Tuesday 20 April 2010

Cafes of Melbourne 3: East by Southeast

Here's part three of the Melbourne cafe guide I wrote a few years ago.

It's since been removed from the website it was written for, but I've reproduced and updated it here for your coffee-drinking needs.

This week, I visit cafes of the inner east and southeast...

George Street Cafe
65 George St, East Melbourne
+61 3 9419 5805

The George Street Café is housed in a simple shopfront among the glamorous mansions of East Melbourne. The building has been a food outlet since the 1860s, the current occupant being preceded by a general store.

East Melburnians are fiercely loyal to the cafe, sited away from the major roads that bypass the leafy enclave. It’s very much a local hangout, with suited businessmen grabbing a coffee before the rigours of the corporate day, and elderly ladies popping in mid-morning to pick up a jar of home-made preserves.

For such a swish suburb, it’s a surprisingly unpretentious place, with reasonably-priced straightforward cafe fare and the occasional stand-out: smoked salmon omelette for breakfast, for example, or dahl for lunch. With its earth tones and pleasant views onto the elm-lined streets, this is how a neighbourhood cafe should be – quiet, unhurried, friendly and a good place to read the newspaper.

Summary: This down-to-earth neighbourhood cafe in a quiet location is the ideal place to while away some lazy hours over coffee and a newspaper.

167 Swan St, Richmond
+61 3 9428 7300

Swan Street is a bit daggy, but in a nice way. Its bustling streetscape is anchored by the bulky Dimmey’s building at one end, and at the other end is Timbale, a veteran of the street’s cafe scene and a survivor from an earlier, more retro age.

One wall is plastered with posters for upcoming gigs around town, and a poster of Austin Powers’ nemesis Dr Evil. A secret-ish upstairs area feels like your Nanna’s old living room, strewn with comfy chairs and sofas from the swinging '70s. Lunch is an offering of focaccias, salads, pasta and burgers, with specials such as an antipasto plate, or penne with blue cheese, rocket and semi-dried tomatoes.

Summary: Take a trip back in time to a cafe with good food and coffee, and comfy retro sofas.

481 Chapel St, South Yarra
+61 3 9826 6442

You might well say “Meet me at the Kazbar”, as this cool cafe and eatery is well located in the heart of South Yarra’s shopping strip, near the Jam Factory centre and its cinemas. This is a more colourful place than its rivals on the north side of the Yarra - orange tones contrast pleasantly with greens and pinks, giving the place a cheerful but sophisticated feel.

Work by local artists adorns the walls, and there are sofas behind the tables for those who want to chill out with a coffee. Breakfast includes Scandinavian scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, along with a suggested “kick start” to the day in the form of a Stoli and grapefruit.

Lunch and dinner offerings include pasta, salads, soups and specials such as a marinated calamari salad with zucchini, pine nuts and raisins. And there’s seating on the street for those who want to see and be seen by Chapel Street’s fashion cognoscenti.

Summary: Join the “beautiful people” of South Yarra at this colourful cafe in the heart of fashion land.

218 Chapel St, Prahran
+61 3 9510 8693

“All the world’s a stage”, wrote William Shakespeare. Though he was associated with quite a different Globe, he would approve of this vibey cafe in the centre of Prahran, with its cast of interesting characters in its diverse clientele. Its corner location and outdoor seating also gives plenty of scope for observing the theatre of Chapel Street.

This café is filled with light, via its floor-to-ceiling windows and the blond wood used for floorboards and tables. Beneath a bar topped with globes of various sizes, enormous cakes entice. However, breakfast is where Globe really shines, with multiple options based on a range of national cuisines.

There are Italian, French and Spanish brekky options, but the star turn must be the Laotion breakfast, an omelette with dill, spring onion, bean shoots, rice and chilli sauce. Meals later in the day might include Thai fishcakes, tofu burger or Szechuan spiced porterhouse.

Summary: This is a café for global food, world’s best coffee and international-level people watching.

133 Chapel St, Windsor
+61 3 9529 1198

They say elephants never forget. This might explain Tusk’s name, as it’s a memorable part of the Chapel Street cafe scene. The interior is soothing, with its wooden floors and bar, retro copper lampshades and giant tropical sunset poster along one wall.

It’s outdoors that Tusk really comes into its own, with a large exterior dining area beneath the shade of two trees. One of them even sprouts up within a square table arranged around its circumference, allowing you to get back to nature in the middle of this busy shopping precinct.

Breakfast here is a selection of the usual favourites, along with the “Tusk Breakfast” of seared chorizo sausage, caramelised onion, mushrooms and scrambled eggs on muffins. Lunch and dinner include items like risotto al funghi, tandoori grilled chicken fillets and a “grazing plate” covered with chipolata sausage, lamb, saganaki, dips, olives, capsicum and Turkish bread.

Summary: Grab an outdoor table beneath the trees, order a coffee or a bit of good cafe food, and watch the world go by.

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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