A good cafe should feel like a friends' place when there's baked goods in the oven — you can get comfortable on the couch, but you still have to use your manners when they bring you a cookie. In other words, it should be easy. And although the name might suggest otherwise, Hard Pressed is such a place. Sitting on Wellington Parade, it's visible from the window of the 48 tram, just adjacent to the tram stop. It's easy to find, it's easy to order off the menu, and it's easy to settle in, sit back and enjoy the spoils they serve you.
The only thing being hard pressed here is the coffee — a French Press accompanies pour-over and espresso — and, the star of the show, the Cuban sandwiches. These sandwiches stand out as the star inclusion on the cafe's Latin-flavoured menu, which covers the bready parcels, breakfast and salads. Orange braised pork, Swiss cheese and the all-important pickle fill the ciabatta rolls, which ooze with the juice of the slow cooked pork and a drizzle of Dijon. And the best part? An El Cubano can be ordered at any time of the day. Easy. Though, if you really want the pork (and you do) but can't stomach a sandwich pre-noon, order it with baked beans, mint and coriander on sourdough ($16). Pop an egg on top and call it breakfast.
Breakfast at Hard Pressed is egg-heavy — it's mostly a build-it-yourself affair — with the inclusion of some comforting jamon croquettes ($17) and a perfect mound of portobello mushrooms cooked in garlic and sherry vinegar on sourdough, topped with a poached egg and shaved manchego ($15). Sandwiches are available all day — Jamaican jerk roast beef, eggplant and pickled octopus, are a few more that accompany the El Cubano — as are summer salads. The Axil coffee is especially smooth.
To be fair, the whole experience at Hard Pressed is incredibly smooth, from the service to the serene surroundings. Styled by Mimi-Myrtle +Co., the cafe is filled to the brim with botanicals, fitting in with the lush green colour palette and rather leafy East Melbourne quarters. Just like eating cookies on a friends couch, this cafe is easy to get used to.
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