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FOOD & DRINK

Eight Mornington Peninsula Cafes Worthy of a Weekend Road Trip

Take a break from beach walks and wine tastings to refuel at one of these top-notch cafes.
By Libby Curran
May 15, 2019
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Eight Mornington Peninsula Cafes Worthy of a Weekend Road Trip

Take a break from beach walks and wine tastings to refuel at one of these top-notch cafes.
By Libby Curran
May 15, 2019
  shares

EIGHT MORNINGTON PENINSULA CAFES WORTHY OF A WEEKEND ROAD TRIP

Take a break from beach walks and wine tastings to refuel at one of these top-notch cafes.

Sure, Melbourne's inner-city cafe scene is littered with gems, but sometimes the weekend calls for a little more adventure. So, jump in the car and venture down to the Mornington Peninsula and you'll discover that it's got much more to offer than idyllic wineries and beautiful beaches. This coastal pocket is also dishing up some great cafe finds, from vibrant vegan haunts, to buzzy waterfront spots where you'd be more than happy to laze away an afternoon. The weekend is calling — here are our picks for Mornington Peninsula cafes well worth the road-trip from town.

  • 8
    Merchant & Maker

    Sitting just across the road from the McCrae beachfront, this award-winning cafe is a long-time favourite for locals and day trippers alike. Sporting a recent makeover, it’s an inviting, light-filled spot, slinging coffee from sibling roasters Commonfolk, alongside a seasonal, produce-driven food offering. Pull up a seat for modern brunch classics like white chocolate and mascarpone mousse pancakes, chipotle braised beans with slow-roasted pork belly, and the zucchini and chickpea fritters matched with goats curd, and pea and mint hummus. Meanwhile, sides like almond dukkah spinach, hot-smoked salmon and garlic-roasted mushrooms mean the build-your-own option is always a popular choice. If you’re not jumping in the water too soon after brunch, the booze list is a sure-fire hit — settle in with a Mornington Brewery tap beer, or maybe an espresso martini crafted on vodka infused with Commonfolk beans. Your sweet tooth will be in great hands, too, thanks to a dreamy range of house-made treats beckoning from that front cabinet.

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  • 7
    Nordie Cafe

    When Nordie opened its doors in Red Hill in late 2017, Mornington Peninsula wine country scored a dose of Scandinavian cool. With its smart, minimalist design, this Danish-inspired cafe is the work of Tom Portet (Yarra Valley winery Dominique Portet) and wife Rina, a Copenhagen native. The all-day menu champions clean, simple flavours, top local produce and contemporary techniques. Expect dishes like the signature Nordie Green Bowl ($18.5), loaded with quinoa, kale, avo, hummus and beetroot — or the potato and sumac rosti ($19.5) matched, perhaps, with smoked salmon ($5.5) and truffle hollandaise ($3). A range of smørrebrød ($15–15.5) and a Copenhagen hot dog ($17.5) fly the flag for the homeland. Nordie’s tidy retail offering runs from coffee beans through to stylish homewares from famed Danish design house Hay. And, while in Red Hill, you might as well take advantage of Portet’s winemaking heritage and visit the duo’s wine store, Red Hill Wine Collective, located two doors down. Here, you can pick up a bottle to enjoy in-house, corkage-free.

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  • 6
    Commonfolk Coffee Company

    Tucked away in an industrial pocket of Mornington, Commonfolk Coffee is one of the unassuming gems of the Peninsula’s cafe scene. Here, the house-roasted coffee is the hero, with specialty options to suit every palate. Every brew you order makes a difference, too, thanks to Commonfolk’s initiative The Cup That Counts, which helps set up sustainable farms in Uganda. To match, you’ll find a contemporary menu that hits a whole lot of different flavour notes, from the banoffee-inspired smoothie bowl ($16) to the breakfast burrito ($16) — loaded with refried beans, scrambled egg, sausage and tater tots — and a bagel ($20) topped with vodka-cured salmon, pickled fennel and crispy capers. Lunch might see you tucking into a serve of Korean fried chicken ($20), or a customisable poke bowl ($16–22), starring produce from the onsite courtyard garden. And if the mood calls for something a little stronger than coffee, the bar’s also serving up a tidy range of booze — think canned wine, local craft beers and gin from good mates at Drops of Juniper.

    Images: Tommy Terlaak.

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  • 5
    Georgie Bass Cafe & Cookery

    A contemporary cafe with an on-site cooking school, Georgie Bass is ideal for a weekend road trip down the Peninsula. Sibling and neighbour to The Flinders Hotel, it’s an inviting indoor-outdoor space, complete with dog-friendly seating and even a bike repair station. Alongside locally brewed coffee from Commonfolk, the kitchen’s plating up a modern Australian offering centred around local produce and seasonal ingredients from Georgie Bass’ own farm, Mornington Park. Tuck into the likes of a mushroom medley spiked with goat’s cheese and chilli, or the slow-cooked duck leg ragout served on soft cheesy polenta with walnuts, grapes and sherry vinegar. There’s a line of fruity smoothies to match, as well as a tidy range of local booze that’ll see you through the afternoon. If you like what you taste and fancy recreating some of the culinary magic yourself, check out the hefty program of cooking classes led by award-winning chef Michael Cole. The upcoming lineup features a pasta workshop, a guide to winter entertaining and a class on vegan and gluten-free cooking, to name a few.

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  • 4
    Store Fifteen

    Sitting pretty on the main stretch of Mornington, Store Fifteen is full of coastal cafe charm. The space itself has a home-spun industrial feel, all polished concrete, reclaimed timber and foliage hung from the ceiling — a setting primed for laidback weekend visits. But it’s the natural-leaning menu — full of wholefoods, raw dishes and preservative-free fare — that’s designed to really put a spring in your step. Here, you’ll find a swag of healthy creations, from thyme-infused mushrooms on toast, matched with house-made cashew cheese and pepita basil pesto, to a sprouted black rice coconut porridge, starring maple toasted coconut chips and caramelised banana. Espresso comes courtesy of Melbourne roasters Dukes, though a hefty collection of alternative lattes might just sway you away from coffee and towards turmeric, matcha or beetroot. Smoothie fan? Store Fifteen’s lineup is downright impressive, with blends like the Pumpkin Spice: a mix of roast almond butter with almond milk, pumpkin, maple syrup and dates.

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  • 3
    Pelikan Societe

    For a cracking Peninsula brunch matched with cracking Peninsula views, Pelikan Société is a tried-and-true favourite. The cafe boasts a sunny deck overlooking Hastings Bight and the marina, while the dining room’s got floor-to-ceiling glass windows, putting you front and centre of the action, even when the weather’s rainy. Here, a broad-ranging all-day menu has dishes to tempt the entire crew, plating up crafty takes on all the cafe classics. Items include shakshuka eggs — brought to life with nduja, smoked labneh and peppers — local mussels done with tom yum cream, and a banger of a Cuban sandwich, teaming smoked leg ham, pork belly, comte cheese and green chilli slaw. Coffee comes courtesy of international label Julius Meinl, and you’ll find a tidy list of local brews and wine for those laidback afternoon sessions on the deck. Keep your eye out for some of the cafe’s namesake feathered friends, enjoying their own breakfast in the shallows nearby.

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  • 2
    Wombat Cafe & Store

    As the Mornington Peninsula’s first all-vegan cafe and food store, Wombat has big love for all things cruelty-free. Rebecca Ettridge launched the venue in 2016 with the aim of gently showing Dromana locals that eating vegan needn’t mean ditching flavour. It’s a bright, youthful space, with local Little Rebel beans in the coffee grinder, house-made treats in the sweets cabinet, and a vibrant range of smoothies named after mountain bike trails in the nearby national park. The all-day breakfast menu is down to earth and hearty, with plates like the lemon-infused smashed avo, teamed with slow-roasted tomatoes and The Vegan Dairy feta, and a stack of banana pancakes drizzled with maple syrup. Loaded buddha bowls and a signature barbecue jackfruit burger take the reins at lunchtime. And at the end of the day you can feel extra good about your visit, knowing that proceeds from the cafe go towards funding Ettridge’s Plumfield Farm animal sanctuary, just west of Ballarat.

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  • 1
    Happy Pants 1549

    A cafe, coffee bar and yoga studio in one, Happy Pants 1549 is the kind of triple threat haunt that’ll have you wishing you were a local. Especially if you’ve got a penchant for healthy plant-based eats. The kitchen’s whipping up a (largely vegan) all-day breakfast offering, starring the likes of sourdough jaffles stuffed with chilli-spiked beans and vegan pesto, granola-topped acai bowls, and a banana and walnut loaf matched with maple and tahini. Lunch gets even more vibrant, with stand outs like the Thai-style raw veggie noodle salad, and a handmade potato gnocchi rocking tomato, vegan feta and plant-based pesto. Espresso coffee features local beans from Little Rebel, almond milk is whipped up in-house each day and the specialty brew from Rye Chai is always a hit. Post-yoga visits might just call for one of the Green Happy Digestion smoothies, which is a zesty blend of coconut water, mango, spinach, ginger, banana and pineapple.

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