I was catching up with a recently ex-Sydney coffee fiend in the CBD today, so thought I’d better take him somewhere that flashes Melbourne’s serious coffee expertise. A truly great cafe in the CBD? Some would sneer that doesn’t exist, and that I should head for Carlton, Fitzroy or South Melbourne. Online searches drew a blank up the Spring St side of town, so I gave up and thought I’d see what I found on the way, hoping for inspiration.
Through the near-blinding rain that has been a feature of Australia’s eastern seaboard these past few weeks, I walked down the top (ie Paris end) of Bourke St and had a mild revelation.
How could I have forgotten: tiny little Von Haus (good for cosy evenings and slices of lemon tart, 1 Crossley St), Mess Hall (outside tables great in the sunshine, not so great for asthma sufferers, 51 Bourke St) and Pellegrini (allegedly Melbourne’s oldest espresso bar, fine for mama’s slap-up pasta, but I’ve found the espresso bitter in the past, 66 Bourke St). I wandered past boho Lane’s Edge (39 Bourke St) and then clocked Society (23-29 Bourke St), which has dwelt in my subconscious only as a place for great cocktails.
It being a 10.30am catch-up, it might have been a little early for Flaming Lamborghinis, but it was the best looking interior in the street, and not too crowded, so I pulled ‘George’ (whose name has been changed to preserve his identity) into a black-velvet booth and we ordered coffee.
Now, I’m not mainlining that much caffeine at the mo, but when I gets it, I want a hit – and am a little bit past being served a soupcon of latte for $4, so I asked the grey ponytailed waiter (think Byron, rather than Byron Bay) for the biggest coffee on board. He said they all come in the regular cup or a larger mug. A mug o your finest flat white, then, please sir.
Reader, he turned up with a satisfyingly large bucket. George, a raging addict who’d been inhaling coffee since the early morn, had a regular skinny latte. And it was good. Not bitter, not too milky, a touch of chocolate. George even got another one to go, so he could keep his caffeine levels up on the way back to the office. It was the old-school Lygon St roaster, Dimattina. Bonus points for the ladies’ loo, which features a $2 hair straightener to iron your locks turned lank on humid days like today. Too fabulous.