Melbourne is consistently voted the world's most liveable city, and it's not just because of the obvious tourist destinations, award-winning restaurants and laneway coffee culture. Melbourne is an onion city — it has layers. One of the best parts of living here is the culinary gems you find hidden away across all corners of the city. And our reputation as a foodie city is by no means concentrated to the CBD.
In fact, out in the 'burbs, where the rent is cheap and the people are hungry, you'll find some of the most experimental, underground and downright weird cafes. And with Melbourne's extensive bus network on hand, nowhere is off-limits to the enterprising foodie. Think of your myki as a passport to gastronomic delight in the quieter corners of our fair city. We've been exploring Melbourne's east to bring you a list of easy and amazing cafes, all accessible via the bus network.
CHURCH OF SECULAR COFFEE
Monash Uni is worth a bus trip on the 742 to check out the leafy campus and its glorious space-aged architecture. But the campus itself is also chock-full of cafes (gotta keep students caffeinated to get through those all-nighters) and the Church of Secular Coffee is undoubtedly the best one. (It's no wonder — it being part of the popular coffee-roasting St Ali family and all.) As well as serving up their house-roasted coffee, it also has a weird and wonderful menu of what we like to call 'high-art concept breakfast' ideas. There's brioche french toast served with a mulled wine glaze and vanilla mascarpone ($16.50) and 'sweet potato toast' made up of a slice of roasted sweet potato, smothered in smashed peas and almond feta, and sprinkled with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, quinoa flakes and pomegranate ($14.50). Trust us — you'll want to be spending your Sundays in prayer at the Church of Secular Coffee.
38 Exhibition Walk, Clayton.
Both the Box Hill Bus (284) and the 612 bus will drop you just down the road from this sweet cafe — just make sure you come with a monster appetite to defeat its portions. The menu is two parts traditional to one part experimental, with jazzed-up cafe mainstays using local and regional produce and unlikely flavour combinations. We recommend the zucchini, cauliflower and amaranth fritters with eggplant kasundi and greens ($18.50). Or, for the sweetest of teeth, try the simple apple and chia muesli with lemon curd labna, strawberry coulis and fresh apple ($15). Pair it all with a freshly squeezed juice or smoothie, and you'll be laughing all the way back to the CBD.
It may be bold to say, but it's cafes like Mr Hendricks that make the home-ownership dream a reality for our food-obsessed generation. Why rent forever in the inner city when the outer suburbs have cafes like this? Mr Hendricks is a trendy and exciting cafe-coffeehouse on Whitehorse Road in Balwyn, and it's well-serviced by a number of popular bus lines with stops on Union Road just a short walk away.
The menu doesn't play by the rules, so don't expect a traditional cafe experience. (It also may help lure you out to the 'burbs, but its prices won't necessarily help you save up for that home ownership.) We recommend the indulgent crispy eggs dish, a reimagining of your traditional brekkie, with sweet potato puree, smoked ham hock, baby cos, bacon crumb and ranch dressing of sourdough ($20). The soft shell crab roll is excellent too, served with cabbage, cucumber and Thai dressing on a charcoal bun ($23). And the best part? The cafe fully licensed. Breakfast bloody mary, anyone?
468 Whitehorse Road, Balwyn.
Hidden out in Lower Templestowe on the 907/908 bus line is Aura Cafe, an unassuming little eatery that cooks up meals that look more like art. The broad menu is what you'd expect from a friendly neighbourhood cafe (think various smashes, bowls and brekkies of varying bigness) but damn, they know how to plate up. Do not forget your phone when you head out to Aura because you're going to want to document this. We recommend the corn fritters with smashed avo, feta, bacon and egg ($18.90) or the French toast for maximum aesthetic (and flavoursome) delight.
401/200 High Street, Lower Templestowe.
929 Cafe, conveniently located directly on the 766 bus line, is an experimental newcomer on the scene but has been getting rave reviews for both food and service. The menu here puts an Asian twist on Mediterranean food (a unique combo). And while it does serve up some more demure breakfast dishes, why would you bother with those when you can get carrot kataifi pastry with whipped feta and black garlic dressing ($17.50) or the cream cheese pancake garnished with pistachio and fresh fig ($13.50)? When we say experimental, we mean experimental. It's a testament to Melbourne's diverse cafe scene that boldness, weirdness and culinary innovation crop up all over the city — all you need to know is how to get there.
929 Riversdale Road, Surrey Hills.
Jump on a bus headed toward Melbourne's eastern suburbs to explore more of the area. Find your best route here.