It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single cafe operating in Melbourne cannot survive without a coffee-making gimmick. Stovetop Espresso's is — as you may have guessed — stovetop espresso, an Italian steam-based coffee produced by passing hot water pressurised by steam through ground coffee. It's tiny but fashionable, and it's a first on the Melbourne coffee scene. This cafe space, however, is free of gimmicks and co-owned by two brothers who are possibly the nicest people you'll ever meet.
Their stovetop espresso is served on a monthly rotation of local guest blends. The house blend comes in two cup or four cup pots ($6 or $10 respectively). The menu has tasting notes attached, and 5 Senses have created a special blend for the cafe using beans ground specifically for stovetop extraction. There's also a Masala blend of Prana Chai ($4) and quality tea from sereniTEA ($3.50). The smell within Stovetop is so fantastic it's almost possible to get a caffeine high just by standing at the door.
The menu is inventive but inexpensive; it caters to the 'special requirements' crowd without offering the dreaded spinach and ricotta combo. Think lightly fried sweet potato and chia balls topped with poached eggs, rocket and baba ganoush ($14, V GF), or spiced quinoa and sago porridge with almond milk, coconut flakes and toasted almonds ($9, V GF). If your beat is 'Where's the beef?', try a crisp, beef bourguignon pie with a puff pastry hat or a hearty sausage roll – the pastry chef, Alex, really knows his stuff.
You can grab a house white, red or a Coopers Pale ($6) to drink at any time of day. Bottles of NZ Sauvignon Blanc and Barossa Valley Shiraz stand to attention behind the main service area and the usual spirits are lined up to order. Beers on offer include Peroni and Asahi and cider drinkers will happily discover that there's Coldstream Apple Cider ($7).
The local uni crowds could go nuts here, and the well designed rustic interior — designed by Robert Bolitho from Piece in collaboration with Adrian Malarbi from Hoi Polloi — gives Stovetop a pre-loved feeling. It smells great and boasts the familiarities of home, with a square communal table and triangular-shaped rooftop. Get your quiche crowned with caramelised onion relish before it sells out.