De Clieu is the hottest cafe on the Gertrude Street strip at the moment and it was one of the reasons I’d avoided it till now. The crowd overspilling into the footpath tables and lounging in the frame of the large street-facing windows seemed too cool for school (or at least too cool for me) and there always seemed to be a line of people waiting to get inside – and when a pregnant lady is hungry she has to eat RIGHT NOW.
The second reason I’d not been hunting it down since it opened in October is because I’m not a coffee drinker – and De Clieu is the brainchild of the coffee maestros behind Seven Seeds and Brother Baba Budan. I wasn’t sure whether their food menu was a coffee afterthought and whether I’d actually be able to add anything to the blogosphere love for this place.
Well, I’m pleased to say for all you non-coffee drinkers out there, the food at De Clieu is top-notch. The menu is small (one page) but interesting and while yes, the atmosphere is definitely cool, it’s still friendly and welcoming.
If you can’t snag a prized street-side view, then draw up an old-school chair inside the corridor of brushed concrete, wood and white hospital tiles, a look which epitomises Melbourne’s brand of warehouse chic thanks to architects Six Degrees. If you sit in front of the cake cabinet filled with Little Bertha delights and croissants from Dench, you get an even better view :–)
My order of lentil and rice pancake with spicy coconut, pea and potato filling sand green mango yoghurt ($13) was a beautifully presented wheaten round encasing a spill of fragrant coconut sauce with a surprisingly high heat quotient. A highly recommend tangent away from your usual breakfast and lunch cafe fare.
I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m eating for two (ha!) but I didn’t feel quite full enough after it, so went for a second lunch course of thick cut grain bread from neighbour Fatto a Mano with balsamic roasted sardines, red onion, parmesan and squishy roasted tomatoes ($10.50). It was generally a satisfying two-hander sandwich but I had small two gripes with it – the filling was too cold and presented a not very pleasant contrast to the warmly toasted bread, and while it’s good to know that they didn’t just open a tin of John West for the filling, I had to extract two spiky fins while biting into my lunch.
Overall my lunch at De Clieu was relaxed and tasty and many reviews tell me that the coffee is excellent (such as Eat, Drink, Stagger, Melbourne Culinary Journal and The Age). The cafe is a winning formula for the Fitzroy set, fixies, skinny jeans and coffee-drinking optional.