quality restaurant than a cafe. Sometimes a touch rich, and not for everyone, but the quality is outstanding and worth trying.
  7. Proud Mary. Collingwood.
    Absolutely jammed full of the coolest people in Melbourne all weekend, the food rocks (try the Pork Belly Sandwich) and the roasting and production of the coffee showcases some rare and expensive coffee that are full of flavour.
  8. Market Lane. Prahran.
    Market Lane is one of the few places in Melbourne that focuses on coffee and only coffee. Attached to the premier coffee importer, they have access to the best coffee and roast it to show the fruit.
  9. Three Bags Full. Abbotsford.
    I’m not sure how many times I can say, good food + good coffee = good cafe. Three Bags Full does well to maintain quality even though it gets ridiculously busy.
  10. Deadman Espresso. South Melbourne.
    A short but sweet menu, and good, well-made coffee are enough to put this on the list. The all day breakfast menu on weekends sells this cafe short as it all too often does.
  11. East Brunswick Project. Brunswick.
    As far as the higher quality roasters in Melbourne goes, Padre roasts their coffee much darker. The specialty coffee ground doesn’t like it, but the everyday punters love the Padre lattes cause they taste how they expect. People come in droves to the East Brunswick project for this exact reason.
  12. Captains of Industry.  City.
    A quirky little spot, right in the middle of the city. The big windows and the light make it a perfect place to relax for a late lunch or afternoon tea. The food is simple, fresh and pleasing.
  13. Pope Joan. Brunswick.
    Like Duchess, the restaurant quality food is backed up with solid coffee. Chef Matt Wilkinson manages to cook eggs more ways than you thought imaginable and still keep them interesting.
  14. Brunswick St Alimentari. Fitzroy.
    As much a deli as a cafe, the nicely portioned Italian food is the perfect winter lunch food. The chicken schnitzel rolls are great and sold-out very early on, so get in quick.
  15. Miss Jackson. St Kilda.
    I’ve written before about why I like Miss Jackson. It’s a cafe by the hungover, for the hungover.
  16. MART. Middle Park.
    Long has MART been on the edge of Albert Park in the old stationmasters house. Though it’s hardly changed, the corn fritters still rock and the eggs never fail.

You might have realised, but there’s only 16 cafes here. My top 16, I’d love to hear what’s missing, comments on the ranking and who shouldn’t be there. Perhaps I’m too focused on the new and the specialty coffee? Let me know.

Related Postss

  1. Cafes: Breakfast brings the Cure
  2. Breakfast in Melbourne
  3. A Year of Coffee in Melbourne
  4. St Ali, South Melbourne

110 Responses to “The REAL Melbourne top 30 (or perhaps 15) cafes.”

  1. zac commented:

    do you remember having coffee at mart? the food might be good (yes corn fritters especially) but the coffee is well below average in my humble opnion

  2. Michael commented:

    Hi Zac, Yep, the coffee is pretty variable at Mart. I think they lack consistency behind the machine. Service is always good though, as is the food.

  3. Jezza commented:

    I enjoy these lines as the subjective nature always produces good banter for an against but you have sadly fallen for the newly found celebrity nature of life which we all live within due tithe instant now-isms o the net.

    What about some old classics which continue to pour great coffee year after year not just the hipster venues of current vogue.
    Where was Batch Espresso, Atomica and the like?
    Great argument but your scope needs broadening beyond the media darlings….

  4. Michael commented:

    Jezza, I appreciate the question. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Batch, and I’ll make an effort to get there in the next week or 2. I’ve never been impressed with Atomica and have always felt like Brunswick St, is a little lacking for all of it’s reputation as a great cafe/restaurant strip.

    There’s a number of places that I feel like would probably have been on this list some time ago and have fallen off. Zac’s question on Mart’s coffee is a perfect example. No-one would suggest 7 Seeds’ coffee is lacking.

  5. Matt Holden commented:

    Hi Michael,
    From the post’s headline, I thought you might give us 30 other cafes that you reckon are better than the 30 in the story. That’d be worth reading …
    Jezza – I agree about Atomica. Great coffee, even if it looks a little weary around the edges. A diamond in the rough …

  6. Mel commented:

    Great list, but you seem to be missing Atomica (Fitzroy), 7 Grams (Richmond), and Rosamond (Fitzroy).

  7. Joe Miranda commented:

    Mart’s food is some of the best South of the river.
    That the coffee isn’t super amazing is secondary to the service and quality of food, in my opinion.
    BBB is fantastic and deserves top spot.
    CIBI on Keele Street kills it with service, coffee, and muesli.
    Miss Jackson also kills it.
    Decent list, guy.

  8. Matt Dunn commented:

    Earl Canteen: Baguettes are to die for, but the coffees not so special.

    Dr Jeckyll: further down Grey St in St Kilda from Miss Jackson, find their coffee better than the latter.

    Sensory Lab: coffees up there with MDB and BBB (depending on the barista, as always).

    Three Bags Full below Proud Mary? Really? I’ve had one soggy/tasteless bircher too many at PM to rate it highly.

    Deadman Espresso: Sadly once my number one, but the food has fallen from grace with chef departures.

    Tuck Shop: Hiding in the foyer of NAB on Bourke St, fantastic baguettes and salads, not so great coffee.

    Monk Bodhi Dharma: The bircher is one of the best I’ve had in the city.

  9. Michael commented:

    Thanks for the input Matt.

    I love Earl Canteen as much as the next bloke, but don’t really think of it as a cafe. Jeckyll, I’ve been once and had a nice lunch, but thought the coffee was only ok and the service lacklustre. Haven’t really wanted to go back and it’s just down the road. I’ll make an effort to give it another go.

    I also like Sensory Lab quite a bit, but don’t the food is a bit of an after though and the focus is a little bit more on retail. I usually show people in town for the weekend Sensory Lab, but it’s intentionally not on the list.

    Proud Mary is one of the best places for coffee in town, consistency and the high-end quality could easily take it a place or 2 higher. I haven’t had the bircher, but aren’t they always soggy and tasteless?

    When was the last time you’ve eaten at Deadman? The menu changes quite frequently and sometimes it does miss the mark, but the freshness of the menu is… fresh.

  10. Joe Miranda commented:

    I agree with the comments on Jekyll, and I, too live around the corner just off Grey.
    Miss Jackson is, all round, in my opinion, much better, consistently.

    Proud Mary is far too superficial an experience.
    The coffee takes ages and is sub-BBB standard.
    The staff are a bit too hyped and get right up in your grill, which minuses from the experience.
    Also, they have a uniform with their logo on it (which is gross) which is gross.

    Earl is awesome, but not a café.

  11. penny aka jeroxie commented:

    It is a personal choice. I will add the new Beatrix to the list but the coffee certainly needs improvement

  12. Breezle commented:

    Honestly…it’s people like Jezza who will ensure I never make a second trip to majority of these cafes. Talk about clap trap and thesaurus speak.


    People with these over inflated egos are ruining Melbourne cafe culture. It’s not even enjoyable to go to these places anymore.

    I get the talk about quality of coffee, food and service (of course, very important). But to me it’s also about the people in there and frankly..I’d have more fun working the free food kiosks at Costco than be around some of the patrons at these snobbish cafes.

    THERE I’ve said it. I’ve bagged Melbourne cafe culture and don’t like AFL. Bring on the pitchforks.

  13. flic everett commented:

    Guys – it’s only coffee!

  14. Tresna commented:

    My top 3 Melbourne Cafes – Dead Man Espresso, Market Lane, Monk Bodhi Dharma. I’m also loving the brand new Chez Dre and Padre inside South Melbourne Market – though you could argue it’s not really a Cafe but a pit stop between market stalls.

    Great list Michael.

  15. Froggy commented:

    I can’t stand Auction Rooms or St Ali!! They are poorly designed warehouses serving the pretentious, loud and tedious patrons of Melbourne. And the menu, well, it’s like reading some food-wank pamphlet pumped out by a catering company to ‘inspire’ the pretentious, loud and tedious patrons of the Melbourne cafe scene!

    There, I said something too!

  16. Jodi commented:

    Hi, a small laneway cafe in the north west is worth a mention. they’ve just been awarded 3 beans on melbourne coffee review and i have to say their barista Lance is setting a new standard in moonee ponds. it’s called Garden Tuscany, it’s unpretentious, the owners are very friendly and welcoming and their coffees and hot chocolates are to die for.

  17. Matt commented:

    Omar and the Marvellous Coffee Bird [Roast on site] are doing great things in Gardenvale. Food offerings are basic, but the coffee is fantastic and they can pump it out fast/consistently.

    Goldilocks would be super impressed with De Clieu, definitely my favourite from 7seeds.

    The Pour Kids [Axil] in Malvern gets an honourable mention as a local.

    Keep an eye on NSHRY @ Albert Park Beach [Campos]. They could shoot up the charts (as an all-rounder cafe) come spring if they can improve the quality & consistency of their service.

  18. Mr Hangry commented:

    Hey dude, yeah that is an impressive list! You’ve pretty much nailed all the hot spots. Although its practically almost impossible to stay on top of all the great coffee spots in melbourne these days.

    My faves that are missing from you list would be.

    1) the hardware societe. Decent coffee thats always served with a little treat on the side. And Food there is amazing. Dinner quality meals for lunch.

    2) manchester press – Its amongst some tough competition with brother bada and captain’s being so close. BUT if you craving a bagel then look no further.

    3) G.A.S – in south melbourne, awesome middle eastern style food. One of the best looking food cabinets if you ask me.

    4) Freestyle expresso – its a very small player in the field. But if you cant stand the hipesters at Ali’s or Deadmans in south melbourne then this place serves up a mean coffee and one of the best poach chicken and avo sandwiches ever!

    5) Padro (or pedro? sorry) – Inside the South melbourne market, No food really, just great coffee.

    6) Chez Dre – Pretty new but is serving up tasty coffee with a french take on breakfast and lunch. Plus if your a sweet tooth, this place will have you addicted. Choose from a huge selection of cakes, tarts and macaroons.

    7) Kinfolk – Near southern Cross station – Great salad and free trade coffee.

    8) Coin Laundry – Armadale. Been there once and i was a bit of a wait but well worth it. They do some amazing things to eggs. Coffee went down a treat as well.

    10) Truman Cafe – Albert Park, Ok sorry i promise this is my last one from the south, clearly i favour the south for great cafes. Its pretty new. The head chef is from Las Chicas st kilda so they do amazing mexican style breakfast.

    11) how could i forget Las Chicas

    12) Mr Tulk in the city – great for students

    13) Miss Jacksons – sorry this ones in the south again.

    14) de clieu – Full of hipsters but again worth taking the old lomo camera to take picture of your cool mates being all cool at this place. But seriously they server up a mean breakfast/lunch.

    15) gertrude street enoteca – Not your if you would classify this place as a cafe but they do serve coffee and its pretty sweet as well. Not to mention you can linger around and then move on to a more alcoholic beverage of choice.

    16) OK one more…i could go on for ever i think but yeah. This is a new fave. Pillar of Salt in Richmond. Great everything.

  19. Mr Hangry commented:

    I see your 16 and raise you one more:)

    elevenses – in the city, cute and little and serves great sandwiches.

  20. gary commented:

    Carre street deli in elsterwick….almost perfect

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