Melbourne, the city that beat Starbucks into submission! Yes! Coffee culture is especially strong here, thanks to the Italian influence and the numerous tiny, small-business cafes. No country for large chains here. Let’s not forget the influence of the beautifully grungy hipsters! Nearly all of the little cafes refuse to have a proper website, or even a website at all, so your best bet is Google.You’ll find Google reviews, menus on foodie site Zomato which may or may not be up-to-date, or you can reactivate your Facebook account when you’ve been on a social media detox…damnit.
First, let me say this whole coffee/food critic thing is fun. Eat and drink and tell what you loved and hated and it pays your bills? I can see why people do it for a living. I’m not sure if I’m a horrible person to critique coffee because I have next to no coffee experience (before Melbourne I could count the number of coffees I drank -in my entire life- on both hands). Or maybe I’m the perfect person to critique, because I have a sensitive, virginal palate. Wink, wink.
No-so-honorable mentions: Brother Baba Budan. This is what everybody claims is the best coffee in Melbourne, and some of the best in Australia? Honestly, I just wasn’t all that impressed. Just cause y’all are tiny and have chairs all on your ceiling, I’m supposed to fall in love? I mean, it had a super cute location (Little Bourke Street in the CBD) and a quaint, warm little atmosphere. It makes you feel like you’re right in the heart of the place because you literally are sitting in their work space, watching the barista do his thing. It felt more affectionate than squashed and that’s saying something because I hate crowds. It is hard to take pictures, though, when you can’t raise your elbows up past your sides.
Their small bites might have been good but I didn’t even realize they had any until I sat down and they were in all these random shelves and cubbies. Then I got excited ’cause I thought they were playing Common’s “The Light” but it was just the instrumental. Almost doesn’t count. Most importantly, when I tasted my coffee, I got a strong burn taste. I had to add sugar to make it more palatable. No sir, that ain’t gonna fly. I don’t like the burn. I’ll never like the burn. I had a mocha and they served it in a glass with no handle, which I’ve learned I don’t prefer. *lifts nose into the air* So, while I can see the appeal, for me Triple B didn’t quite live up to the hype. Still ten times better than Starbucks, though.
Proud Mary: It was painfully cute. Spacious enough to sit and chill, beautifully designed with a combination of industrial and cozied-up-in-a-comfy-chair vibes, and located in Collingwood which is probably the second coolest Melbourne neighborhood after Fitzroy. My server was the most beautiful darn thing ever, inside and out. She was a major highlight, because there’s nothing I love more than a server who’s genuinely happy to talk to you. Unfortunately, other than that it fell flat for me. The menu on the illustrious Zomato is wrong; they just recently updated it. The thing I wanted was no longer available, so I picked the new thing;
Pretty, huh? Tragically, that’s all they were; pretty strawberry pancakes. They lacked any real flavor. I felt like I was just going through the motions of eating. How did these make the new menu??
While their presentation was absolutely the prettiest with their cheerful blue ceramic mug (which is the way I PREFER to drink me coffee *sniffs pretentiously*), their coffee had stronger burn taste than many of the other places I’ve been. Not as bad as Triple B, but not good enough to redeem them. Again I say; tragic.
5. Patricia: Why so bitter? Reminds me of… well, me. First, the service was exceptional. The gent who greeted me when I walked in was genuinely warm and happy to be serving his customers. He was also tall and handsome, which didn’t hurt. I peeped the ring or else I might have taken a run at him. He he. Patrica is another teensy tiny coffee shop, but again it feels cozy, not cramped. With the big windows and hardwood floors, it’s sort of like you’re in your own kitchen on a Sunday morning. They’re also in the CBD but not quite in the heart of things. The radio station played a fun sort of soft classic rock mix; two of my favorite Fleetwood Mac songs came on (Gypsy and Everywhere) so they won points for that, but then Toto’s Africa came on and I’ve never really been sure how to feel about that song; I’m just not sure if it’s a good or not.
I couldn’t get a mocha because they didn’t make em-purists, I suppose-so I had a flat white instead. They have an assortment of baked goods avaialble but nothing that caught my eye. They serve you a nice little cup of mineral water, which made me feel all fancy and stuff. I’d yet to have coffee that was bitter; I was told there was a double shot of expresso in it; it didn’t need the two. Handsome, Polite Coffee Serving Gentleman did assure me he would make me something else if I didn’t like what I got. To be fair, if I’d taken him up on it I probably would have liked my coffee experience better. He refilled my water and asked if I liked the coffee, to which I replied I did (read: I lied) but I appreciated their attention to detail and they gave me such good vibe.
Overall, I really enjoyed them and the coffee except for the bitterness. It’s not that I wouldn’t go again, I just have other places I’d go first.
4. Duke’s: This place also had a cute atmosphere; less funk and more class with a warm, modern design. Kinda Starbucks-y, but my gripe with Starbucks has never been their atmosphere. It was a little dark though, and I was like jeez is this a nightclub? Duke’s location is freaking stellar; right in the heart of the CBD, on Flinders Lane between Swanston and Elizabeth, around the block from Flinders Street Station, Fed Square and the Yarra River. I mean, come on.
Had myself a mocha. No bitterness. No burn. Praise Jebus. Just one little problem; not much flavor. Kinda disappointing, but still an overall pleasant coffee drinking experience. What the coffee didn’t have was damn sure made up for by the sour cherry and cream cupcake. Jumpin’ Jehosephat, the foodgasm. I had a meltdown.
It also wasn’t the most spacious, but that was no surprise. Everybody just seems to find themselves a little cubby in the CBD. I had almost enough space to set up my laptop and do some writing; unfortunately not enough to do it comfortably. Overall though, Duke’s is a winner! While I enjoyed them, they couldn’t quite crack my top three. Next post I reveal those illustrious, magical cafes; the places I actually would, and did, return to!