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FOOD & DRINK

Melbourne's Best New Cafes of 2020

Start your day at one of our favourite newcomers — there are spots dedicated to Japanese-style soufflé pancakes, rare coffee and incredibly flaky leatherwood honey croissants.
By Concrete Playground
December 04, 2020
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Melbourne's Best New Cafes of 2020

Start your day at one of our favourite newcomers — there are spots dedicated to Japanese-style soufflé pancakes, rare coffee and incredibly flaky leatherwood honey croissants.
By Concrete Playground
December 04, 2020
  shares

MELBOURNE'S BEST NEW CAFES OF 2020

Start your day at one of our favourite newcomers — there are spots dedicated to Japanese-style soufflé pancakes, rare coffee and incredibly flaky leatherwood honey croissants.

2020. It's a year so difficult to summarise that even the Oxford Dictionary couldn't decide on a single word of the year. But in Melbourne's hospitality scene, one in particular rings true: resilience. Despite months of restrictions and some devastating closures, its cafes managed to proliferate. And, impressively, they continue to push the boundary further. We've seen zero-emission street food spots land in the CBD, one of the country's best roasters take over a warehouse in Brunswick and a patisserie with croissants so good they sell out in hours. So, we're celebrating the good that's come from the past 12 months by rounding up the best new cafes to open in 2020.

  • 8
    Monforte Viennoiserie

    Tucked away in a row of beige Victorian houses is the teal kiosk now home to Monforte Viennoiserie. Inside, pastry chef Giorgia McAllister Forte rolls butter, whips cream and laminates dough. Monforte only launched in August, but it’s already built a loyal base of local customers who are keeping McAllister Forte’s operation going, week in week out. Meanwhile, she’s keeping them on their toes with an eclectic menu of ever-changing seasonal offerings. As spring rolls into summer, expect to see plenty of berries and stone fruits on the menu, including blackberry and fig leaf tarts and apricot and buttermilk danishes. For something a little more savoury, Forte recommends the tropea onion, heirloom tomato and tarragon tart. McAllister Forte’s only year-round menu item is the humble bakery staple: the croissant. Besides a classic plain offering, there’s also a leatherwood honey and sea salt variety. It’s light, balanced and great to eat with the batch brew from Everyday Coffee also sold in store.

    Words: Mark Yin; Image: Giorgia McAllister Forte

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  • 7
    Juliette Coffee & Bread

    Dine-in cafe service sure didn’t get much of a run in 2020. But while those doors were closed, Melbourne-born Only Hospitality Group came up with a winning formula for its next new venture — a COVID-friendly cafe concept heroing takeaway baked goods, loaves of fresh bread and coffee to-go. And so, Juliette Coffee & Bread was born, taking over a former jewellery shop in the heart of Malvern. New sibling to the group’s many other cafe hits (including Fitzroy’s Bentwood, Glovers Station in Elsternwick and Camberwell’s My Other Brother), Juliette has a simple, yet considered lineup of house-made sourdough breads, Nutella-stuffed doughnuts and baguette sandwiches, including the saucy eggplant parma baguette, available to takeaway or to enjoy at one of the curbside tables. The concept has proved such a hit, that two more Juliette Coffee & Bread outposts have joined the original in recent months, launching in Hawthorn East and Ringwood East.

    Words: Libby Curran

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  • 6
    Bakemono Bakers

    This would be a pretty quiet corner of Melbourne’s CBD if it wasn’t for Little Rogue’s steady stream of loyal customers. The not-so-hidden gem took the city’s coffee scene by storm in 2015 and has since become a favourite for its range of specialty drinks. Now, just across the laneway, its founders are taking on a new challenge: Japanese- and Korean-inspired baking. Bakemono has a variety of sweet and savoury offerings, including fruit danishes, a trusty ham and cheese croissant and a zesty almond and yuzu version as well. Also on offer is shokupan, a soft and milky loaf of Japanese bread. Some have touted that shokupan will be the sourdough of 2021, and Bakemono is a great place to make that leap if you haven’t already. Take the whole loaf home, slice it and toast it for a tasty snack. You’ll also find croffles, which are increasingly popular in Korea thanks to K-pop idol Kang Min-kyung, and another Korean street food trend involving a bread roll filled with slightly sweet cream cheese and dipped in garlic butter — a new take on the old classic, garlic bread.

    Words: Mark Yin; Image: Parker Blain

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  • 5

    Tucked between the grey high-rises of Queen Street, you’ll find Keki Milkbar: a small, considered cafe that’s a cosy escape from (the usual) hustle and bustle of the CBD. If you don’t see Keki — although, it’s hard to miss its moss green exterior — you’ll certainly smell it. The space emanates a delicate sweetness not unlike the bakeries and cake shops you’d find in train stations around Japan. It’s serving up gravity-defying pancakes — a dish originating in Japan, but now adored all over the globe — with sugar-filled toppings. You’ll find strawberry, tiramisu, matcha, red bean, honey-macadamia (made with local honeycomb) and sticky salted caramel — a popular flavour among regulars. The drinks menu at Keki is almost as impressive as the pancakes. You can choose from orange and lemon, strawberry or mandarin sodas, which are made with fresh fruit syrup and fermented for eight hours. They can be served hot, like a tea, too.

    Words: Julia Sansone; Image: Parker Blain

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  • 4
    Casa Nata

    If anyone’s embracing the idea of doing one thing and doing it well, it’s the duo behind Thornbury’s Casa Nata. Ruben Bertolo and Nelson Coutinho’s High Street bakery is devoted to just one specialty: creamy pastéis de nata. Both children of Portuguese parents that migrated to Australia in the 80s, the pair is more than familiar with the custard-filled pastry, but felt it wasn’t being properly represented here on Aussie shores. So, they decided to do something about it, got cracking on perfecting a recipe and opened the doors to Casa Nata in April 2020. The menu is a testament to the idea of quality over quantity, featuring nothing more than Atomica Coffee alongside just one version of the signature dessert. Of course, the hero status of these beauties is well-deserved, each tart taking three days to produce and the recipes kept firmly under wraps. You can, however, catch a glimpse of the chefs in action, thanks to the store’s open kitchen.

    Words: Libby Curran

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  • 3
    Ona Coffee Melbourne

    If you love a good cup of joe but haven’t heard of Ona, things are about to change. The award-winning coffee company has a swag of popular Canberra cafes, plus one in Sydney that opened back in 2018, and has just opened a ‘coffee sanctuary’ in Brunswick. Step inside the bright, minimalist interior and take a seat at the interactive coffee bar and you’ll see that Ona goes far beyond your standard cafe. The most impressive part is the coffee, naturally, with a 20-plus list to choose from. You’ll find frothy milk coffees, single origin espressos, batch brews, pour overs, iced coffee and cold brew — and a reserve list of rare and expensive beans, for up to $25.5 per cup. Though you’re undoubtedly here for the java, Ona Coffee Melbourne’s food menu is worth a look, too. Brekkie-style items include eggs on toast, a pork and fennel sausage breakfast roll, hotcakes and avo with cauliflower hummus.

    Words: Libby Curran

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  • 2

    Ambitious newcomer The Commons at Ormond Collective has taken over the St Kilda Road site once home to the Belgian Beer Cafe Bluestone. Aiming for broad appeal, The Commons features an array of different elements set across its various al fresco spaces, including The Conservatory, The Kitchen Garden, The Garden Cafe and The Beer Garden. Throughout, expect a heady mix of gingham and floral prints, bold stripes, fresh flowers and wicker, with lots of Euro-style cafe chairs and park benches setting the scene. There are slightly different food offerings available at each of the different spaces, but the overall menu’s built around classic flavours, local produce and ingredients picked fresh from the onsite kitchen garden. Think, crisp flatbread crowned with an assembly of confit artichoke, greens, mozzarella and edible flowers; a spring salad featuring seared salmon; and a classic chicken sandwich with lemon mayo and shredded broccoli. Like any outdoor venue worth its salt, this one’s also optimised for guests of the four-legged variety. We’re talking doggy day beds, puppy parking and a dedicated food menu for pooches.

    Words: Libby Curran; Image: Marcel Aucar

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  • 1
    Atiyah

    Named Atiyah and run by Therese Helou and her son-in-law Ben Armstrong, this Lebanese kiosk is Australia’s first zero-carbon street food kitchen. Not only does the minimalist venue serve up a menu of top-notch Lebanese eats, but it’s doing so without a carbon footprint. Atiyah’s 100-percent renewables-run kitchen is the first of its kind in this country, with an on-site rainwater filtration system, solar panels, a Tesla battery and a generator powered by waste cooking oil. Flying from the kitchen, expect to see a range of traditional dips and manakish (handmade flatbreads) grilled to order with various sweet and savoury toppings. Pick from the likes of za’atar with salad, akkawi (an Israeli cheese) and sesame, and a gluten free and vegan choc-hazelnut dessert number. They’ll be served alongside the likes of Two Boys Brew kombucha poured from a keg.

    Words: Libby Curran

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Bakemono by Parker Blain

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