Auction Rooms is Melbourne cafe royalty. Consistently winning 'Melbourne's Best Cafe' or 'Melbourne's Best Coffee' or 'Melbourne's Best Place to Meet Attractive Bearded Men', the cafe has gone from strength to strength over the past few years, all the while smelling of Aesop soap, filter coffee, and success. Now, in an effort to both alleviate the hellish demand for tables during weekend brunch slots and to expand their brand into the standing espresso market, Auctions Rooms has given birth to a little cafe baby right across the road on Errol Street. It's cute, novel, the coffee is just as good, and — more importantly — it always has time for you.
Unlike Auction Rooms, Counter is not an ideal brunch destination. There are only two small tables outside and mere standing room indoors. The space seems open and inviting but, after ordering, it's clear it is a pick-up-and-go situation. And, as much as we all love long brunch dates, this is far from being a bad thing. Counter is the kind of cafe you can pop by every morning and not feel bad about the indulgence. Pick up a coffee, maybe a toastie or a treat for the road, and be on your way. No wait, no fuss, no problem.
Supplied by the renowned bean gods, Small Batch, the coffee is unsurprisingly pretty great and the baristas are always dependable. Our pick for summer is the iced filter which, at just $3.50, is a total steal to tide you over during the impending heatwaves that are surely on their way. If you're after something a little more substantial, Counter also offers a range of luxurious sandwich options including a manchego, grilled leek, roast pepper and mixed herbs toastie ($7.50) and a roast pepper, pesto, grilled zucchini, wilted kale and Lingot cheese baguette ($9). On the sweet side, your eye can't help but catch the front cabinet full of goodies such as cinnamon or passionfruit donuts ($4.50) or the selection of pastries including the classic almond croissant ($4.50).
Everything at Counter seems to lean towards a clean simplicity, from the sign on a large glass jug stating 'Please help yourself to some tasty water' to the fact that the cafe itself is designed in blocks of dense primary colour. Bright yellow countertops are plonked on large lime green tiles, that join up to red walls, bright blue cabinets and a cool blue roof. When viewed from afar it looks a little like a wildly successful game of Tetris. It's not for everyone, but the colour can definitely lift your mood. Perfect for when you wander in, tired and thirsty after enduring the brunch line for Auction Rooms in the late-morning heat. Perfect if you want to try something simple this summer.