hidden cafes

How Many Hidden Cafes In Melbourne?

Two of the major draw cards for Melbourne visitors are the city’s laneways lined with street art and the world-class coffee scene. Inevitably, in winding your way down the laneways and back streets of Melbourne, you’ll come across tiny or well-disguised cafes where the coffee is often locally sourced, and the staff are passionate about coffee and service.

Rather than spending your entire holiday in Melbourne hunting the streets in the hopes of finding a gem, here is some insider guidance on where to find great coffee in less-than-obvious places within the city centre and surrounding suburbs.

To feed the city’s love for the bean, Melbourne has spawned cafes out of every nook and cranny, resulting in some of the most innovative, unusual and unexpected locations for coffee houses. We searched high and low to find some of Melbourne’s most extreme and off-the-beaten-track locations for curing your morning coffee craving.

Guide to Melbourne’s Best Hidden Cafés

Melbourne is a city that’s chock full of secrets. From 6 am boozers to pocket-size espresso bars, our city is home to some weird and wonderful finds that are just waiting for you to stumble across them. 

While most of us are already well-acquainted with Jungle Boy, the bar behind the fridge in Boston Sub, we’re still dying to discover more secret things in Melbourne, whether they’re cafes, bars or a bit of both.

Hell’s Kitchen

While Degraves Street draws foot traffic for cafes and restaurants with dining seats dotted down the laneway, it is Centre Place with its off-beat fashion and book shops that provide greater entertainment and arguably, superior coffee. 

Above the bustling laneway that connects Flinders Lane with Collins Street via an arcade, Hell’s Kitchen is both a café and bar with windows onto the laneway. If you’re done with people-watching, though, booths away from the window provide discreet space for conversation and meetings. 

If you’re seeking to refuel for more shopping, try the Late Riser – smoky baked beans on toasted Turkish bread. If the shopping is done and it feels right, try the Left Bank (Hendricks gin, St-Germain and sauvignon blanc shaken and stirred) or a mint-fresh mojito.

20A Centre Place, Melbourne

Krimper

Krimper is the epitome of Melbourne’s favourite design approach: industrial, stripped back and minimal with warmth injected via plants, wood, natural textures and an artfully rustic feel. Much of the furniture and elements of the cafe itself are formed from recycled lift doors, mechanical wheels and warehouse bits and pieces. 

The cafe space was originally a sawmill and a cabinet-making warehouse, respectively. While never occupied by designer Shulim Krimper, owner Mun Soon was so inspired by the mid-century designer that he named the cafe accordingly. 

Local office workers arrive for the Noisette pastries and takeaway coffee. Do yourself a favour, though, and immerse yourself in the ultra-Melbourne surroundings by grabbing a table and settling in for an extended lunch.

“Strictly no admittance – all enquiries at office 2nd floor”. The message proclaimed on Krimper’s entry door is both alarming and thrilling at the same time. Are we not allowed to enter, or is this just an obsolete message of a time gone by? A quick push of the door and all our queries are answered. 

We are greeted by rustic old sawmill brick walls and an art deco dining area. The Krimper burger is massive, and you can buy beers too.

Part slack workspace (it used to be a sawmill and furniture factory), part café, Krimper on Guildford Lane is a cavernous café space that you’d never guess existed from the roadside. The perfect CBD coffee haunt for any urban explorer.

20 Guildford Lane, Melbourne

Seedling Cafe

Seedling Cafe is a little haven of health in Flinders Lane. Keep in mind that it’s only open on weekdays, and it can get super busy at lunchtime as surrounding workers come for takeaway. There’s seating, but it’s a small venue, so sometimes it’s either a matter of waiting or opting for takeaway. 

There’s a changing variety of daily salads. From the 100% gluten-free menu, the Seedling Lunch Set gives you a choice of protein (meatloaf, chicken, frittata) with tomato relish and a choice of two salads. 

The paleo-inspired menu stretches to the beverages: Bulletproof Coffee takes a strong long black and laces it with organic coconut oil and grass-fed butter, or opt for a turmeric or matcha latte.

275 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Capulus & Co

Only an unassuming black and white shop front, no bigger than a mere household window, heralds Capulus & Co in Brunswick. Only the locals and those attuned to the coffee-lovers grapevine have cottoned onto this gem. While it isn't the roomiest space, it more than compensates with great coffee and a family atmosphere. 

Unsurprisingly, the cafe is run by a family from their living room. The croissants and sweet things are baked in-house, and the siblings take turns as baristas. Make yourself at home here. It could become a habit.

9 Sydney Rd, Brunswick

Ternary Tuckshop

Ternary Tuckshop in Richmond is well hidden behind a car dealership and a petrol station. It’s convenient for the corporate businesses nearby, but rest assured it’s far from the usually staid office takeaway spot. Remember school days where your name was written in big, clear letters on your brown paper bag? You can re-live this here. 

The modern twist is that you can pre-order lunch via the Rewardle app so that if you’re in a rush, you can grab and go. There’s the ubiquitous smashed avocado with feta, poached eggs and dukkah on toast, as well as top-rate coffee—an easy trip by tram via Victoria Street.

7/3 Bromham Place, Richmond

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Vertue Coffee Roasters

Carlton is central to Melbourne’s universities, arts venues and some of the best Italian food in the city. Vertue Coffee Roasters is well hidden in a deep corner near the service station. With hearty-sized meals and a leafy courtyard, visiting on a sunny day is necessary. 

The cafe is open daily, with busier times being early mornings and lunch. Why not organise a brunch date instead? As you might expect of a specialty coffee roaster, the espressos, lattes and macchiatos here are worth writing home about.

8 Raffa Place, Carlton

Cafe Bu

Cafe Bu is a multi-level coffee mecca. Serving local 5 Seeds coffee, the ground floor space is tiny, but if you take the stairs to the hidden rooftop, this is where those-in-the-know are eating their breakfast and drinking multiple espressos. North Carlton is well serviced by trams and buses.

Meandering down Canning Street, a rabble of floral umbrella shades protrude above an aqua sheathed brick corner-house – what an effervescent homely design one considers. You’re then interrupted by a nonchalantly aproned bearded fellow straightening some conveniently placed stools and tables out the front, and all oblivion is annulled. 

Everything about Café BÜ is cute – the colours of the coffee mugs, the minimalist sweets and pastries menu and the quirky rooftop deck overhung by teeming succulents. Five Senses beans make for great coffee.

585A Canning Street, Carlton North

Lot 3

This Sicilian-inspired old train master’s house is 108 years old and generated by a pair of old Attica foes. Designed to cater for the languid Ripponlea groundhog community going to and fro the nearby train station each day, Lot 3 has made its name for its house-made sodas and gooey open sandwiches. 

They’ve done little to alter the archaic anterior, which makes for a frank display, but venture inside and a warm, inviting dining room awaits.

3 Glen Eira Ave, Ripponlea

New Day Rising

During weekend business hours, it can be mistaken for a buzzing Ikea open-planned kitchen display. There are no material barriers between barista and customer, and guests are entitled to pursue the coffee-maker’s modus operandi as they develop their frothy caffeinated delight. 

New Day Rising is perched around the corner from Nicholson Street’s art deco pride and joy, Milkwood, but long black lovers often trudge by without a double-take, such is the veiled nature of the café’s façade. The CLT bagel is a must alongside a mean Iced Coffee.

221d Blyth St, Brunswick East

Roller Door Café

Roller door up or roller door down, there’s a vigorous industrial bean machine hiding behind there capable of creating coffee beyond your wildest dreams. Suitably located almost within a visual frame of North Melbourne’s frenzied train station, it’s another case of look left, or you’ll miss it. 

Greeted simply by ‘Roller Door – Mon-Fri’, you enter to find the baristas comfortably positioned to either chat or make or do both. Bill and Ben may appear out the back in the quaintest of courtyards.

This cafe is the epitome of what’s great about Melbourne: industrial chic, raw wooden tables and chairs, exposed brickwork, walls that are galleries for local street artists and coffee that puts other cities in the shadows.

Opt for a couple of small plates to share (marinated olives, lemon pepper chicken wings, pan-fried greens with tahini) or choose an all-day breakfast. The acai bowl with granola and fresh fruit or the Portuguese sardines are delectable at any time of day.

Catering to dietary requests, if you’re after vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian or nut-free, Roller Door delivers.

13 Stawell Street, West Melbourne

A Minor Place

Often lunch recommendations come from those you least expect. Aunties aren’t your first point of call when it comes to arranging your daily feeding schedule, but from a young age, Aunt Judy would take me to an innocuous wood-accented 50s’ style cottage to satisfy my advancing hunger. 

They made a wonderful big breakfast, and now they do a brilliant smashed avocado on toast such as my dining evolution. Hidden behind the northern stretches of Lygon Street, there’s nothing minor about A Minor Place apart from its stature. An affable affogato awaits.

103 Albion St, Brunswick

Mart 130

Another meek stationmaster’s building turned café at the doorstep of a public transport stopover. It’s not an accident if you walk into Mart 130 thinking it was the right place to top up your Myki or validate your PTV concession card. 

The BOAT's a treat, and the cold-pressed juices are divine but watch out for those errant tee shots cannoning in from the nearby driving range.

107A Canterbury Rd, Middle Park           

Mixed Business

At Mixed Business, you’re surrounded by the chaotic Queens Parade at the fore, the cold domineering Terminus Hotel at your left and an old brick childcare centre on your right – it’s hidden by way of isolation. 

There’s no coffee culture in this area of Clifton Hill, and while it sits awkwardly on one of Melbourne’s busiest inner-city motorways, the rush doesn’t plague the café staff. The former furniture restoration shop offers a killer ploughman brekky and rich Mörk hot chocolate.

486 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill

Alley Tunes

They’ve put two and two together to make four. Vinyl seekers traditionally love their coffee, and not often can they indulge in a post-adventure reward right there and then. Alley Tunes have solved that problem by installing a coffee machine to supplement that longing thirst. 

The seating plan is modest, and the chairs appear to have been stolen from my VCE exam room, but their long black is deadly. It’s a beautiful coexistence, but some can’t define it, making for an inconspicuous and sometimes bypassed arrangement.

660A Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn

In A Shipping Container

The product of a growing cafe, arts and music culture in the western ‘burbs has seen Rudimentary pop up in Footscray. Although it’s housed in one of the most well-designed shipping container conversions that you’ll ever see, it isn’t the best place to sit down for a business meeting or D&M, though it certainly makes for a lively place to refuel.

Plus, its lead barista has moved across from North Melbourne’s Auction Rooms, meaning the party in your mouth will quickly drown out the party in your ears.

FAQs About Melbourne Cafes

It is the combination of the various factors – good coffee, nice music, comfortable setting, and comfort food – that contribute to a great environment.

Top Ways to Get More Customers in My Cafe

  • Get Referrals. So we put this number one because we think referrals are hugely powerful!
  • Great Reviews. 
  • Run a Competition. 
  • Build customer loyalty. 
  • Build an Online Presence. 
  • Imaginative A-Boards. 
  • Collaborate with Non-Competing Businesses. 
  • Make the Most of Social Media.
  • Write Out all Menu Items. Before diving into design, you have to learn to write a restaurant menu.
  • Categorise Menu Items. 
  • Set Menu Prices. 
  • Create Menu Descriptions. 
  • Decide on a Menu Color Scheme. 
  • Design Your Restaurant Menu. 
  • Restaurant Menu Photos. 
  • Choose Menu Fonts, Spacing, and Composition.

Cafes. Sometimes cafes are known as coffee-houses, and there will be a wide selection of coffees and teas available. Nearly all cafes will have a good espresso machine that can also make cappuccino. Cafe traditionally serves light snacks and simple dishes, perhaps with an extensive range of pastries and cakes.

People often mix up the two because of the similarities between them, even though they each refer to two different kinds of establishments. While a bistro is a place that serves a mix of food and drinks, a cafe is mainly a place that people can go to to get a coffee.

Central

Laneway Greens

67–69 Collins Place (Corner of Exhibition St & Flinders Ln), Melbourne

Simple, seasonal food with a real focus on sustainable and local produce makes Laneway Greens a great choice for dining in or takeaway. Lunchtimes can get hectic, and the seating options are limited, so either order ahead or arrive for an early lunch.

The market bowl (choice of vegies is seasonal), falafels, assorted gourmet salads and delectable smoothies all vie for your attention. There are also outlets in Flinders Lane and Swan Street, Richmond (an easy tram/train trip from the city).

Chapter House Coffee

4/209 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

Tucked under the beautiful arches of Melbourne’s St Paul’s Cathedral, you’ll find the heavenly (pun intended) Buddha bowls, cakes, coffee and salted caramel lamingtons that make going to church a mouth-watering prospect. Keep in mind the cafe is only open on weekdays.

North

Red Door Corner Store

70 Mitchell Street, Northcote

In an otherwise residential street, this milk bar-cum-cafe is beloved by locals, but you wouldn’t be likely to find it purely through passing by.

Make the time to journey from the popular dining and shopping strip of Northcote’s High Street to Red Door for strong, consistently good coffee.

House-made organic wholemeal crumpets, quinoa and millet salad with crispy chickpeas and dukkah eggs are all on the regular menu.

Cafe Louis

93 Moor Street, Fitzroy

Off the tourist-friendly Brunswick Street, you’ll find Cafe Louis between a design shop and an apartment building. Not even a year old, this newcomer is sleek with minimal fuss and all the daily newspapers, for those who like to indulge in all the finances, arts, politics and business over coffee.

Try the superfood salad or smashed avocado to embrace the healthy, hipster feel of Fitzroy.

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East

Square & Compass

222 Clarendon Street, East Melbourne

Omelettes, smashed avo on toast, organic ginger beer, or maybe the southern fried chicken burger are all good reasons to wander down Clarendon Street in leafy, lovely East Melbourne.

Square & Compass is run by a well-practised team of hospitality professionals. 

It shows in the savvy, friendly service and varied but consistently delicious menu. Coffee is a highlight – and the locals know it.

Local workers pile in before work and at lunchtime, but apart from that, you’ll find a table and plenty of newspapers at most times of the day. Parking can be a challenge, but there are ticketed and free one- and two-hour parks in the surrounding streets. 

If you can tram it, it’s a short trip from the city or works up an appetite by walking from Spring Street through Fitzroy Gardens first.

The Black Alchemy

110 South Parade, Blackburn

If you’re staying centrally in Melbourne, Blackburn is further than most other cafes mentioned here.

That said, Black Alchemy is a five-minute walk from Blackburn Station so jumping on a train from Flinders Street is the simplest way to get here. Poached eggs, beetroot hummus, mixed berry muffins and cold-drip coffee await your arrival, so you’ll be rewarded for your effort in getting here.

South

Naked Racer Bar Cafe

1 Grange Road (Cnr Grange Road and Voltri Street), Cheltenham

Naked Racer is both a cafe, a bar and also a live music venue. While not hidden from street view at all, it is hidden in terms of being little-known by Melbourne cafe-goers generally.

For coffee and food lovers, as well as motorbike and scooter enthusiasts, a visit is mandatory. Try the coconut and almond milk bircher muesli at any time of day.

St Ali

12–18 Yarra Place, South Melbourne

This warehouse-turned-cafe is home to artisanal coffee and Instagram-friendly food.

Well known in Melbourne for its award-winning coffee, you can dine in and buy coffee and coffee-making and -serving equipment. Coffee and whisky brownies, a stack of pancakes with coffee-infused maple syrup, white chocolate and blueberry pancakes?

Resources:

7 Hidden Away Cafes in Melbourne You Have to Try

Beat’s Guide to Melbourne’s Best Hidden Cafés

Locals only: Melbourne’s best secret coffee spots

The 12 Best Hidden Cafes In Melbourne

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