Melbourne Guide: Cafes

Melbourne is famous for it's coffee and 'cafe lifestyle' (whatever that means). Still, that doesn't mean that everywhere has good coffee; the general rule is smaller places with more boutique or lesser known brands of coffee tend to have the better drink, and usually have a unique look, style and feel. Laneways, alleys and streets where nothing seems to be happening are probably where you'll find a great brew and a new favorite spot.

Newtown S.C.
180 Brunswick St, Fitzroy

A cute picture of Milo and Otis adorns the shelf behind the coffee machine while the staff fill your order without stress and bustle wearing Australian tourist souvenir aprons. Thrift-store wall-hangings featuring horses, Lonely Planet guides, and mismatched crockery set the scene, along with maybe a bit of Neil Yong or Fleetwood Mac on the stereo, for a cup of coffee and a bit of people watching - if you can get your head out of the hip and up-to date collection of fashion magazines and the walls. You'll want to be best friends with all the girls who work there with their combination of cool designer jeans and vintage dresses. In the winter time their soups are warming and an absolute delight with a generous side of bread. Their breakfasts are unpretentious with toast, croissants, coco pops and baked eggs all available at low prices. I relish the opportunity to go there in the colder months to have a smooth and super-yummy hot chocolate with the most perfect foam. For the warmer months they serve nectars and raspberry smoothies to cool you down, and really they are one of the best reasons to visit Brunswick street nowadays.

Mixed Business
486 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill

Mixed Business is the sort of place I find myself taking a weekend bike ride to either for a big Saturday morning breakfast or to enjoy a warm day drink outside in their garden resplendent with flowers, a lemon tree and singing birds. In the winter the waitress will offer you a blanket when, inevitably, there are only seats left out in the garden. It's okay though, they are the kind your grandma knits and you feel like they somehow compliment your outfit, giving you a somewhat crafty edge. The menu is a little complicated; lots of sides and funny named things that I know I will love - I just don't know what they are yet (Franks = Saucages). Their porridge, ricotta on fruit toast and poached eggs with sides of relish and avocado are hard to decide between but at the end of the day you know no choice is wrong - it will all be delicious. The cafe's decorative scheme comprises mostly of minimalist wood, with vintage tea towel and cookie tin finds confined to the wall behind the coffee machine (probably so we can only look, not touch). Have a coffee, an organic juice and breakfast and the ride home, luckily for me, is downhill.

20 Presgrave Place, Melbourne

At the end of a laneway off another laneway Pushka is one of those places Melbourne loves to produce, discover, keep secret, tell everyone about and then say, "oh everyone comes here now, it's just not how it used to be" and move on to the next espresso bar that opens up next to a row of dumpsters down a back alley. Pushka features a fish tank, Melbournes smallest art gallery (20 X 30 cm) and often runs out of ingredients or simply they forgot to buy them that morning. None of this matters though when the baguettes are $4-6 and the coffees are just how you like them. If they are all out of soft drinks they will concoct one on the spot for you that will refresh you after trapsing the crowded city streets all day; Pushka is a haven from all the city hustle-bustle that led you down the peaceful bin-lined laneway in the first place.

Other honourable mentions go to Loafer Bread and Julio's in North Fitzroy for biscuity snacks and breakfast respectively, Cavallero on Smith Street for good coffees, sophisticated cool and a menu I don't understand, and Small Block in the city and East Bruswick - I haven't been to either yet but hear good things.

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