In the dreary grey of the CBD, there are a few dependable saviours that we can always rely on to make us smile. A perfect coffee. A zesty fresh juice. A quick but creative lunch that makes us feel like we're lazing about a Melbourne alleyway on a Sunday morning rather than squeezing in a little sustenance between meetings. NoOk Urban Fresh Bar boasts all of these goodies in spades, together with an encyclopaedic menu that has us dreaming about our next visit before we've finished our Kenyan pourover.
Located on Clarence Street close to Wynyard station, NoOk is abuzz with the chatter of friends, the grind of various coffee contraptions and the constant whizz of juicers working overtime. We start things off with a pineapple, kale and mint juice ($6), blitzed into a mason jar that's been decorated prettily with a leafy green bouquet, while we mull over the remarkable menu.
NoOk is a celebration of fresh produce, the menu divided into all-day brekkies, hearty winter salads, burgers, soups, sandwiches and a specials list so innovative we just can't go past it. Bresaola and crumbed eggs ($20) takes brunch to an entirely new place; thinly-sliced wagyu meets the sweetness of spiced poached pears, crusty sourdough, goat's curd and perfectly oozy eggs coated in a crispy crumb — with devilishly delicious results. If you like a chilli kick, try the beef bao ($16), a creative reimagining of the traditional dish that features slow-cooked beef brisket, grilled veggies, balsamic-glazed onions, rocket, coriander and NoOk's special sauce on a bao bun, all topped with a generous smattering of grated parmesan.
You'll be bouncing all the way back to your desk after a thorough expedition through the coffee menu. All the favourites are there — Mecca, St Ali, Seven Seeds, Little Marionette — as well as a showcase of smaller suppliers with whom to become newly infatuated. Ask one of the knowledgeable baristas to guide you through the blends and single origins, cold drips and pourovers, or just stick with your usual order and marvel at how much better NoOk's is than the bland CBD coffee you're used to.
If you're anything like us, you'll agree proximity to a great local cafe is one of the most important perks you can have in a job. And with NoOk in our hood, we're very happy worker bees indeed.