THE BEST COFFEE SHOPS IN MELBOURNE'S CBD
When you're doing an office coffee run, it's widely expected that you'll do what it takes to get the best cup possible. Whether it's hoofing it an extra block, through Bourke Street Mall or around the Metro Tunnel construction — no obstacle is too great when it comes to snagging good beans. Luckily, Melbourne's CBD is dotted with roasters and cafes turning great single origin and house blends into espresso, filter and cold brew coffees — you just need to know where to find them. So here we give you the best coffee shops in Melbourne. Seek them out and you'll be rewarded with both taste and thanks from your caffeine-hungry co-workers.
Patricia Coffee Brewers might seem simple on the surface, perhaps yet another Melbourne cafe crammed into a barely workable space. But look again. As one of the first spots in the city to charm drinkers with a tiny standing room-only space, it’s the mixture of old-school allure and Melbourne sensibilities that has coffee lovers – literally – lining up outside the door every morning (and afternoon).
Since its opening in December 2011, this inconspicuous slice of the city has gone about serving excellent coffee — white ($4.50), black or filter (both $4.20) — in its own simple way. With beans on rotation from various suppliers including Seven Seeds, Small Batch and Market Lane, it’s the little details that make Patricia stand out from the crowd: the beautiful marble bar, gentle white ceramic cups, handmade brass hooks, leather aprons, a carefully selected array of reading material. A small selection of pastries on offer changes daily and complements the black brew, all sourced from local suppliers.
CBD sibling to Industry Beans’ famed Fitzroy flagship store, this Little Collins Street cafe is a haven of top-quality coffee. Here, bright, minimalist interiors prove a cheery backdrop for your daily caffeine pit-stop, rocking minimal seating, but plenty of charm. While more petite than the original, this space has room enough for some pretty enviable toys, with the show-stealing La Marzocco Modbar allowing customers a close-up experience of the entire coffee-making process. The equipment is used to create a huge array of caffeinated gems, from espresso and batch brews, to a rotation of carefully sourced single origins. Industry Beans’ signature chilled sips — the Fitzroy Iced and the specialty coffee IB Bubble Cup — are on offer when the weather’s balmy, while food runs to a simple trio of grab-and-go sandwiches, like the spicy sopressa, pesto and caramelised onion number. Once hooked, you’ll want to jump on board the newly-hatched Industry Beans app, now available to download. It’ll earn you points and credit for every coffee you buy, and even let you order ahead.
From its cosy flagship space on Flinders Lane, Dukes Coffee Roasters is championing specialty coffee with a conscience, focused on environmental and social sustainability as much as on the final drink. The team’s firm on its commitment to ethically traded and sourced coffee, with each lot of beans traceable back to the farm it came from. The Dukes blends are crafted from mostly organic beans, sourced from across Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. And they’re showcased through a whole swag of methods, from classic espresso, to filter, to French press.
Nestled on the ground floor of Ross House, the small space has a clean Chris Connell-designed fitout of natural timber and signature green trim. Though charming and comfy, the space only has a few seats and is better suited to quick drop-ins and take aways than long lazy visits. Perch at the counter and watch the coffee-making magic unfold, and order a Costa Rica pourover and afternoon pastry.
Market Lane Collins Street is your destination for espresso and filter coffee, beans and equipment at the top end of the city. Located in historic Portland House near the intersection of Collins and Spring streets, the small shop is one of six Market Lane locationa, with the boutique roastery also operating cafes in Carlton, Prahran, the Queen Vic Market and South Melbourne. It serves its own espresso and filter coffee as well as a small selection of cakes from Beatrix Bakes in North Melbourne.
The Collins Street store was designed by Sarah Trotter of Hearth Studio, with eucalyptus-green walls and tessellated floor tiles meant to reflect the building’s Victorian heritage. Textured fabric walls and seating, matte walnut cabinetry and the use of cloudy marble stone are influenced by the work of Australian painter Clarice Beckett (1887-1935), who studied at the College of Art across the street.
As Glen Huntly residents have long been aware, local café Workshop Brothers Specialty Coffee is a rare hybrid of both substance and style. The minimalist, super Instagram-worthy space belies some serious coffee know-how and the enterprise has been so successful — nestled out in the ‘burbs as it is — that, in 2016, the team opened a second outpost in the heart of the CBD. You’ll find its house blend, single origin and filter here. Along with excellent cups of joe, the cafe also sells its own beans, bottled cold coffees, a selection of pastries and doughnuts.
Located on the corner of Flinders and Exhibition Street, this pastel pink cafe doubles as a retail outlet where customers can purchase coffee not just by the cup, but by the bag. It’s also somewhere you can go for a high-quality cup without being a qualified expert. The team — which includes owners of Hawthorn’s Bawa, Northcote’s Barry and Malvern’s Little Chloe — are approachable and friendly about the coffee it roasts and serves.
It isn’t just all food, though — the cafe also has a tight menu of muesli, toast and sandwiches with fillings like wagyu pastrami and chicken and jalapeño. You also get a pretty good view out over the traffic of Flinders Street.
5Everyday Coffee has long been doling out great coffee in Collingwood and, thankfully, you can now get your hands on its beans in the CBD, too. The cafe’s second outpost is located on Little Collins Street with a sleek, understated and effortlessly cool fit-out. Bags of Everyday’s beans are available for sale and coffee bits and bobs line the walls if you need to stock up your coffee cupboard at home. The cafe is mostly frequented by office workers slipping out for take aways, but there is a bench seat along the window if you want to sip your coffee in-house (and get your fill of its free sparkling water). Treats come from sister bakery All Are Welcome — you might find babkas, ham-filled croissants, carrot cakes and rhubarb tarts if you’re lucky.
4When you’re next walking down Collins Street, be sure to seek out this unassuming little pod of delight. Sensory Lab’s space-like cafe has garnered numerous accolades for its curious and artistic aesthetic. Wanting to create a ‘calm space away from the hustle of Melbourne’s CBD’, Foolscap Studio has styled a haven for coffee and tea. The cafe is a Swedish-Japanese fusion, combining calmingly minimalist design with spacey vibes for a machine-like feel. There are only a few tables for two, and a couple of spots for solo coffee drinkers. Here, you can have your coffee any way you like it — your blend will even come with tasting notes, and you even can take home a bag of beans. Small bits of food are available, too, like topped toast and a changing array of cakes on the counter.
Though one of the smallest, Brother Baba Budan has to be one of the most frequented coffee shops in the CBD. The Little Bourke Street cafe has just 15 seats inside, so if you’re heading in at coffee peak hour, you’ll have to be lucky to snag a spot. Even getting a take away cup tends to be a cosy experience. But it’s worth it for an expertly made Seven Seeds brew, either as an espresso, filter or nitro brew. A small selection of pastries and cakes are available on the counter as well.
Sun Moth is a 90-seater nugget slithered between the stream of apartments that make up Niagara Lane, acting as a cafe by day and bar by night. Patrons sit on long tan-timbered table surrounded by clean white walls, and tall windows shine light on overflowing pot plants that hang from the ceiling. You could almost mistake Sun Moth for a design studio or a library. The free wi-fi has drawn a strong presence of laptops, and people often use it as a study or workspace. Coffee is by Small Batch to fuel productivity. On top of this, a selection of craft beers and natural wines are on offer, ready to be paired with charcuterie boards. Don’t leave the eating too late though — the kitchen stops serving at 9.30pm.
Tucked down a CBD lane in a stunning heritage-listed building on Wills Street (just off LaTrobe) in a pocket of the city that’s usually reserved for business only, everything about Operator is unassuming. Yet, from the crisp design to the polished brunch and lunch menu, it fits right into its environment and surpasses the likes of other so-so CBD cafes. Sealing the deal is the coffee is from Brunswick’s superb Code Black roastery which is served as espresso as well as filter and cold brew. If you find yourself here in summer, a coffee spritz might be on the menu, too.
Top image: Dukes Coffee Roasters.