Experience the famous Melbourne cafe culture is one of the best ways to spend a lazy afternoon in the city, just walking through the little laneways and discovering little nooks and crannies to sit down and have a cuppa in. If you are a little overwhelmed as to where to begin, here’s a starter guide to help you navigate Melbourne’s cafe culture.
I had a ton of recommendations on which places to go and check, from friends who lived there to some of the tours arranged for us by the Jetstar and Tourism Victoria folk. Every day was a bit of an adventure in itself as we navigated the city, trying to decide where to eat, which places were open, and what we wanted to try for the day.
I’m not much of a foodie when travelling, but one thing I noted was that Melbourne’s food quality overall is quite high, even in the cafes, which is a stark contrast with Singapore’s own cafe culture where I’ve found that food standards are quite a lot more inconsistent – often you pay ‘cafe prices’ for hastily heated up food! I can safely say that while the food in Melbourne tends to be more expensive overall, you do get what you pay for and you could feel the care taken in the prep and that the food is of high quality.
So if you are headed to Melbourne any time soon, here are a list of tried and tested places that I liked and would recommend to fellow travellers headed into the city. It’s nowhere near exhaustive, but if you are easily overwhelmed by too much choice like I am, I hope it gives you somewhere to start from! As usual, everything put on a Google Map for your convenience, detailed recs in post below. I’ll need to put together another post for some of my dinner and drinks spots…
My favourite cafes in Melbourne
Hash Specialty Coffee and Roasters
I don’t drink coffee, so my drink of choice is usually a hot chocolate and the one served in Hash was my favourite of the lot. It’s a must-try not just for the taste but the really cool way it’s served – It’s a super-thick chocolate concoction that’s actually quite bitter on its own, which you pour into a cup that’s filled with a pile of fairy floss to sweeten. The heat melts the candy floss quickly and disappears into the cup of hot chocolate you finally drink, which is really rich and yummy!
I like that Hash wasn’t super packed both times that I was there, whereas the more popular Hardware Societe across the road perpetually had lines streaming out of it every morning! According to my guide from the Coffee Cultural Trek, Hardware Societe was much more popular on social media, but the food quality was much better at Hash. I did enjoy the food at Hash so I would come back here again!
Hash Specialty Coffee and Roasters
113 Hardware Lane (Look for the # sign or address above the door, there’s no real signboard, but it’s the one opposite the perpetually crowded Hardware Societe)
This is a homegrown chocolatier brand that has outlets all across Australia – in Melbourne we ate at the outlet in the rather grand looking Royal Arcade stretch as a part of the Hidden Secrets Tour that Tourism Victoria and Jetstar organized for us. We got to sample some Earl Grey pralines (divine!), but when it came down to the drink, our guide Sarah convinced me to try out their signature Belgian hot chocolate… with chili! I would not have thought these things would go together, but in the cold winter weather, the chili does give a nice kick and slow burn in the back of your throat which is surprisingly pleasant. Thumbs up for sure!
335 Bourke Street, Royal Arcade Shop 4
This cafe looks pretty nondescript outside along a seemingly empty alleyway, but inside the doorway lies a cosy cafe you could hang out in for a morning, which is what I did for brunch when my flight back home got delayed!
What really stood out for me was my Mushroom and Truffle Risotto, which was absolutely tasty and just about one of the best risottos I’ve ever had. Perhaps I was having a bit of a rice craving from a week’s worth of Aussie food, but hell yeah I highly, highly recommend the mushroom risotto if you ever eat there!
20 Guildford Lane
Our tour brought us to this donut store which didn’t seem particularly remarkable at first, but feeling a little peckish, someone bought a cruller to munch on while we walked. It was barely 100m away as we passed by Krimper (on an adjacent street) that there was some commotion in the tour group and everyone was encouraged to take a bite of the cruller to see what the fuss was about.
The cruller was soft yet crispy outside, an intriguing mix of sweet from the honey and the right balance of sea salt, and most hands went up for a second round, and two people quite literally ran back to the store to procure more crullers for the group.
That being said, when I dragged my other companions back here on another day, they were unfortunately less impressed with the cruller than I had been that first time, but for pastry fans, the donuts here I do recommend popping by to see if it’s to your fancy – the donuts tend towards more bready textures.
12 Sutherland Lane
Breizoz French Creperie
After exploring the Brunswick area and having burgers for lunch, we decided to swing by this creperie en route back into the city. My friend highly recommended the crepes and I do agree they are amazing stuff – definitely get the butter caramel if you are here! It my not look like much when they serve it but that buttery caramel filling is DIVINE.
Breizoz French Creperie
2/49 Brunswick Street (Fitzroy)
I decided I just had to try out Melbourne’s coffee for myself to see whether it would change my mind about coffee – I’d never developed the taste for it. Flipboard Cafe is a really cute, absolutely tiny place which also doubles as a jazz bar in the evening, and it was here that I tried my only flat white of the trip. My verdict? Tasted okay but I’m still no fan of coffee or much of a connoisseur, but it was highly recommended by the coffee tour guide and my companions assured me that it was very good, so I do encourage you to check it out as well!
What I really liked about Flipboard was the interesting cafe design – you can sit outside on the pavement and peoplewatch in these cute little cubby holes, great for ducking out of the cold winter wind for a bit!
141 La Trobe Street
Which are your favourite cafes in Melbourne to check out? Share your lists here! Some recs I had that I didn’t get around to visiting:
- Brother Baba Budan
- Duke Roasters
- Captains of Industry
- Proud Mary
- Stokers fine pancakes
- Chez Dre
- Hammer and Tongs
- League of Honest Coffee
Some tours you can check out – thanks to Jetstar and Tourism Victoria for arranging these for us:
- Melbourne Coffee Tours – Coffee Specialist and Barista Trainer Maria Paoli showed us lots of amazing cafes and where to get the best coffee (and other great food) in the city! Very knowledgeable lady who really knows so, so, so much about coffee.
- Hidden Secrets Tours – We did the Lanes and Arcades tour which brought us through the various laneways. A good first introduction to the city, and probably best if you are a really curious and proactive sort so you can get the most out of it! Our group was a little zonked out from the red eye flight so while I did enjoy it, I think I would have enjoyed it more with a good nap first!