HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 2 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is a handsome cafe hidden in a laneway – behind a laneway – next to a servo in Carlton.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 3 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

While the entrance to the former horse stables is small (and positively teeny tiny when they only open the bolthole in wet weather) once you get inside it’s like the Tardis.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 11 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 8 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

 A busy coffee bar greets you, then you walk back a bit further and the ceilings suddenly rise, cathedral-like.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 4 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

The lofty space is so amazingly bright that it’s hard to believe that there are no windows. The skylights that form the ceiling diffuse the light so beautifully across the wood and copper decor that even on a gloomy rainy winter’s day inside the cafe it feels like a spring day.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 5 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

 I take a seat at the banquette and I’m immediately enamoured of the greenery frothing over the custom-made metal wall planters. They were designed by Glasshaus in Richmond and are irrigated using a narrow pipe and drip system harnessing water from the roof.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 1 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

As the name suggest The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is a shrine to coffee. The unusual name comes from a promotional handbill from 1652 s advertising the first coffee house in London and the benefits of the brew.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 10 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

There’s a glossy roaster on site, a temperature controlled glass cabinet displaying various beans and coffee paraphernalia lined up along the wooden stairwell that leads up to nowhere.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 12 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

But if you’re a non-coffee drinker (like me) then there’s still a tea by Chamellia ($4.50), Mork Hot Chocolate ($4-5) and the Mad as a Hatter Chai with soy ($6) which comes in a hand beaten copper vessel.  They’re also licensed.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 6 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

And then there’s the food. Oh my. A series of all -day breakfast dishes that you’re unlikely to find on every second menu around town – plus I like the fact that their lunch menu starts at 10:30am!

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 7 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

After some dithering between the scotch egg and chickpea chips I decide on the latter ($18). It’s an artistic array of charred zucchini, preserved pops of cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan and two poached eggs, plus some unexpectedly fluffy sticks of deep-fried mashed chickpea. Even if you’re not vegetarian this is a dish worth trying.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink 8 Raffa Place Carlton 9 HOT: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton

From the ‘something sweet’ section I try the warmed spiced fruit loaf ($14). It’s a hearty serve of almost cake-like fruit bread toasted into wedges and served with a hemisphere of poached peach, vanilla gelato and an amaretti crumble.

I feel like I want to keep The Vertue of the Coffee Drink a secret hideout just for me . But this oasis from bustling Lygon Street is so fabulous in every way – decor, service, food, drinks – that I just have to share. Enjoy!

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Place, Carlton  (03) 8060 6987

Mon-Fri 7am-4pm

Sat-SuN 7.30am-4pm

 

HOT: Code Black Howard Street, 119 Howard St, North Melbourne

Code Black Howard Street 119 Howard St North Melbourne 1 HOT: Code Black Howard Street, 119 Howard St, North Melbourne

Code Black Coffee is a cafe and specialty coffee roaster in Brunswick who have opened up a second outpost in Howard Street North Melbourne.

Like the original location the Code Black Howard Street roasts its own coffee but the roasting machine is really more for decorative purposes as most of the coffee is still roasted in Brunswick.

Code Black Howard Street 119 Howard St North Melbourne 2 HOT: Code Black Howard Street, 119 Howard St, North Melbourne

The new cafe is a gorgeous light-filled warehouse conversion by  ZWEI Interiors Architecture, The bricks have been painted white punctuated by lacquered green steel beams and blonde wood abounds. I particularly love the slatted staircase.

Code Black Howard Street 119 Howard St North Melbourne 3 HOT: Code Black Howard Street, 119 Howard St, North Melbourne

Seating encircles the barista station and open kitchen and a mezzanine level upstairs, though I’d avoid the awkward mini tables at the banquette unless you’re up for holding yoga side twists during your meal.

The food menu has a similar quirkiness as the Brunswick menu and takes inspiration from the fact that the space used to be an old car garage. I’ve explored some of the options over several visits.

Code Black Howard Street 119 Howard St North Melbourne 4 HOT: Code Black Howard Street, 119 Howard St, North Melbourne

Black beans with jalapeno cornbread ($12) was a punchy dish of spiced beans, a fried egg and a spongy, cake-like slice of cornbread. I opted for a side of pork belly ($4), a thick cut of belly cooked a little too dry for my liking. Overall I would have liked to up the ante on the chilli – just felt like a dash of hot sauce would have really enhanced the flavours.

Code Black Howard Street 119 Howard St North Melbourne 6 HOT: Code Black Howard Street, 119 Howard St, North Melbourne

For something lighter the seared tuna salad is ah-mazing ($17). Super-fresh slices of herb-crusted rare tuna with a wholesome mount of cucumber, snow pea tendrils and bok choy plus grains of millet and chia for crunch.

Code Black Howard Street 119 Howard St North Melbourne 5 HOT: Code Black Howard Street, 119 Howard St, North Melbourne

If you have a sweet tooth I recommend the apple salted caramel hotcakes ($14). Ricotta makes the hotcakes very light and inside you’ll find shreds of apple. It’s served with salted caramel sauce, crunchy candied pecans and slices of freeze dried apple.

Code Black Howard Street is a extension, not a duplication of Code Black Coffee in Brunswick. I actually prefer its lighter, brighter interior to the original location, while the food and coffee as just as spot on.

Code Black Howard Street, 119 Howard St, North Melbourne

Mon-Sun 7am-5pm

minilink HOT: Code Black Howard Street, 119 Howard St, North Melbourne

HOT: Like Minded Projects, 41-49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Like Minded Projects 41 49 Smith Street Fitzroy 5 HOT: Like Minded Projects, 41 49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Like Minded Projects is a stunning cafe on Smith Street that specialises in vegan, gluten-free and raw food.

It’s a combined operation with three different like-minded businesses – coffee roaster Coffee Supreme, raw and whole food kitchen Fred Gets (which includes in its collection Pana Chocolate’s raw organic desserts) and Ace raw cookies and nut milk.

Like Minded Projects 41 49 Smith Street Fitzroy 3 HOT: Like Minded Projects, 41 49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

The decor is head-turning, with a long glass frontage beckoning you inside the whitewashed and coolly chic interior. The light room is enhanced with shiny surfaces and pops of colour from the ceramic planters and the vertical green wall at the entrance.

The three suppliers each have their own distinct section highlighted by neon signs. Coffee of course comes from Coffee Supreme and how can you avoid a coffee machine that instructs you to ‘Get Some’.

Like Minded Projects 41 49 Smith Street Fitzroy 7 HOT: Like Minded Projects, 41 49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Like Minded Projects 41 49 Smith Street Fitzroy 9 HOT: Like Minded Projects, 41 49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

If you’re after food then Fred Gets  supplies vegetarian salads, open sandwiches, juices, muesli and other gluten-free dishes.

Like Minded Projects 41 49 Smith Street Fitzroy 2 HOT: Like Minded Projects, 41 49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

 

Like Minded Projects 41 49 Smith Street Fitzroy 6 HOT: Like Minded Projects, 41 49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Just load up an enamel bowl ($11.50 for large), get a squirt of your housemade dressing on top and draw up a stool by the expansive people-watching window.

For lunch I chose half-and-half of two healthy salads, two croquettes and a fritter. The just-toasted croquettes were surprisingly fluffy though with the amount of salad I had I could have just had one. The fritter was on the dry side and I’d do without next time.

Like Minded Projects 41 49 Smith Street Fitzroy 1 HOT: Like Minded Projects, 41 49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

For dessert I browsed Ace’s raw cookie collection and must admit I didn’t particularly enjoy my taste test. My small morsel was tack-hard and rather dry – basically, what I’d expect a cookie without butter to taste like. On the Ace side is also a stock of coconut-based ice-creams by Zebra Dream which I’ve enjoyed before. I recommend his mint choc chip!

For sweets I steer you instead towards the brass-trimmed cabinet filled with healthy treats from Pana Chocolate, a raw chocolate and dessert retailer in Richmond. I liked the humorous references in all their dessert names – twists on well-known chocolate bars and sweets!

Like Minded Projects 41 49 Smith Street Fitzroy 4 HOT: Like Minded Projects, 41 49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

What makes raw desserts different to your bog-standard Snickers bar, for instance, is that a small morsel really fills you up. After my lunch I thought I’d like to try a couple of the sweets from the cabinet as I couldn’t decide, but after my modestly sized Vespa Wheel (their take on the Wagon Wheel) I simply couldn’t eat any more.

Like Minded Projects 41 49 Smith Street Fitzroy 8 HOT: Like Minded Projects, 41 49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

I took some of the desserts home as I was assured that they would freeze well. Over the course of a few days I nibbled on various sweets and I concluded that my favourite was the raw lamington. With other items I found either the texture wasn’t quite right or the raw chocolate was too rich for me.

I like that the food at Like Minded Projects is wholesome but it’s provided with a sense of humour. Along with the uber-stylish space, the cafe is one pretty package for advertising the virtues of clean-eating.

Like Minded Projects, 41-49 Smith Street, Fitzroy

Mon-Fri 7am-5pm

Sat-Sun 9am-5pm

HOT: Code Black Coffee, 15-17 Weston St, Brunswick

Code Black Coffee 15 17 Weston St Brunswick 1 HOT: Code Black Coffee, 15 17 Weston St, Brunswick

Code Black Coffee is a cafe and specialty coffee roaster in Brunswick. It is housed in one of the most darkly dramatic warehouse conversions I’ve seen, designed by local Brunswick architects ZWEI Interiors Architecture.

Code Black Coffee 15 17 Weston St Brunswick 6 HOT: Code Black Coffee, 15 17 Weston St, Brunswick

Code Black Coffee 15 17 Weston St Brunswick 5 HOT: Code Black Coffee, 15 17 Weston St, Brunswick

As its name suggests the exterior is a brutal black and the interior is all masculine. Black walls, dark concrete floors, black wire furniture with only glints of wood and industrial metal. It’s all sharp edges and jagged angles and for some reason brings to mind being enveloped by a Yohji Yamatoto garment. If there was ever a set for a ninja training school, this would be it.

Code Black Coffee 15 17 Weston St Brunswick 7 HOT: Code Black Coffee, 15 17 Weston St, Brunswick

The food menu is more light-hearted and creative and you guessed it, etched in black.

I started with a bacon and soft-shelled crab brioche burger ($20). That’s three of my favourite ingredients in one awesome dish! Inside the fat bun was also stuffed some spicy slaw with some creamy mashed potato and sharp cornichons on the side, a needed textural contrast from the fry-up.

Code Black Coffee 15 17 Weston St Brunswick 4 HOT: Code Black Coffee, 15 17 Weston St, Brunswick

For dessert I chose double-downed on brioche. To be precise, French toast brioche sandwich filled with hazelnut and chocolate ganache and salted caramel sauce ($17.90). Another three of my favourite ingredients combined!

Code Black Coffee 15 17 Weston St Brunswick 3 HOT: Code Black Coffee, 15 17 Weston St, Brunswick

If you choose the start your day with one of these beauties then make sure you allocate time for a food coma afterwards. There were three fat slices of chocolately brioche, a large pool of scorching salted caramel and a generous handful of crunchy cocoa and goji berry crumble. A very tempting combination but I had a problem with the sauce. I’m not sure it was the chef or the cold weather but the sauce had basically set by the time I was halfway through the plate. It was impossible to cut through, sticking to the cutlery and plate and I was afraid I was going to lose teeth trying to chew it.

Code Black Coffee 15 17 Weston St Brunswick 2 HOT: Code Black Coffee, 15 17 Weston St, Brunswick

It goes without saying that the coffee at Code Black Coffee is of a high standard and you can watch the roasting operations while you wait on your food. On Saturdays they run free cupping sessions in a dedicated cupping room.

Lucky Brunswick dwellers get two excellent cafe/boutique coffee roasters within 500 metres of each other. Which is your favourite – Wide Open Road or Code Black Coffee?

Incidentally, ZWEI Interiors Architecture are running free walking tours of Sydney Road during Melbourne Open House 27-29 July, starting at Code Black Coffee. The tours are sold out but I’m going to try my luck and just turn up after enjoying breakfast at the cafe. ZWEI will also be publishing a self-guided walking tour with notes after the event on their website. 

Code Black Coffee, 15-17 Weston St, Brunswick 03 9381 2330

Mon-Sun 7am-5pm

minilink HOT: Code Black Coffee, 15 17 Weston St, Brunswick

HOT: Wide Open Road, 274 Barkly St, Brunswick

Wide Open Road 274 Barkly St Brunswick 1 HOT: Wide Open Road, 274 Barkly St, Brunswick

Melbourne cafes doesn’t get any more hipster than at Wide Open Road in Brunswick.

I don’t mean that in a pejorative way. Wide Open Road is an excellent cafe which is so into its coffee that it houses a roastery, green bean storage and coffee lab. It also stocks other cafes in Melbourne including Small Victories, The Fair Foodstore, Little Big Sugar Salt and Sookie La La.

Wide Open Road 274 Barkly St Brunswick 3 HOT: Wide Open Road, 274 Barkly St, Brunswick

The baristas are bearded, tattooed and passionate about their brew and it seems that you can order your coffee in a hundred different ways.

Wide Open Road 274 Barkly St Brunswick 2 HOT: Wide Open Road, 274 Barkly St, Brunswick

The fitout is peak hipster. The space is a converted warehouse and the former signage is still part of the frontage. There are fixie bikes parked against the backdrop of a large paste-up.

Wide Open Road 274 Barkly St Brunswick 8 HOT: Wide Open Road, 274 Barkly St, Brunswick

The interior decor is all industrial chic with vintage school chairs, frosted light shades and even terrariums!

Wide Open Road 274 Barkly St Brunswick 4 HOT: Wide Open Road, 274 Barkly St, Brunswick

My interest in Wide Open Road is mainly for its food. The seasonal menu has been awarded 3 stars in The Age Good Food Under $30 and a glance indicated an interesting, off-the-beaten track (pun intended) menu.

On a freezing winter’s morning the one menu item I gravitated towards was soup. I don’t think I’ve ever had soup for breakfast (except maybe when sick) and certainly not willingly ordered it from a breakfast menu. But fennel and white bean soup sounded like just the thing to cuddle up to on a frosty morning.

Wide Open Road 274 Barkly St Brunswick 6 HOT: Wide Open Road, 274 Barkly St, Brunswick

The smooth, creamy soup was soothing and rich, with hits of savoury from the smoked cod, chorizo and added protein in the form of a floating poached egg ($15).

Craving something sweet I dithered between the banana split and the hazelnut and pear bread. When I asked the waitress which dish had more ‘wow’ factor she directed me to the banana split ($14.50).

Wide Open Road 274 Barkly St Brunswick 7 HOT: Wide Open Road, 274 Barkly St, Brunswick

What came out was not the dingy Chinese restaurant version of the dessert but a sundae masquerading as breakfast. The glass contained cubes of passionfruit froyo, a sprinkle of peanut and coconut granola, freeze dried berries and cocoa nibs – sweet, cold and crunchy in every mouthful.

Wide Open Road 274 Barkly St Brunswick 5 HOT: Wide Open Road, 274 Barkly St, Brunswick

The cakes are also all made on premises if you want a sweet treat to go with your coffee.

I enjoyed my breakfast at Wide Open Road and given their commitment to seasonal produce and to making cakes in house I’m keen to try more of the menu. It’s certainly a popular haunt on weekends so others must feel the same way.

Wide Open Road, 274 Barkly St, Brunswick (03) 9387 6079

Mon-Sat 7am-5pm, Sun 8am-5pm

minilink HOT: Wide Open Road, 274 Barkly St, Brunswick

HOT: The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 awards

good cafe guide HOT: The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 awards

The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 awards were announced tonight – did your favourites make the cut?

These cafes won top honours and * indicates a cafe that I’ve reviewed previously:

Top Paddock* (Richmond) – eftpos best cafe

Stagger Lee’s* (Fitzroy) – best new cafe

Dakdak (Moorabbin) – local hero award.

Seven Seeds (Carlton) – best coffee

Pellegrini’s (CBD) – Hall of Fame

Ora* (Kew) – best food cafe

Brunswick East Project (Brunswick East) – best barista James Kilby

Everyday Coffee (Collingwood) – best brew bar

Guerilla Espresso* (Footscray) – best small cafe

Industry Beans* (Fitzroy) – best boutique roaster

The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 will be available for $5 with The Age for Saturday 21 June and in selected bookshops and online at theageshop.com.au for $9.99.

Check out the award winners for 2013. 

HOT: High Coffee, The Waiting Room at Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

High Coffee The Waiting Room at Crown Towers 8 Whiteman St Southbank 1 HOT: High Coffee, The Waiting Room at Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

If you’re lucky enough not to work Monday-Friday then quickstep to The Waiting Room at Crown Towers, where they are offering their twist on high tea – ‘High Coffee’ – for only $40 per person on weekdays.

The Waiting Room is the lobby bar of Crown Towers and it is the exact opposite of a sterile doctor’s waiting room. In fact, it’s opulent Art Deco meets glamorous disco-fabulous, sort of like the Baz Luhrmann version of The Great Gatsby.

The Waiting Room is open from 6:30am to late for snacks and drinks and afternoon tea is served daily from 12pm-5pm. I was invited to try their new ‘High Coffee’ menu which highlights Vittoria coffee as the drink of choice rather than traditional tea.

High Coffee The Waiting Room at Crown Towers 8 Whiteman St Southbank 5 HOT: High Coffee, The Waiting Room at Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

In fact, other than the fact that the delicacies were presented on a three tier stand, nothing was particularly traditional about this afternoon tea. For starters, the stand was a glossy Art Deco mirrored square shape, unlike any other cake stand I’ve seen at other high tea venues.

High Coffee The Waiting Room at Crown Towers 8 Whiteman St Southbank 3 HOT: High Coffee, The Waiting Room at Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

The food was all classic with a twist. There were four savoury sandwiches to choose from, with my favourite being the smoked salmon and herb crepe roulade.

High Coffee The Waiting Room at Crown Towers 8 Whiteman St Southbank 4 HOT: High Coffee, The Waiting Room at Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

The next level was of hot savouries – creamy crab and leek tarts and fluffy ham and cheese croquettes.

High Coffee The Waiting Room at Crown Towers 8 Whiteman St Southbank 7 HOT: High Coffee, The Waiting Room at Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

The desserts were just as dazzling – all beautifully presented and very inventive. My favourites included the bittersweet chocolate glazed éclair with espresso cream and the chocolate and Nutella layered cream cake (notice the chocolate theme?) while I didn’t particularly enjoy the tartness of the vanilla vodka jellies with sour cherries and basil seeds. Applause for creativity though!

High Coffee The Waiting Room at Crown Towers 8 Whiteman St Southbank 2 HOT: High Coffee, The Waiting Room at Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

Only after hoovering through the three tiers did I realise I should have saved room for scones! Both plain and raising buttermilk scones were offered, cuddled in a nest of napkins to keep them toasty warm. Delicious slathered with clotted cream and homemade jam.

High Coffee The Waiting Room at Crown Towers 8 Whiteman St Southbank 6 HOT: High Coffee, The Waiting Room at Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

Apparently sorbet is a usual ending of High Coffee but I had to depart before I could try the burnt caramel and pear sorbet. Probably a good thing too as I had to cycle home!

Don’t worry, if you’re not a coffee drinker The Waiting Room’s High Coffee can be served with Jing Tea, Vittoria Coffee or a flute of sparkling wine. You can also choose to pay extra and have a liqueur coffee or a signature coffee cocktail from The Waiting Room’s drinks list.

I think The Waiting Room at Crown Towers provides one of the best afternoon tea food offerings in Melbourne. For $40 you won’t find many high teas of such a high standard, with so much food, for a similar price. If you want seclusion then there are dark nooks to hide in within The Waiting Room though I think its location means it’s a fantastic opportunity for watching the comings and goings of the Crown Towers Hotel – you might even spot a celeb or two!

The Waiting Room High Coffee, Crown Towers lobby, Ground Floor, +61 3 9292 5777

Weekdays 6.30am – late

Weekends 10.30am – late

High Coffee available weekdays from $40 per person until 31 July. Bookings recommended.

minilink HOT: High Coffee, The Waiting Room at Crown Towers, 8 Whiteman St, Southbank

HOT: Axil Coffee Roasters, 322 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn

Axil Coffee Roasters 322 Burwood Rd Hawthorn 3 HOT: Axil Coffee Roasters, 322 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn

Why did the blogger (who doesn’t drink coffee) cross town to visit Axil Coffee Roasters in Hawthorn?

No, not to get to the other side. Because Axil Coffee Roasters do more than just roast coffee – they put on a magnificent spread from the kitchen, 7 days a week starting from the wee hours of the morning.

Axil Coffee Roasters 322 Burwood Rd Hawthorn 2 HOT: Axil Coffee Roasters, 322 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn

The signage outside the venue is understated and you wouldn’t imagine that behind the awning there’s a vast warehouse space filled with a black walls, polished concrete, greenery and timber. Not to mention a coffee roastery and barista training school too – all behind glass so you can have a gawp on your way to the loos.

Axil Coffee Roasters 322 Burwood Rd Hawthorn 1 HOT: Axil Coffee Roasters, 322 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn

This is one serious cafe.

Anyway, it goes without saying that the coffee must be excellent (the cafe won Best Coffee in The Age Good Cafe Guide 2013), so let’s switch to the food. It was pretty adventurous fare and made it difficult to choose.

Axil Coffee Roasters 322 Burwood Rd Hawthorn 5 HOT: Axil Coffee Roasters, 322 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn

Because I’m a huge smoked salmon fan I went with the housemade salmon pastrami ($20). It was a generous mound of thinly sliced and lightly spiced raw fish draped over a tangy yellow pickled zucchini and some crunchy celeriac croquettes. The wobbly poached egg on top oozed yolk so luckily for the spoonful of beetroot relish cutting through the richness. It was a beautifully presented tower of breakfast with lots of bright hues and vivid flavours.

Axil Coffee Roasters 322 Burwood Rd Hawthorn 4 HOT: Axil Coffee Roasters, 322 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn

Not content to try just one breakfast dish I ordered a breakfast dessert – red velvet pancakes. These are cupcakes disguised in pancake form! Three ethereally light deep crimson pancakes topped with a decadent mix of raspberries and a cream cheese ganache instead of the usual cream cheese frosting ($16.50). The cherry on top was the inky black sesame icecream which added a cool intensity to the mix. These spectacular pancakes are not to be missed if you have a sweet tooth!

I was delighted with the service at Axil Coffee Roasters too. They didn’t raise an eyebrow when I declined to order coffee and brought me newspapers and the food very promptly. As I was leaving the tables were starting to fill up with cyclists and young families doing the early morning shift.

With a reputation for good coffee and food of such excellent quality, no doubt Axil Coffee Roasters will continue to attract people needing that hit of caffeine and/or interesting, well-priced meals.

Axil Coffee Roasters, 322 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn (03) 9819 0091

Mon to Sun 7:00 am – 4:00 pm

minilink HOT: Axil Coffee Roasters, 322 Burwood Rd, Hawthorn

HOT: Common Galaxia, Shop 3/130 Victoria St, Seddon

Common Galaxia Shop 3130 Victoria St Seddon 3 HOT: Common Galaxia, Shop 3/130 Victoria St, Seddon

Common Galaxia sounds like a solar system from outer space, but in fact this cafe’s name derives from something more prosaic – Common Galaxias are silvery little whitebait which are found in the nearby Maribyrnong river (and in many rivers around the world).

I really like the poetic tale about them on the website ‘The Common Galaxias is a tiny reminder that nature will survive everything we build, and you can only ever borrow a spot on the bends of a river. A spot like this one…’ – being increasingly gentrified Victoria Street, Seddon.

In this still evolving strip of neighbourhood cafes and shops Common Galaxia stands out for its consistently excellent Seven Seeds coffee, the famous ‘Morkchocolate’ and the award-nominated interior design by previous owner Luke Mutton (who also owns Dead Man Espresso) in collaboration with the builder Fido Projects and with custom fittings by Justin Lamont of Life Space Journey.

The result is like being inside a beautiful wooden ship, with a mixture of American oak veneer, raw steel, copper, powder-coated fixtures and the whoosh of the coffee machine like the tooting of a steamer’s horn (for more interiors photos, click here).

Common Galaxia Shop 3130 Victoria St Seddon 4 HOT: Common Galaxia, Shop 3/130 Victoria St, Seddon

I’m also particularly enamoured by the beautifully crafted adjustable wooden stools by Illogical Study that line the window bench.

Common Galaxia Shop 3130 Victoria St Seddon 2 HOT: Common Galaxia, Shop 3/130 Victoria St, Seddon

Now for the food. The cafe is open daytime only so the menu is split into bakery, fruit and cereal, eggs and brunch and then sandwiches and larger lunch dishes from 11:30am. I try the fried egg with pancetta, potato and leek which is filling and loaded with hearty, rib-sticking savoury flavours.

Common Galaxia Shop 3130 Victoria St Seddon 1 HOT: Common Galaxia, Shop 3/130 Victoria St, Seddon

RM has a grilled ham and cheese sandwich which is fairly unexciting on its own but is saved with some spicy tomato relish that we also took home.

Common Galaxia Shop 3130 Victoria St Seddon 5 HOT: Common Galaxia, Shop 3/130 Victoria St, Seddon

And while it was still technically breakfast time we couldn’t go past the iced chocolate made with Jock’s Ice Cream and Mork chocolate ($6). It’s a delicious, icy, sweet concoction which is really just an excuse to drink dessert – go on and indulge!

Common Galaxia Shop 3130 Victoria St Seddon 6 HOT: Common Galaxia, Shop 3/130 Victoria St, Seddon

Common Galaxia is a firm favourite of westies and as of last week Common Galaxia has new owners – the Fox family – so it’ll be interesting to see what changes, if any, will result from the new hands. 

Common Galaxia, Shop 3/130 Victoria St, Seddon +61 3 9689 0309

Tue – Fri 7:30am – 4pm

Sat – Sun 8am – 4pm

minilink HOT: Common Galaxia, Shop 3/130 Victoria St, Seddon


View MEL: HOT OR NOT in a larger map

HOT: Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch, Sosta Cucina, 12 Errol St, North Melbourne

Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch Sosta Cucina 12 Errol St North Melbourne 1 HOT: Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch, Sosta Cucina, 12 Errol St, North Melbourne

It’s been a long time between visits to Sosta Cucina but I was happily reminded by how much I like this North Melbourne stalwart. It’s the kind of place that I’d love to have as my Italian local – the mainly Northern Italian menu is delicious and unpretentious and the owners, executive chef Maurice Santucci and his wife Melissa, work the front of house, clearly loving what they do. It’s hospitality with a capital H.

I was recently invited to rediscover Sosta Cucina as they were hosting the launch of Lavazza Australia’s premium, invitation-only coffee blend, Gran Riserva.

Long time readers will know that one of the quirks of my stomach is that I don’t drink coffee – but I will happily eat it in food! So while I can’t comment on the quality of Lavazza‘s Gran Riserva blend (80% Arabica and 20% Robusta sourced from Brazil, Central America and India) I can report that it is delicious in an Espresso Martini and tiramisu (more on that later).

Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch Sosta Cucina 12 Errol St North Melbourne 5 HOT: Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch, Sosta Cucina, 12 Errol St, North Melbourne

The dinner included some of Sosta Cucina‘s current and past menu items and some special one-off dishes. It started with antipasti – a vitello tonnato with lightly poached veal, tuna mayonnaise, seared yellowfin tun and capers. I found the meat to be slightly chewy but the unusual (though traditional) surf-and-turf combination of flavours was well-balanced.

Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch Sosta Cucina 12 Errol St North Melbourne 7 HOT: Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch, Sosta Cucina, 12 Errol St, North Melbourne

Next up was Sosta Cucina‘s version of a steak tartare. It was made with hand cut pasture fed beef fillet marinated with garlic, anchony and olive oil and then you were invited to make a Pro Hart mess with the nettle puree and egg cream. The whole combination was then piled onto some toasted brioche.

Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch Sosta Cucina 12 Errol St North Melbourne 8 HOT: Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch, Sosta Cucina, 12 Errol St, North Melbourne

From the savoury courses the highlights for me were the primi piatti. First up, fat agnolotti filled with veal and rabbit and a classic sage and butter emulsion. So bad for your waistline, so great for your tastebuds.

Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch Sosta Cucina 12 Errol St North Melbourne 4 HOT: Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch, Sosta Cucina, 12 Errol St, North Melbourne

Then a masterful risotto made with generous slabs of porcini mushrooms, with just the right bite to each rice grain and bringing an autumnal earthiness to the nose. If you’re eating at Sosta Cucina then you must try their pasta/risotto dishes.

Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch Sosta Cucina 12 Errol St North Melbourne 6 HOT: Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch, Sosta Cucina, 12 Errol St, North Melbourne

Of the secondi meat dishes my favourite was a braised rabbit with pancetta, thyme, chestnut honey and pearl onions, with its blend of sweetness, saltiness and pickled sourness.

Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch Sosta Cucina 12 Errol St North Melbourne 2 HOT: Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch, Sosta Cucina, 12 Errol St, North Melbourne

The dinner concluded with a unique take on tiramisu which I hope will end up on the Sosta Cucina menu. Each person received a traditional silver coffee platter with the ingredients and equipment to ‘make your own’ Gran Riserva tiramisu. The espresso coffee was inside the miniature percolater and then you layered and mixed the sponge discs and marscapone cream inside. It added a little bit of interactive theatre to enhance a quintessentially Italian dessert.

Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch Sosta Cucina 12 Errol St North Melbourne 3 HOT: Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch, Sosta Cucina, 12 Errol St, North Melbourne

Sosta Cucina are the first restaurant in Australia to serve Lavazza‘s Gran Riserva blend and the launch demonstrated the skill of their kitchen in interpreting traditional Piedmont dishes. It’s worth a visit, with or without a coffee.

Lavazza Gran Riserva Blend Launch, Sosta Cucina, 12 Errol St, North Melbourne +61 3 

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