Friday 23 April 2010

Cafes of Melbourne 4: Southern Exposure

Here's the final part of the online Melbourne cafe guide I wrote a few years ago, which I've reproduced here with a few tweaks and updates.

This week, I head south to inspect the cafes between Melbourne's city centre and Port Phillip Bay...

Europa Cake Shop
81 Acland St, St Kilda
+61 3 9534 2156

Cakes, cakes and more cakes. This cafe serves up lots of cakes. Did I mention it has cakes?

They’re worth a mention, because this is the best of the famous cake shops that line Acland Street. It's hard to miss, with its mouth-watering window displays of home-made sweet delicacies.

Europa, run by a Polish-descended family, carries on the Central European cake tradition, and also stocks a range of chocolates from that part of the world. More unusual items in the window include poppyseed cake, rum-soaked spongecake, and novelties like chocolate-dipped baklava (OK, so that’s sorta southern European).

But its best cake must be the cherry strudel - not too sweet, and packed with fruit. Europa also serves the usual savoury items you’d expect a cafe to dish up, like pies, dips, and bacon and eggs for breakfast. But let’s face it, you come here for the coffee and cakes.

Summary: This is the best of the European-style cake shops on Acland Street, with great cakes and coffee to match.

Albert Park Deli
129 Dundas Pl, Albert Park
+61 3 9699 9594

The bayside suburb of Albert Park has maintained a village feel, despite its proximity to the central business district. Unlike other inner suburbs, Albert Park never went through the usual cycle of riches to rags, and back to riches again – this was always a well-heeled location. The result is a pleasant collection of Victorian dwellings and shopfronts, with plenty of trees and the odd bit of art deco thrown in for variety.

Fitting in with these genteel surrounds, the Albert Park Deli feels “just so”, a tastefully designed mix of cafe and food store, with shelves of gourmet goodies opposite a display counter bulging with tempting salads, baguettes and other savouries.

These include tasty items such as coriander tabouli, lima bean salad, Moroccan lemon vegetables, beef stroganoff and vegetarian moussaka. The coffees are good stuff, and there’s a range of quality herbal teas for those cutting back on the caffeine.

Summary: This cafe and food store provides classy food and drink in a genteel setting.

Caffe Panette
144 Cecil St, South Melbourne
+61 3 9690 2803

The South Melbourne Market is a legacy of an earlier age, its sprawling shed-like structure housing food shops of every type imaginable. So you might imagine that a cafe opposite the market would be in for some stiff competition.

Not a bit of it. Panette actually does well from market shoppers resting after a hard morning’s haggling. And it’s an attractive place to take a break. Its corner location and broad footpaths mean plenty of room for umbrella-shaded tables, and space to put down shopping bags.

Inside, it’s a classic Italian-style cafe, with polished floorboards, wooden shelves lined with bottles, and a line of cushioned barstools at the window.

The menu is a treat, especially at breakfast with its classy variants of familiar dishes: ham hocks and haricot beans in a rich tomato sauce, for example. Lunch presents stylish pastas and salads, along with specials like a chicken, leek and potato pie.

Summary: The perfect cafe at which to rest after a shopping session at the South Melbourne Market.

Note: As this article was researched some years ago, the author takes no responsibility for readers' reliance on the information within. Always check on the current coffee situation before travelling to Melbourne.

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