Melbourne is a city that lives and breathes coffee – what started with the city's European migrant wave has now developed into a specialised field. And brunch – whether it's green matcha fuelled adventure or a classic stack of pancakes – is almost a competitive sport in a city with AM dining of this calibre. We scoured Melbourne to bring you a guide to the best of the best.
Melbourne is best known for its thriving cafe scene, often to be found in laneways. Best cafes in Melbourne are a mix of new and emerging cafes and icons that are well-established cafes. We celebrate Melbourne's best cafes in the search for perfection.
The food in Melbourne is some world-class grub; in fact, we've built a bit of a rep for having one of the wealthiest and most diverse culinary scenes on the planet. The question on our lips, though, is—does the carpet match the plates?
We went in search of some of Melbourne's most aesthetically delicious cafes to see if the venues themselves stack up against the edible beauty that is their dishes.
Tearing into the crunchy, deep caramel crust of Wild Life Bakery's sourdough feels like holy communion with carbs. The intense, chewy crumb in slices swabbed with miso butter or dipped into harissa-heavy shakshouka is why locals cram this bakery for breakfast. They also leave with grand, hunking baguettes and sandwiches you hope will never end for lunch.
On a Carlton corner, Ima Project Café is breathing new life into smashed avo. Furikake (a mixture of sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, salt and sugar) and nori paste (processed seaweed boiled down with soy sauce) are usually sprinkled on rice. Still, Ima slathers crunchy sourdough with the nori paste and then sprinkles the furikake on top of the avocado. Japanese twists on archetypal breakfast dishes can also be found in Ima's miso-infused tomato baked eggs. The porridge drizzled with Mitarashi syrup, a traditional Japanese sauce made from soy sauce and sugar. Plus, the classic Japanese breakfast set of fish and rice is on the menu.
A light-year measures approximately 9.5 trillion kilometres, which is no small trot. Happily, you only have to set the GPS to Hawthorn to enjoy the delights of Light Years café. The breakfast and lunch menu – eggs scrambled or benedict, bircher muesli, burgers or fish and chips – may sound standard; its execution is anything but.
The owners of Tall Timber, Marquis of Lorne and Rustica Canteen (among others) have opened up Left Field on a residential stretch of Koornang Road. Judging by the number of people willing to stand for their supper until a space becomes free, the Left Field team are kicking goals.
This addition to Collingwood's breakfast rotation is courtesy of the gang who brought us Wide Open Road and Heartattack and Vine, and they're all about championing the healthy stuff – think three-grain porridge, Brussels sprout fritters and pikelets with coconut yoghurt.
Sri Lankan food deserves to be more mainstream. Couple Nerissa Jayasinghe and Hiran Kroon, who opened Lankan Tucker in a quiet pocket of Brunswick West in 2016, agree. Their cosy place has all the trappings of a Melbourne café – St Ali coffee, laidback vibes, lots of greenery, service-with-a-smile – but look closer, and you'll discover a menu jammed with Sri Lankan classics.
Oasis Bakery, a three-in-one bakery, café and supermarket deep in suburban Murrumbeena, has become a bit of a cult foodie destination. It celebrated its 18th anniversary in 2016 and marked its coming of age with a renovation that transformed the suburban shop into a one-stop-shop modern Middle Eastern open-air marketplace.
Hole-in-the-wall charm does not mean sub-par coffee. They're using the Pony blend from Clement (of the Sensory Lab, Market Lane and ST ALi family), so you're guaranteed a milk coffee with a caramel apple flavour. All black coffees are made with a Sensory Lab single origin, and the busy baristas are happy to run you through the tasting notes of whatever's on offer. Despite the constant queue, the team at Tom Thumb are always smiling.
This Bentleigh café pays homage to the corner stores of yore and sits, appropriately enough, on a street corner. The interior is powder-pink-and-blue, and the menu has café standards with unusual flourishes – bircher muesli comes with strawberry granita and spectacular hotcakes with berry compôte, meringue crumb, ice cream and spiced maple syrup.
It may not immediately occur to you that you're nibbling your Californian superfood salad in an environment inspired by a design movement known as tropical modernism. But, in this café named after its founding father, you are. Architect Geoffrey Bawa's big vision was to break down the barriers between inside and outside; thus, jungle images decorate the walls. Plants perch above the central light fitting, dangling their friendly fronds towards the bustle below.
When the 18th-century English aristocrat John Montagu, aka the 4th Earl of Sandwich, started the trend of eating meat tucked between bread, he could never have envisioned how far the humble sandwich would come. Now we have Hector's Deli, a new café in Richmond dedicated to sandwiches – classic combinations made with high-quality ingredients and decked out with extra flourishes. The menu offers six options (three available from 7.30 am and three from 11 am), and that's about it. No eggs. No fancy plating. No cutlery.
Jason M Jones, the owner of cafes such as Friends of Mine and Porgie and Mr Jones, has opened his latest venture in a quiet Eltham backstreet. Inner-city faint-hearts may gasp at its remoteness, but Second Home is just a shortish canter down the Eastern Freeway, and what awaits the intrepid traveller more than justifies the journey. The menu is approachable and exerts enough temptation to make you wonder if the place would have been more appropriately christened Second Stomach.
The ability to nip out of the office for a cheeky coffee is one of the key skills of the modern professional. Those who partake in the unofficial mini-break within the 3000 postcodes get extra points now that a trip up to Little Collins Street means you can dive into Industry Beans. It's Industry Beans version 2.0.
Neighbouring Hash Speciality Coffee and Hardware Société on Hardware Lane, the luxe White Mojo is yet another café with 'Instagram darling' enshrined in its DNA. There's the black bejewelled cow's head on the wall and the Scandi-cool hexagon tiles and timber features, but make no mistake – you're here for the café's signature (and very photogenic) dish, the croissant burger.
Sugar might be the latest dietary villain, but we're not the only ones barracking for the bad guy in Spotswood's sleepy neighbourhood shopping strip. Candied Bakery's siren song pulls serious crowds to this Aussie bakery with an American twist. Marshmallow choc chip cookies, hot dogs and shakes are a salute to the red, white and blue; lamingtons and sausage rolls may as well be wearing a Southern Cross tattoo they're so flamin' Australian; and the croissants, and fresh pancetta and provolone-stuffed panini, are a gap year in Europe for your lunch hour.
We all know that job hunting is tough. How much tougher, then, when you're a refugee on a temporary visa and with less-than-perfect English? Eager to address the daunting inequalities that face such people, Jane and François Marx decided to open a café where they could employ and train refugees. Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, the pair opened their social enterprise venture, Long Street Coffee.
This Fitzroy bakery and café has developed a cult following since opening in 2012. Baker Brenton Lang now supplies his artisan breads, tarts and galettes to eateries all over town. Visit often and work your way through Lang's tasty carb creations, from organic white sourdough and seedy whole wheat to olive with fresh basil and spicy fruit buns.
Fitzroy's best-known warehouse bakery has made quite the name for itself in recent years. Run by brother-sister team Kate and Cameron Reid, Lune Croissanterie creates almost mathematically perfect croissants in their climate-controlled lab, each crisp and golden with visible layers of delicate pastry. Seeing as these treats fly out of their Fitzroy shop by noon most days, the duo decided to expand to Melbourne's CBD. Their CBD store is more of a takeaway joint, which is perfect for inner-city dwellers hunting for a coffee and pastry hit. There's no seating inside, just a high marble table for that European, standing-room-only vibe.
So, you could stomp around South Melbourne Market, haggling for your five dailies, or you could sit down at Shop 13-14 in the food hall and sink your teeth into a juicy Proper & Son roast roll instead. Opt for the signature brisket roll. A brioche bun stuffed generously with meltingly soft Wagyu brisket. Mustard mayo, radish, red cabbage, red sorrel, white onion and a side of pickles counteract the meat's richness. This is not a pretty thing to eat: bits and bobs will fall from the bun, and brisket juice will spill onto the steel plate – embrace that.
Inside the brightly light, cream-hued Workshop Brothers café lives delicious coffee. Axil Roasters provided the blends, and Monk Bodhi Dharma providing the single origins, but Workshop Brothers have branched out and created their own everyday blend called the Huntly. All the white coffees are $4 for a small. Black espresso varieties are $3.80, and they're all brewed with a single daily origin. There's a 30 cent discount when you bring your own reusable coffee cup, and Workshop Brothers also sell Frank Green brand cups for those late adopters who don't have one yet. Hungry? Grab a Nutella croissant to go.
It never ceases to amaze us that mere hopscotch jump away from Abbotsford Convent, and you can be facing off with a pig called Typhoon. The name may conjure up visions of babies sprouting from giant pea pods, but we checked and found that the Children's Farm is more kid-friendly than a science fiction plotline. Play with the chooks (and keep your breakfast away from them) while you sip on your coffee and stick around to explore the farm after your meal.
Melbourne has a way with shipping containers. We're used to drinking in them (see Section 8 and Arbory), and now we can eat in them. Rudimentary – a cream-and-caramel-coloured shipping container conversion – has sprouted up like a metallic mushroom on a former car park site in Footscray.
As befits a vegan, health-conscious café, Matcha Milkbar's menu is full of green things, and we don't just mean vegetables. They've got green kale smoothies, green veggie burger buns, green pancakes and green matcha lattes. Soak in the health radiating off the plates, and make sure you try the vegan eggs. It's a work of sorcery.
The café's decor is minimal to the point of clinical: it's an uncluttered space set in a beautiful Victorian terrace house with a stained-glass period window, pale walls hung with mirrors and exposed filament bulbs. You could call it anaesthetic chic – we can think of worse places to have an appendectomy over brunch.
Seven Seeds is all about the coffee: see the in-house coffee plants, coffee laboratory and temperature-controlled storage space. Do they make a good coffee? The answer, folks, is yes. A small, all-day menu is not overly ambitious and allows quality ingredients to do their thing. The eggs benedict with corned beef and a seeded mustard hollandaise is a pleasing rendition of the café favourite. At the same time, the dessert-as-breakfast crowd will gravitate towards the French toast, served with housemade Nutella and an orange reduction.
A small all-day menu is not overly ambitious and allows quality ingredients to do their thing. The eggs benedict with corned beef and a seeded mustard hollandaise is a pleasing rendition of the café favourite, while the dessert-as-breakfast crowd will gravitate towards the French toast, served with house-made nutella and an orange reduction. Lunch-centric options include the ever-popular double Wagyu patty burger, served with secret special sauce on a brioche bun.
The service at Seven Seeds is exceptional though. Even when it’s peak hour, eagle-eyed staff ensure that no one is lost amongst the din. If you haven’t already been, get down there.
At 9 am on a Tuesday, St. Ali South is pumping like it's spring break. Between the business chatter and weekend debriefs, the espresso machine, roaster and kitchen cacophony meshes with Mark Morrison's Return of the Mac, Angel by Massive Attack, and some East Coast hip hop care Mobb Deep. It's a hell of a soundtrack to your morning. St Ali on Yarra Place was one of the original café-roasteries back before everyone took the DIY approach to coffee beans. And the upmarket warehouse space looks much as it always has – big tables and industrial coffee paraphernalia everywhere.
This CBD whole food eatery shows you don't need to wear hemp and patchouli to eat conscientiously. The fruit, vegetables, cheese and charcuterie on the menu are locally sourced and as close to organic and free-range as possible. The whole room is decorated in rich cream paint with marble tabletops, white enamelware jugs and maidenhair ferns tipping the look into landed gentry territory. And the land is a big focus here.
The menu at this Armadale café is very much of the moment, steering café classics in some intriguing directions:
The pancakes are lamington-flavoured.
- A bagel is scented with lavender.
- There's duck sausage with your eggs Benedict.
This creativity produces unexpected delights, such as the premium drawcard, the lobster doughnut burger. Those three words may not usually combine into a recipe for deliciousness, but at Mammoth, they pull it off.
The string of eateries that line Domain Road as it skirts the perimeter of the Tan, Melbourne's premier walking and jogging arena, offer excellent options for the fit and the fabulous to refuel. Early Saturday morning sees the place abuzz, especially with runners high on endorphins ripping into poached eggs. A recent addition to the cluster is Gilson, courtesy of Jamie and Loren McBride, who brought us cafes Mammoth and Barry.