Posts Tagged ‘coffee’

Freestyle Espresso opening in South Melbourne

Freestyle Espresso, South Melbourne It seems a new cafe, “Freestyle Espresso” is opening on Union St in South Melbourne. It is in the old Peter Watson shop and with a new sign and a few fliers in the window describing “Food, glorious food, coffee… Yeh… Really good coffee, gourmet pastries + delights takeaway deliciousness, sweet things + surrrrrprises to come”

Looks good, I’m excited to see somewhere new opening in what is already a crowded space. It will also be interesting to see who supplies the coffee. Most of the 3rd Wave roasters are represented in a 2 block radius of this place. I’m betting on Coffee Supreme.

Freestyle Espresso Coming Soon

Miss Jackson, St Kilda

Miss JacksonEvery time I’m on my way to Miss Jackson all I can think about is that song, “I’m sorry Miss Jackson, I am for real” it’s really annoying because I should be thinking how Miss Jackson is going to help me from my hangover, you know, for real. After watching the film clip, now I’m going to expect someone to be washing their pimped out car out the front and dogs nodding their heads at me as I walk up Gray St. All of this and no hallucinogens.

Wedged down an alley between halfway houses, backpacker travel agents and a few seedy nightclubs, Miss Jackson is a shining beacon of class in an otherwise classless (apologies to the Melbourne Wine Room, none such to the ever-so-trashy George lane-way bar) area. The café itself is a converted house that reminds me more of a rabbit warren than a café, the smaller nooks don’t quite fit the tables that they contain. It’s nowhere near as cramped as Wall 280 in Balaclava and there it adds “character”. Nonetheless the place has character and the larger communal tables are comfortable and spacious. There’s also an outdoor area, which thankfully parents seem to utilise to entertain their wild children.

TMiss Jackson: Corn Fritters, Bacon and Tomatoshe menu is everything you would expect without being outstanding. Corn fritters, steak sandwiches, and eggs every which way. But what the menu lacks in excitement it makes up with in the execution. While you might cook everything on the menu at home, it simply won’t be as good.

The portions are great, the food looks amazing and best of all it tastes spot on. In fact, of all the cafés around, Miss Jackson is my favourite for a comforting, hangover curing breakfast – morning or afternoon. Perhaps this is cause of a subtle focus on booze. There is beer and wine on the menu and a few bottles of spirits peeking out from behind the bar – important for my personal favourite menu item.

Bloody Mary, Miss JacksonThe “superstar DJ” bloody mary is everything you could want in this breakfast cocktail – good spice and acidity and a healthy sprig of celery. A bloody mary is tricky to get right at the best of times and they come out with amazing consistency.

The guys that run this place (Steve and Matt) are clearly drinkers – it shows – they know what’s good for you.

More photos on Flickr.

Coffee @ The Cupping Room, Hobart

The Cupping Room, Hobart It’s billed as “a team of coffee pro’s doing what we do because we love it. Here you will find all things coffee done the way we like it. We think you will like it too. :-).” It’s 3rd Wave coffee in Hobart so I had to try, but I left feeling a little bit underwhelmed. The Cupping Room is so close yet so far to being a great ambassador for the specialty coffee movement.

The setup is great. A huge warehouse with room for plenty of beans, roasters, a cupping station and a great open feeling cafe. The fit-out is well done, great furniture, some classy light fittings and some nice street art keeping the atmosphere light. There is a huge blackboard listing around 50 single origins that are stocked with the available beans highlighted. Taking this classy setup down a notch is the gold stencil of “The Slayer” on the back of what is a beautiful looking piece of hardware. Tacky.

The service though is left lacking, the decision not to provide table service confuses me at any cafe. But here, when the product is a new way of experiencing coffee which the public is not familiar with, it is all but criminal.

The Cupping Room, HobartSpecialty Coffee is complicated and confusing but at the same time it is very rewarding for the drinker. The price of a great cup of coffee is downright cheap, but someone new to the experience just needs a little pushing. A specialty coffee menu (like a good wine list) can be intimidating and an uninitiated customer just wants a latte or a flat white. They don’t care about the Tanzanian Peaberry or the Mexican HG Chipas. But with a little staff guidance they could become an easy convert.

The biggest let down though, was the execution of the coffee. To be fair, my double espresso a Tanzanian Peaberry was good. Rich fruit flavours with a hint of bitterness. The 2 lattes on the other hand were a disappointment. The first latte was well presented, but the milk was watery, completely lacking the creamy richness which I expect from a good coffee shop. I suspect some of this is to do with the milk itself, I spotted a bottle of Pura Full Cream on the counter.

The Cupping Room, Hobart

The take-away machine

Finally, I made my way again to the counter for a take-away coffee to make my walk through Hobart bearable. A take-away latte with the Mexican single-origin didn’t seem like too difficult a request but you can imagine my surprise when it was turned down. Apparently they don’t make take-away coffees through the Slayer and the waitress told me perhaps that they would if there weren’t so many coffees up. Apparently people drinking take-away coffee don’t deserve the same choice as dine in.

It didn’t matter, the latte was passable, definitely not good. It had an earthy flavour and the same watery milk. I walked away with sub-par coffee and the opportunity for the Cupping Room’s coffee to redeem itself was wasted.

I’ll be back to give it another go, but there’s other coffee in Hobart I hear is worth trying. So I won’t be rushing.

Thanks go to Nola for pointing me in the direction of the Cupping Room. Her review (with food) is here.

St Ali, South Melbourne

St AliThere’s very few things that can draw you in like a smell. The scent of cooking onions on the barbecue; fresh bread from the oven; or in this case the sweet smell of coffee roasting wafting out over Clarendon St. That smell marks the beginning of the end. The end of the Aching Head, the end of the nausea and the best way to start the morning after.

You see, coffee is right up there at the top of the list of the best hangover cures (2nd in fact, just after the hair of the dog) and that smell comes from one of the best coffee houses in Melbourne. It isn’t just crazy South Melbourne colloquialism it really is. St Ali has been leading the specialty coffee charge for years and though the recent crop of coffee shops are raising the bar St Ali still holds it’s own. The consistency of the coffee they serve each day is unparalleled even in the face of massive take-away lines and packed dining toom.

Short Black, St AliThey are also leading the charge with their use of the Internet and social media, their blog, website and Twitter accounts are great examples of how a cafe can be a part of the online community, but still maintain their own voice.

To some extent St Ali is exporting their innovation elsewhere. St Ali at Home, Atlis (their dinner restaurant), Sensory Lab, Outpost and the recent laneway festival are all initiatives that you don’t notice when you drop in for a latte, but each of these is at the edge of coffee revolution. Even so, the cafe seems to have lost the anxious feeling of trying an exciting new bean or blend that you get elsewhere. Yet, St Ali keeps on keeping on. The range of coffee available is limited to one single origin on siphon, one single origin on espresso and the underrated St Ali espresso blend.

All the single origin espresso is made through the handmade creation known as Slayer. That may sound like a nickname – it isn’t. It’s the handmade, artisanal espresso machine from Seattle that helps create some of the nicest, freshest espresso you are likely to taste. Normally the single-origin coffee of the day is the only coffee made through the slayer, but if you are interested and if it isn’t too busy the barista will probably pull you a regular espresso shot through it. It is certainly worth the trouble to ask, even for educational purposes.

While the coffee may be on a plateau of sorts, the food is going from strength to strength. Having recently started serving dinner with their latest concept “Atlis” it would be easy to think the quality of the day shift may falter. But the food still maintains the unique style of chef Ben Cooper, the lite cafe-style food is accentuated with syrups and reductions. It is an approach that doesn’t take away from the easygoing nature of the establishment, but sets the food apart from the rank and file.

Unfortunately St Ali is my regular coffee shop and I don’t seem to have as many photos as I thought, but I’ve got a few and the menu changes reasonably regularly.


I really wish I could remember what the rest of this dish was. It was scrambled eggs and avocado served with the most amazing molasses based syrup. The sharp zing of that syrup had me licking my plate.


This is “My Mexican Cousin”, grilled Haloumi, poached eggs on a fried corn fritter. The poached eggs self sauce the corn fritter and the wonderful saltiness of the Haloumi tops it off perfectly.

Dead Man Espresso

Dead Man Espresso's single origin beansThere has been a massive amount of buzz since Dead Man Espresso opened on Market St in South Melbourne. There is a lot to love about this cafe, especially the staff and the coffee. But I’m in 2 minds about the menu. There are 2 menus, a reasonably limited brunch menu, served till 12 each weekday and all day on weekends and a lunch menu, served from 12 till 3 each week day. There is a bit of overlap between the 2, but the lunch menu is definitely a bit more diverse. Sadly, I only just realised it existed as it’s normally a weekend haunt. I’ll have to rectify that.

With the exception of the omelette of the day, the food is not your typical cafe fare. The menu is technical and refined and although each item is interesting, they aren’t long lived. Let me clarify, I’ve tried most of the brunch menu and feel as though I’ve exhausted all the options and unless the menu changes, probably won’t return for the food on the weekend. Thankfully, it seems like the lunch menu will keep me going for a little while longer.

Dead Man Espresso, Pour over coffeeThere is no such problem with the coffee. There are 2 options for espresso, the Dead Man blend and the 7 Seeds blend. The Dead Man blend is super smooth, slightly sweet with a bit of berry coming through and the 7 Seeds blend is a much darker, regular style espresso blend.

Most of the single origins are sourced from 7 Seeds but the also regularly have guest appearances from Market Lane and Coffee Supreme. These coffees are available only as pour-over, but I suspect with a little cajoling the barista would pull them through the Synesso. This makes for a great range and doesn’t disappoint. The stand out is the Panama Esmeralda Geisha, this was the best coffee I’ve had for weeks. It had a full palate and a ridiculously oily texture with flavours of honeycomb and dark chocolate.

In a city where every coffee fiend is talking about the Slayer and ordering single-origin siphons, the focus on pour over is refreshing. It is a far more subtle style of coffee, with a very gentle texture which helps to highlight the subtle flavours of the beans. I think pour-over and siphons are the perfect way for people new to non-milk coffee to cut their teeth.

Smoked Salmon, Confit Tomato, Sourdough and Avocado Salsa

This is the sourdough, smoked salmon,  avocado, mimolette and grapefruit salsa and a confit tomato. Sadly I didn’t get to taste this but I was assured it was amazing. The confit tomatoes are out of this world. It’s hard to describe but they have a beautifully fragrant flavour while still tasting like tomato.

French Toast, Sesame Seed Caramel, Grilled Pancakes and a Confit Tomato

The brioche french toast with grilled pineapple, bacon and sesame seed caramel (I added a confit tomato). This is possible the richest dish I have ever tasted. The caramel is dark, and quite acidic but works really well with the grilled pineapple and the bacon.


This is the deconstructed BLT. Pork belly and spinach puree on brioche with gazpacho. As with most dishes this is quite rich and very flavoursome. I’m not convinced pork belly belongs on a sandwich, I think it kind of hides the amazingness of the cut of meat and to some extent this deconstruction removed some of the great texture of a regular BLT. It is a really interesting take though and I would definitely recommend it.

Panzanella with Paprika SausagePanzanella with pesto, smoked paprika sausages and poach eggs. This is an amazing dish, the bread has been lightly soaked in a light olive oil and slicing into the egg self sauces the salad. This is the star performer.

Padre Coffee opens at the South Melbourne Market

Padre CoffeeIf it was possible, coffee in South Melbourne has just taken a step forward. East Brunswick’s Padre Coffee has opened a small store in the middle of the South Melbourne market. The fitout is spartan, polished concrete floor, a recycled timber counter and small Ikea-style stools around low tables are scattered around the store and into the market walkway. This cluttered, almost-messy feel meshes well with the hussle and bussel vibe of the market.

The tiny shop doesn’t leave you in doubt as to what the focus is. 5 Mazzer grinders, 2 Synesso’s (1 manual, 1 automatic) and a wall full of beans and coffee equipment for sale leave little room for any confusion. There is no pretense or wankery, just a shop serious about coffee.

Long Black, Padre CoffeeThe long black I had in the first week of opening was very dark and over-bitter, the follow-up latte was rich and creamy. Today’s Ethiopian Yirgacheffe latte was uncharacteristically dirty and had a lot of head but was very enjoyable. I suspect that some of the staff may be new and aren’t necessarily up to speed. It is early days and if reports of the Brunswick East Project are anything to go by the coffee will be consistently amazing very soon.

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Sensory Lab – Gateway to a caffeine addiction

Sensory LabThe world of coffee is moving in a new direction, the coffee geeks call it the Third Wave and here in Melbourne it is taking many forms. Proud Mary, Seven Seeds, Brother Baba Budan, Dead Man Espresso and St Ali all subscribe to the philosophy. This philosophy says that the coffee is king and it should be treated as such and that sourcing the beans is as important as roasting and brewing them. These “specialty coffee” (a shitty name as far as I’m concerned) shops each take an immense amount of pride in their coffee and staff at each of them will happily take time out of a busy service to explain the beauty of single-origin coffee or to help you understand the difference between brewing techniques.

Siphons, pour through and single origin coffeeBut St Ali is taking it one step further. Their concept is called the Sensory Lab and they have partnered with David Jones to bring the 3rd Wave to the world. This new venture has taken over the Little Collins St entrance to the department store and is an amalgamation where perfume shop meets coffee shrine. As you walk into the store there is a large counter with the an impressive array of Hario siphon filters, pour over brewers and a much-touted Slayer espresso machine. The bright heat lamps of the siphons are an amazing drawcard. There is a constant stream of people stopping to look and learn about what exactly is going on.

It is pure genius. The theatre of the siphon stops the shoppers and the army of white lab coat wearing salespeople swoop to explain how it works or to find the perfect coffee blend for you with a simple 4 step process. This is specialty coffee for the masses and the shoppers are eating it up. On a Saturday morning there is a constant crowd of people around the counter and about 5 salespeople and 3 baristas run off their feet. These people seem to have a newfound desire for coffee. They are buying siphons, looking at the Rancilio espresso machines in the corner, leafing through the barista books and buying take-away beans.

Coffee and cakeThis all overshadows the cafe that occupies the other half of the room. There are 2 large communal tables and a few little single seat booths along the wall. The fare is minimal, coffee and cake. The coffee is being made, not from the Slayer but from a giant La Marzocco machine and the baristas don’t have time to take a breather. There is a queue of people at the window ordering take-aways and an army of mothers with their prams trying to find seats at the communal table.

The atmosphere is positively buzzing but it isn’t all good. The space is too small and the number of people around is uncomfortable and quite noisy, not the best place for a quiet coffee, not that that’s the point. This place is like the gateway drug to a life of better caffeine.

I’m not itching to go back. The concept is great and it means that there is going to be more demand for good coffee but the pretty girls in the lab coats lack the passion of your favourite coffee shop and probably won’t remember your name. Luckily, we are spoilt for choice and I’m more than happy to sit wander down the road, grab the broadsheets and feed my addiction at the big spacious tables at the real St Ali.

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