Posts Tagged ‘melbourne’

Chin Chin takes a liberty too far

I love Chin Chin. I’m friends with Jess and Ben and love the food and pretty much everything about the place (especially the cutlery). In fact, I’ve probably been there more in the last 3 months than anywhere else, including my favourite hamburger shop.

But today, they’ve taken a big step backwards – they spammed me on my mobile phone. I received the SMS message “Gogo is a-gogo, Chin Chin’s new underground cocktail bar is now open daily….”. I presume the only way they would have my number is because I’ve left it on file for them to call me back when my table is ready. Sounds like they’ve sent this message out to everyone who has done the same. Not cool.

What I find so interesting though is that they would even consider that they needed to do it. The Twitter and Facebook campain that they used prior to launch of the restaurant worked a treat, at time of posting they have 1581 followers on Twitter. The Twitter account regularly talks about all things Chin Chin related and no one would really care about a week or so worth of Tweets about the new bar.

My bet is that whoever sent that Tweet didn’t consult people like Jess or Ed and they are now regretting it.

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.

An adventure in breakfast and coffee

There are 2 things that can cure a brain-debilitating hangover and a man with a moustache – coffee and breakfast. So over the West Gate bridge to the amazing Duchess of Spotswood with a chance meeting with the lovely Claire and Em; Discussions of the size of forks and the merits of carrying rum (and moustache wax) in your pocket at all times. I won’t call our side of the meeting scintillating, but it was conversation.

Not to mention the food.

A prawn and quinoa salad; which wasn’t really what I needed – but ordered all the same. Elegant. Balanced. Fresh.

Prawn and Quinoa Salad

For the moustache – the duchess of pork. Toast. Pork Belly. Egg.

Duchess of Pork

And did I mention coffee and the fitout. Both fantastic.

Light Fitting @ DuchessWater CabinetTrestle Table

A quick drive to Collingwood and a rare seat at a quiet Proud Mary. A short Kenyan Chewle by the hand of the enigmatic Kris. In a different style to the vast majority of espresso I have drunk lately. Less acidic, with a lighter mouth-feel. An elegant coffee, which could be enjoyed short by most.

Rosemary sausages. Potato hash, poached egg and bagna cauda. Again – not quite what the doctor wanted, yet highly recommended.

Sausages, hash and bagna cauda

By this stage the staff had realised we were not authorised to be speaking, let alone making decisions and we were handled with care.

A pork belly sandwich with house made relish for the moustache and thankfully he shared. A mouthful of pork and an iced clover set righted the wrongs of the ordering process.

Pork Belly Sandwich

All of this mooching got us thinking about an opium den style coffee shop complete with hammocks, day beds, cushions and sheesha pipes. With French acid jazz on the stereo and ample caffeine.

Lights at Proud Mary

By this stage the level of caffeine was at an all time high, yet the 3 o’clock St Ali ritual hadn’t been fulfilled. A short Nicaragua La Benedicion and a Bloody Mary.

A quick break on the couch and a flight of wine tasting at Richardson St Cellar and a the purchase of a box of German beer.

All in all a very productive and fruitful day. 28 coffees, a lot of shit  flowing from mouths and some amazing food. Don’t worry Duchess of Spotswood. I’ll be back with a better idea of how to be human.

A Year of Coffee in Melbourne

Short Black at Padre CoffeeA week is a long time in football, and in a city as fascinated with coffee as it is with football, a year is an eternity in the world of cafes. Today marks the 1st birthday of Seven Seeds, one of the superstars of coffee in Melbourne. Happy Birthday Seven Seeds.

It is amazing to think that since the opening of Seven Seeds there have been so many other great coffee shop openings. So many in fact that Seven Seeds feels as though it is one of the “old boys.” It will be fascinating to see how the “scene” evolves over the next year.

Putting it all into context I’ve constructed something of a timeline of the last years specialty coffee shop openings. The dates aren’t exact (and I would welcome corrections) but they are pretty close.

Cafes opening aren’t the only thing that has happened in the last year either, the blog coverage of cafes in Melbourne has gone through the roof with the usual suspects spending as much time reviewing cafes as restaurants. There is one specialty coffee blog though that has been providing an attempt at objective reviews of the coffee being served across the city. Backseat Baristas is doing a great job and can only get better as they refine the concept.

Like in so many other facets of life Twitter has become the best way to talk to people who are involved in the industry and coffee is no different. I have created a coffee list of the people I follow. It’s a great way to keep an ear to the ground.

In a summary of the year I would be remiss to ignore the fact that the actual coffee has changed quite considerably. Seven Seeds, St Ali, 5 Senses, Market Lane and Small Batch seem to be all be expanding the number of cafes they are supplying with beans and places like Dead Man are making the most out of the variety.

Experiencing these coffees has never been easier either with Seven Seeds and Market Lane (that I know of) doing daily cuppings.

This isn’t to mention alternative brewing methods which seems to have had a massive boom. The syphon has gone from strength to strength with a good number of these cafes using it. Pour over seems to be the flavour of the day though, with it allowing some subtle flavours to really poke through.

The Best Melbourne Lunch Spots

Turns out a lot of people are finding this page, looking for the best lunch spots in Melbourne. Thus I’m creating a list of reviews of the best places I like going. See below for a map of cheap and quick places around the city.

South Melbourne and Bayside




When my friend Bruce isn’t writing about The Black Keys he is usually experimenting with some other piece of crazy social media or pottering around in his garden, beer in hand. But today he has enabled some cool team collaboration. Finding the best lunch spots in Melbourne. It’s a simple thing to do and one which any team could do, create a Google Map, share it with your coworkers, add some guidelines and presto. Better lunch for all.

Check it out, we’d love to hear how you and your coworkers find the best places to eat, drink and recover.

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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Siphon Coffee Video – St Ali

Siphon Coffee is all the rage at the moment. Apparently it was developed in Japan and the coffee fiends at the “boutique” coffee houses around Melbourne are selling them like wildfire. It makes a great deal of sense to me. The coffee, served black, is more like the texture and consistency of tea rather than espresso. The brewing process is such that the individual flavours in the coffee are far more intense than in an espresso. Don’t get me wrong, if you want a caffeine hit, a short black certainly feels like it packs a harder punch, but when you want to enjoy a tempered coffee while you read or perhaps a gentler coffee to nurse your aching head, this stuff is the shit.

Here’s a video of the brewing process. Special thanks to St Ali.