Melbourne's 26 best café experiences

Your alphabeticised guide to Melbourne's best sandwiches, baristas and breakfast experiences

A IS FOR ANIMAL FARM

The Farm Café in Abbotsford may just be the happiest and squealiest place on earth. You’re eating eggs and fresh greens plucked from the working farm below, where a mixed gaggle of poultry, goats and children are squawking, dropping ice creams and falling over. It’s adorable, and hilarious. As of recently they also serve waffle cones of organic chocolate soft serve.

B IS FOR BREAKFAST BOOZE, WITH JASON CHAN

You know who knows a good place for a little breakfast boozing? Jason Chan, Batch Café owner and co-founder of West Winds Gin. Check out his top five breakfast bloody marys here.

C IS FOR CRUMPETS!

If we were asked to draw joy, we’d sketch you a crumpet: soft, spongy, crisp-edged little disks of breakfast happiness. And thanks to one Martin Beck, aka Dr Marty, you can get ’em freshly made at farmers’ markets all around town. He’ll even make a house call if you order more than six bags.

D IS FOR DEEP SOUTH BREAKFAST

What is it? Buttery biscuits topped with sawmill gravy – that’s a white sauce flecked with spicy, nutmeggy pork breakfast sausage – and a couple of poached eggs. Get ’er done at Rockwell and Sons.

E IS FOR EVERYDAY COFFEE’S MARK FREE

You know that Flour Market you've all been going crazy for? Mark Free of Everyday Coffee is one of the guys responsible for the baked goods madness. Read out interview with him here. 

F IS FOR FREELANCE AT FLIPBOARD

We love Flipboard, it's a multi-level cubby house for adults! The brownies have enough density to maim if pitched across a room and if you need to conduct business, there are nooks and crannies into which you can drag a book/laptop/colleague. We like their style, too – during the heatwave they built a makeshift pool out the front.

G IS FOR GO GREEN

Footprint-free breakfast! These places serve direct-sourced, mostly organic produce and create bugger-all waste. Silo - A completely waste-free café serving made-from-scratch farm to table dishes. Ceres - The mostly vego menu is made with goods from the garden. The Grain Store - Seasonal salads, quiches and a CERES vegie box to go.

H IS FOR HAUTE CHOCOLATE

It you’re a sweet fiend, head to Brunettis for a thick Italian-style chocolate you can stand a spoon in. If you like it bitter and rich, chocolate factory-cum-café East Elevation make theirs with 70 per cent couverture chocolate, but for our money you can’t go past the dark, nutty number at Bowery to Williamsburg, which sees a dollop of peanut butter blended with the dark cocoa mix. It even comes with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

I IS FOR IDEAL BREAKFAST FOR THE INDECISIVE

They call it the breakfast chain. It’s the Breakfast Thieves’ answer to your fresh or fatty breakfast conundrum. You get two soft-boiled eggs and a stack of cheesy soldiers with a yoghurt and berry compote pot, and a cool dish of saffron-poached pears topped with biscuity crumble.

J IS FOR JOS TURNER, TRAVELLER

Meet the guy who's saving souls at the top end of the city from the miniscule new coffee house, Traveller. Read our interview with Jos Turner.

K IS FOR KID WRANGLE AT CRAFTERNOON CAFÉ

There’s a limit to the power a babyccino has over a small human. Macaroni, sparkles and a bottle of Clag paste at Crafternoon Café, on the other hand, are like tranquiliser darts for kids. Along with dainty cakes, breakfasts (go for the French toast buried by a berry avalanche) and tiny burritos for kids, they sell you all the fixings to make badges, facemasks and collages.

L IS FOR LIQUORED UP TEA AT STORM IN A TEACUP

By day Hannah Dupree’s specialist shop, Storm in a Teacup, is packed with punters gathering rare oolongs and getting a talking-to about what is and what is not tea. (Peppermint? Nope. It’s a herbal infusion.) But three nights a week you can also park yourself at the candlelit bar for tea-infused Old Fashioneds, beers and charcuterie.

M IS FOR MILKSHAKES

There’s nothing as mind-freezingly delicious as a giant cup of sweet, flavoured dairy. These are our stone cold favourites.

N IS FOR MISTER NICE GUY’S VEGAN TREATS

The idea of forfeiting sweet things has knocked many a vegan off the path of righteousness. But hold fast, gentle soldiers, because every brightly iced cupcake, loaf of bread and slice at Mister Nice Guy's Bakeshop is egg- and dairy-free and all-round animal friendly, using coconut oils and vegetables to work their magic.

O IS FOR OUTDOOR BRUNCH AT THE STABLES OF COMO

Como Estate is stunning – you walk in through what looks like the grounds of Downton Abbey, and thanks to the good people running the on-premises Stables of Como café, you can actually get properly aristocratic and rent a croquet set and get a basketful of quiches, cakes and rolls and do picnic brunch on the lawn.

P IS FOR PALLET’S CHEAP BREAKFASTS

This one’s for you, thrifty breakfast fans. At Japanese/Italian café Pallet, every breakfast costs less than a crisp blue tenner including the likes of a decent skillet of eggs packed with meaty hunks of tofu and salmon with a chickpea and avocado side. Fruit salad and yoghurt to go is $3.80. Chump change.

Q IS FOR QUEUE SMARTER

Love these places but can’t hack the queues? Here’s what to do while you wait… Proud Mary - Put your name on the list and then head to Tokyo Bike to perve on some sweet saddles. Auction Rooms - Don’t wait on the street like a schmuck. Bide your time at Counter, their new coffee bar. Top Paddock - You’re right on the edge of the Yarra so bring a book, wander down to the water and chill.

R IS FOR RIDE TO BLACK ROCK

It’s a 30km stretch, but the cerulean blue water at the end of the line is worth working up a sweat for. Most of the lycra set end up at Uncle Bart’s – a Greek café where you can get a strong latte and a giant slab of cheesy mousakka.

S IS FOR SEVEN SUPER SANDWICHES

There is a fine art to the perfect sandwich and these Melbourne cafés are getting top scores for their daily bread. Behold, seven sandwiches  your face needs to get acquainted with. 

T IS FOR TANTRUM SUNDAE AT SOOKIE LA LA DINER

Sookie La La Diner is all about swing – and fatty snacks. Prevent a hissy fit with a giant 1950s-style serve of chocolate ice cream topped with popcorn, syrupy waffles and fudge.

U IS FOR UNARM YOUR HANGOVER

Take your hangover to breakfast and fight fire with bacon and juice. These are our favourite hangover smashing breakfasts of now.

V IS FOR VIETNAMESE COFFEE AT N LEE

Extra strong coffee topped up with condensed milk and served over ice at N Lee. Don’t drink and drive – it’s a pure nerve-jangler.

W IS FOR WATCH THIS SPACE: THE TOWNSHIP

You can’t stop the folks at St Ali. They’ve recently opened their new venue Sensory Lab at Bondi in Sydney, and soon they’ll be opening a coffee universe in Port Melbourne. As always, the plans are immense, whimsical and subject to change, but we do know the space is 2,500 square metres and will house creative office spaces, a café for 100, a roasting plant, live coffee shrubs and possibly a skywalk platform. Owner Salvatore Malatesta has also made noises about a go-kart ring. We wouldn’t put it past him. Keep your eyes peeled for progress at: Unit 2B/706 Lorimer St, Port Melbourne.

X IS FOR X-RATED MEAT BREAKFAST AT COBB LANE

You’ll come to Cobb Lane for Matt Forbes’ cakes. You’d be crazy not to – his espresso custard doughnuts and fanciful tarts are simply the best in town. But the UK pastry chef is also doing Britain’s greatest hits in breakfast form: black pudding, thick-cut bacon, a crumbed scotch egg and Welsh rarebit with house-made HP. Game on, arteries.

Y IS FOR YOGA AT HAWTHORN COMMON

At 7.30am every Saturday you can rock up to Hawthorn Common to get your downward dog on on the deck. Russian guru Masha Gorodilova teaches power vinyasa, which is cardio-tastic, so prepare to sweat a little. Right now you don’t need to book (but that could change if it gets much busier) and mats are provided, so all you need to bring with you is $20, which includes a post-bend coffee.

Z IS FOR ZUPPA TOASTED LOAF AT STOVETOP

It’s a little like doing a Tim Tam slam, only more Italian. At Stovetop you’re served a caramelised cube of brown sugar loaf in a bowl with a little vial of cold milk and a small pot of stovetop coffee. Soak your bread and eat it any way you like.

Who won the Melbourne food awards?

First published on . Updated on .

By Gemima Cody and Damien Minards   |   Photos by Graham Denholm and Roberto Seba

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