Kris Wood’s plan to sweep into Melbourne, pilfer all the great café ideas and haul them back to Perth didn’t quite pan out. “I was here for one day, turned to my brother and said: ‘I can’t go back to Perth. It’s like going back to 1995.’” Wood and Melbourne are one of those perfects matches. His life revolves around caffeine, eating out, vintage bikes and beards. He and his facial thatch belong in Victoria.
Four years on, and after two, two-year stints at venerable coffee institutions St Ali and Proud Mary, Wood has made good on his threat, swinging open the cupboard doors to his own place, Clement. The brand new stand and sip specialty coffee shop is located in the old electrical substation of South Melbourne Market, and for Wood, who’s obsessed with teaching customers about the unique qualities of different beans, that’s a perfect fit too. “The South Melbourne clientele are amazing. St Ali, Dead Man Espresso, Padre and Cottle have been around for ages, so people around here already have an education. For us to build on that is simple.”
Wood managed a restaurant and wrote wine lists back in Perth, and he's always approached coffee like a sommelier. “When you drink a chardonnay and a riesling they’re both going to taste like white wine, but you might say ‘I bloody hate chardonnay!” and ‘I love riesling!’ It’s the same with coffee.”
So, Wood and his beardy team of baristas (they all have matching chin warmers at Clement – it’s part of the uniform), provide tasting notes on their two rotating roasts, steering you towards the bean that will best suit your latte or long black. “People always say coffee is just ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but for us, there's so much more to it than that.” Help him out Melbourne, he just wants you to express yourself when you shot an espresso. It's not all black or white.
Clement, Stall 89, South Melbourne Market, 116-136 Cecil St, South Melbourne.