There’s no question that Melbourne is one of the most coffee-crazed cities in the world. With endless café options, it can be tough to decide where to go—especially if you’re a design lover. To help narrow things down, we’ve put together a list of some of the best cafés for design lovers in Melbourne.
Whether you’re looking for a creative workspace or just want to enjoy a cup of coffee in beautiful surroundings, these cafés are sure to please. So pour yourself a cup of joe and get ready to explore!
Melbourne’s Best Cafés for Design Lovers
Design-savvy coffee lovers are in for a treat in Melbourne, where creative venues serve up fabled in-house blends and single exotic origins in stylish, award-winning surroundings.
In a city with such a great coffee culture, a café is rarely just a café anymore. Beans come from the best plantations worldwide and are often roasted onsite, and the decor is as much of a draw as the Instagramable health-conscious brunch fare on offer.
From bright Scandi-cool establishments to artfully reimagined industrial spaces, these are Melbourne’s best cafés for design lovers.
A handsome, Scandinavian inspired Melbourne café, Lucky Penny serves up colourful smoothie bowls and excellent coffee prepared by dedicated baristas trained at the Australian Barista Academy. Established in May 2014, this cute little spot enjoys an enviable location at the South Yarra end of Chapel Street, one of Melbourne’s premier fashion hubs.
Its menu, a celebration of seasonal, locally-sourced produce, is bursting with delicious homemade dishes such as smoky meatballs, quinoa salad, or black pudding with spiced plum jam. Breakfast is served all day and can be as healthy or as hearty as you want it to be, with options that range from superfood bowls and yogurt with granola to poached eggs and delicious pastries.
Thoughtfully imagined by Melbourne-based Biasol Design Studio, Lucky Penny’s interiors are a tasteful mix of white brick walls, reclaimed timbers, and custom-crafted blonde wood furniture.
Featuring the right balance of vintage and modern elements along with a subdued colour palette of muted whites, soft greys, and natural wood tones, the venue conveys a warm, rustic Scandinavian feel.
Vintage metal pendants and greenery from Pop Plant brighten up the bar area, while overhanging desk lamps create a cozy private atmosphere throughout the main dining zone. For a sense of comfort and homeliness, small decorative objects and cool pieces of kitchenware are discreetly scattered all over the space.
Minimalist concrete surfaces, thoughtful Greek touches, and a relaxed, sophisticated atmosphere characterize the interiors of No. 19 café in the heart of Union Road, Ascot Vale.
Designed by local architecture studio Biasol, this new venture from the couple behind St Rose Cafe (Essendon) takes inspiration from the Greek delis that flourished in Melbourne during the 1950s.
Natural light pours in through skylights and floor-to-ceiling storefront windows, whereas little pockets of greenery and vivid pops of turquoise cheer up the cool, crisp space without sacrificing its clean, contemporary feel.
The decor is a study in minimalist chic, with blonde timber furnishings, plush teal banquettes, designer bulbous brass lamps, and white tubular steel shelving set against polished concrete floors and grey textured walls.
Warm brass elements and striking cement tiles handmade in Morocco decorate the concrete service counter in the heart of the café, and an air of modern, understated sophistication permeates the slick Greek-inspired place. Outside, two custom-designed benches with timber tabletops offer alfresco streetside dining and people watching on sunny days.
But No. 19 is not just a pretty face. The hip restaurant and coffee shop is equally revered for its Five Senses coffee and delicious, wholesome food, served every day for breakfast and lunch. The venue’s fresh and inviting vibe is also reflected in the menu, including anything from healthy, creative toasts, detox bowls, and superfood salads to specialty coffees, organic teas, and all-natural smoothies.
Sensory Lab Collins Street
Entering Sensory Lab’s first stand-alone Melbourne café is like stepping into a futuristic Japanese diner. Located on Collins Street, the locale marries Japanese Modernist efficiency with the aesthetics of a retro electronics lab, providing a calm refuge from the hustle and bustle of the CBD.
Characterized by clean lines and neutral colours, the minimal, useful design by Foolscap Studio allows the brand’s single origins and specialty blends to take centre stage while also alluding to the ritual of morning coffee with a tempting toast bar running the length of the space and communal bar-style benches featuring in-built iPads to read the news on.
Elsewhere, the creative use of contrasting materials such as natural cork and gleaming stainless steel gives the café a unique look that’s both warm and contemporary.
In addition to excellent coffee, Sensory Lab Collins is praised for its seasonal single estate teas, and gourmet toasts made with some of the best bread in Melbourne and decadent spreads from Rooftop Honey, Jam Lady, or 99th Monkey.
Another awe-inspiring project from award-winning design studio Biasol, Kitty Burns, serves up deliciously Instagramable brunch food in a classy setting with an outdoorsy feel.
Nestled in the creative Abbotsford suburb, the venue’s light-filled interiors pay tribute to the iconic Skipping Girl neon sign nearby. The entire design concept plays around a fictional character whose dual personality takes inspiration from two locally famous girls: Kitty Minogue and her sister Alma Burns.
Decorating the café-restaurant are pitched roofs of various heights, lime-washed Australian timber panels, copper pendant lights, and lots of artificial greenery, all of which lend a reassuring air of calm and serenity to the stylish open-plan space. There are three distinct dining areas, including intimate booths for larger parties and an eye-catching central bar lined with pale aqua tiles.
The menu is awash in Pacific Rim flavours, with hipster sourdough toasts, creative Japanese-inspired concoctions, and all kinds of flower-sprinkled bowls of deliciousness. Drinks range from raw vegan smoothies and matcha lattes to cold brew & bulletproof coffees.
Bentwood Fitzroy Cafe
Occupying the old Thonet furniture showroom in Melbourne’s hip Fitzroy, Bentwood nods to the building’s storied past while also honouring the area’s brutalist industrial heritage with worn-out brick walls, concrete columns, and a soaring, deep gridded ceiling primed in red oxide.
A brainchild of Melbourne’s famous barista-turned-entrepreneur Julien Moussi, the café has been designed by Australian practice Ritz Ghougassian and features characterful red-hued interiors furnished with Thonet’s iconic pieces – expect light timber Bentwood chairs, soft leather bench seats, and skeletal shelving units.
The sophisticated colour palette in rich tones of burgundy, brown, and amber makes the perfect backdrop for the beautiful, delicious food on offer, including contemporary creations like Golden Gaytime Panna Cotta, Butterfly Blue Tea Chia Pudding, and the superfood-packed Bikini Salad. Caffeine comes courtesy of Moussi’s own Inglewood Coffee Roasters and is sure to impress any connoisseur in coffee-obsessed Melbourne.
If you fancy a change of scene from the usual industrial-chic coffee hangout, head to Moby 3143 – a decidedly elegant Melbourne locale with a 70’s Tuscan vibe.
Situated on High Street in the stylish suburb of Armadale, the café is set over three floors. It boasts inspiring colour-blocked interiors by a local design studio. We Are Huntly (now GOLDEN).
Bright white details contrast against a bold, limited palette of dusty pink and deep-sea blue, while beautiful timber chairs bring added texture and calm things down a bit. No wonder it won the award for “Best Cafe” design at the World Interior News Awards in London earlier this year.
Food-wise, expect vibrant seasonal salads and old breakfast favourites with a modern twist. The eatery also serves delicious infused teas, innovative cocktails, and top-notch coffee using fresh, roasted beans from Five Senses. For the ultimate brunch in the sun, head to the alfresco rooftop terrace.
Set within a former motor garage in Abbotsford, Au79 is Melbourne’s largest café to date and also one of its most sophisticated. It comprises an in-house coffee roaster, bakery, and patisserie, as well as a variety of event spaces, and has already become a favourite among the city’s design-savvy foodies.
Conceived by locally-based design firm Mim Designs, the sprawling, contemporary venue is filled with natural light, lush greenery, and custom Scandinavian furniture in soft blush hues, bringing to mind an indoor botanical garden. On the other hand, the original garage door, along with the stained cement floors, high ceilings, and brass highlights, give this glass-enclosed space a sleek industrial feel.
The kitchen’s oven-to-table philosophy translates to an on-trend daytime menu teeming with fresh and inventive creations such as Coconut & Lime Chia Pudding, Smoked Salmon Toast, or Soba Noodle Salad. Freshly baked bread accompanies most dishes, and specialty pastries complement the exquisite coffee on offer. They serve their house blend made of beans from Brazil, Colombia, and Guatemala, as well as single origins from around the world.
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 owners of Windsor’s Journeyman café opened Light Years in August 2017, and head chef Simon Ward (formerly of the now-closed Hammer & Tong) is kicking serious goals.
The breakfast and lunch menu – eggs scrambled or benedict, bircher muesli, burgers or fish and chips – may sound standard; its execution is anything but. Ward’s love of Asian food is evident, and ingredients such as edamame, sriracha, miso and nori are put to tasteful use.
His version of scrambled eggs and toast is a treat. Creamy eggs are topped with a mop of wakame (seaweed), tiny clusters of sweet corn and torn nori sheets. Roasted mushrooms encircle the plate, and a trio of ‘milk bread sticks’ are placed atop. These rectangular sticks of fried bread are wonderfully buttery – the only downside is that there are just three.
It’s a difficult time to be a soft-shell crab in Melbourne, and Light Years’ excellent soft-shell crab burger isn’t doing anything to increase these creatures’ life expectancy. A warm and springy brioche bun is spread with peppy sriracha mayonnaise.
There are thinly shredded cabbage ’slaw, plenty of fresh coriander and a whole fried crab (pincers poking out of the bun in surrender). It’s all at once crunchy, creamy and light. Sago chips accompany the burger. Slim, crisp and dusted with green nori salt, they’re like a much-tastier rice cake.
Cafés that Encapsulate Coffee Culture in Melbourne
When you think of “coffee culture”, you probably conjure up images of Italian restaurants or espresso stands on the streets of Seattle. You might even think of a traditional Turkish coffeehouse, Parisian “café society”, or perhaps a stereotypical New Yorker.
On this side of the globe, we seldom pay much thought to another hub of unique coffee culture: Australia.
It might have taken coffee a while to seduce the Australians, but since the espresso boom in the 1950s, coffee has become a way of life. Initially founded by a generation of Italian migrants, the Australian coffee scene – particularly in Melbourne – quickly created its style.
Rather than begrudgingly boiling the kettle to make it through the morning, it’s a beloved daily routine for many Australians to walk to their favourite coffee shop for a cup of joe in the morning. It’s not about function.
It’s not about having enough plug sockets. It’s not about being a coffee snob. It’s simply about celebrating a perfectly-poured cup of caffeine in a beautiful, no-nonsense environment.
Not sure what all the fuss is about? Let’s take a look at some of the best places to experience everything that makes up the Melbourne coffee scene.
Higher Ground, Little Bourke Street
Higher Ground might be the epitome of what makes the Melbourne coffee scene so special, although you’ll pay top dollar to enjoy it.
Located inside a cavernous double-storey building, Higher Ground is a blend between restaurant and coffee shop, offering exceptional brews along with innovative twists on classic dishes. Be prepared to wait for a table, but it’s worth it.
Three Bags Full, Nicholson Street
Located in Abbotsford, Three Bags Full embraces a warm, cosy vibe. The industrial-style décor is neatly matched with lots of natural wood and kooky artwork and, despite having space for 130 people across the three rooms, it doesn’t feel impersonal.
On top of the excellent coffee roasts, Three Bags Full is known for serving a hearty all-day brunch. Favourites include classic smashed avocado and the ricotta hotcakes.
Manchester Press, Rankins Lane
Rankins Lane is known for being home to some of the best street art in Melbourne, so it makes sense that it’s where you’ll also find one of the city’s coolest coffee shops. Located in the former home of an old printing press, the café is an edgy, urban-style hub that attracts coffee lovers from all over the city.
If you’re aiming for a morning caffeine fix, be aware that the queue starts to form at about 8:30 at weekends (that’s half an hour before they are even open). For those in less of a rush, come back at brunch. It’ll still be busy, but you should be able to snag a table and sample one of their infamous bagels.
Red Door Corner Store, Mitchell Street
For an eclectic, homely touch, try Red Door Corner Store in Northcote. The rustic, farmhouse-style décor makes a change from all of the ultra-modern coffee shops springing up around Melbourne, and the cute mismatched chairs are perfect for having a catch up with a friend. Enjoy your coffee alongside one of their freshly-baked pastries or sweet treats.
Cafe Lafayette, Beach Street
Does the photo of your coffee matter as much as the drink itself? Then head to Cafe Lafayette, where everything is picture perfect. If the minimalist, geometric interior doesn’t have you drooling, then the 270-degree view of the beach and ocean should do the trick.
Failing that, anything your order is guaranteed to come out looking like perfection. Adorable latte art, indulgent monster shakes, stunning raindrop cakes, and a menu of incredible (and beautiful) Australian-Chinese fusion food – this place has it all.
Code Black, Weston Street
The team at Code Black takes its coffee seriously, doubling up as a cafe and a roasting house inside an understated ex-warehouse. Despite the no-nonsense approach to their craft, the knowledgeable staff provide a warm and welcoming environment to families and pets, as well as committed coffee connoisseurs.
Top Paddock, Church Street
The crisp, clean décor at Top Paddock clarifies that this is the place for a sophisticated coffee and a stellar modern menu – which is exactly right. Although it’s obvious that the team behind Top Paddock knows exactly what attracts the hipsters and the Instagrammers (they’re also behind Higher Ground), it feels like the aesthetic ticks those boxes by coincidence rather than design.
The various seating areas enjoy perfect natural light, creating the ideal ambience for you to photograph (and enjoy) perfect cappuccinos and beautifully styled ricotta hotcakes.
Two Birds One Stone, Claremont Street
Sleek and elegant, Two Birds One Stone embodies the fresh, airy aesthetic of the modern Melbourne coffee shop, while its menu competes with the very best cafes in the city. Start your day with a bowl of homemade granola, or stop by at lunch for a portion of the chargrilled eggplant.
FAQs About Melbourne Cafes
ways to attract more customers to your coffee shop
- Look at your pricing.
- Start a loyalty card scheme.
- Get active on social media.
- The good old A-board.
- Run a competition – particularly if you can get the local press to give you coverage.
- Tap up your suppliers for marketing materials.
- Consider branded takeaway cups.
Top coffee shop promotion ideas
- Flyer in the right places, to the right people.
- Offer an incentive to visit.
- Reward customers with loyalty cards.
- Grab their attention with promotional banners.
- Reach out to customers with feedback cards.
- Get involved in 'national' social media events.
- Host a special event and promote it.
Top Ways to Get More Customers in My Cafe
- Get Referrals. 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.
Visiting a café involves all of the senses – not just taste. When you get all the senses right, your customers will enjoy the experience and keep coming back for more. This includes playing the right kind of music, keeping the café looking tidy and encouraging your staff to be presentable.
Excellent customer service is the hallmark of any successful business, especially in the food services industry. Combine a great location, top quality products, and great customer service, and chances are you will have a very successful coffee shop.
Of course, with such a thriving coffee culture, it’s impossible to compare every exceptional cafe. With a unique coffee shop on every corner, if you’re planning on visiting Melbourne any time soon, we recommend that you ask the locals where their favourite nearby cafe is – you’ll almost certainly get a completely different list!