Fred’s isn’t a normal cafe!
I could count twenty places to get coffee within a ten minute walk of where I live. An extra ten minute walk and you have many, many more. As I sit here, there are more than ten in Cremorne and that is not counting those on the border (being Church Street and Swan Street).
I predominantly work from home and that gives me the ability to spend inordinate amounts of time at cafes in my area, normally working, sometimes observing. My favourite cafes get to see my family often, and we have introduced tens of people to most of these venues.
Coffee in Cremorne and Surrounds – map link below
Coffee is a love of mine, but I am far from an expert. In my mid-twenties I went from being a milk based coffee person, with at least two sugars, to focussing on black coffee with no sugar. The transition took close to a year. There is nothing wrong with milk in coffee, but it does introduce an imperfection to a complex drink. It is no different to adding tonic to gin, but I do like gin and tonic.
If I can indulge a little further. The proliferation of single origin coffee is especially easy for wine drinkers to understand. You take a fruit and put it in a different location, with different soil, weather conditions, different plant age, and then have different methods of picking, washing and drying. You get a different result, and it can be subtle or obvious. If you add sugar or liquid other than neutral water, you are reducing the impact of the above factors. As a result, most good cafes these days offer a single origin for black coffee drinkers and a blend for coffees with different types of milk. For me, espresso (usually a double) is king, but a long black (not full to the brim, but a little more extracted than espresso with a dash of hot water) is a good coffee to sit on while working, or in a social setting.
In summer, I mix between hot and cold. While I was originally tied to a double espresso over ice as the main option, these days I have changed my preference to cold brews where good ones are available.
So, in my patch of Cremorne/Richmond, what are my favourite cafes for coffee?
Link to the Google Map
Top 6 (in no particular order)
Laptop parking is rarely a good looking feature of a café customer, but for me it is a necessary evil. Putting aside the terrific, consistently well made, black coffee (normally with a choice of two single origins), Top Paddock is a café dream. For years the food has been at the top of café fare in Melbourne, the staff have good longevity (though there has been a little more turnover lately), and there are heaps of nooks and crannies to keep things interesting. Laptop parking on the coffee bar is gold because I’m not taking up extra space, but it has a comfortable amount of bench space, and hooks under the bar for your jacket. The choice of single origins these days comes from Seven Seeds, and used to come from Square One (both of which have merit), and ninety percent of the time I recognise the barista. The staff have a good balance of being friendly, recognising a familiar face, without making me feel too regular. This is one of the best in Melbourne.
A previous review
Pillar Of Salt
There was a time where Pillar Of Salt attracted a decidedly more South Yarra crowd, but things have settled down somewhat. This is one of the few cafes I go to where long ago I forgot about the distributor of the coffee, and the type of machine, and just enjoy consistently well made coffee. Some of the main baristas have been here for years, and that is no different to many of the senior staff. My wife loves their prana chai, and so it has become a key takeaway venue. The food here is top quality; close to the level of Top Paddock. You can get Penny For Pound doughtnuts too. Life is good at Pillar Of Salt.
A previous review
I am curious. Just off Swan Street, Inward Goods opened a few years back and I had to check it out. When my sticky-beak looked around the corner I was comforted by some friendly staff and one particular customer who said this was the best coffee in Richmond. I wasn’t up for a coffee at the time, but I was back soon after and have kept coming back. In those early days I would say there was a little more enunciation of the single origin coffee I was drinking (by Vertue Coffee Roasters in Carlton) but the quality has continued to meet high levels. The only issue is the growing cost. I recognise the quality, but if I’m just taking away I often go closer to home these days. For sitting in the new fitout is good looking and clean, but not as comfortable for laptop parking, so again I pick my moments. The spanakopita jaffle is king for a snack (half) or lunch (whole).
Years ago when Mayday opened I wrote about an expensive orange juice that had been disguised as freshly squeezed (which it was when it entered the Nudie juice bottle). Since then things have improved to a level where I count Mayday as one of my favourites. Their coffee is superb and I normally recognise the barista. There is heaps of space to laptop park, or have a quick one with Sydney in his pram, and their food is fantastic. Out the back is Penny For Pound which sells their delectable pastries and cakes between Friday and Sunday.
A previous review
Hunted + Gathered
It’s time for chocolate. After eating H+G chocolate for the first time at Attica I knew this place is special. When they opened up a café, taking advantage of Assembly coffee (Carlton) roasted by Bureaux, I was over the moon. Catherine has never graduated from their hot (or cold) chocolate and why would you? The brownies and other treats are addictive, and the tiny pieces of chocolate at the counter are impossible to decline. All of the staff are friendly and have gotten to know the whole family. We’ve introduced them to many new customers too. It’s win / win.
Somehow the Reymond brothers broke into my sleep, and put an all day café and bar down the end of my street that I was dreaming of. Currently using a Seven Seeds blend (but soon to have a single origin I believe), the main barista, Daniel, does consistently great coffee. Some brioche as a snack and I can laptop park for hours! It is a very good looking space, and it is only a matter of time before I can no longer guarantee a seat.
Soon to be reviewed
The others I go to regularly (in no particular order)
The sister to Inward Goods opened a few months ago and is a nice space. It similarly has Vertue Coffee Roasters as supplier, with single origins that change frequently, and the same excellent jaffles. The difference here is the coffee bar is not wide enough for comfortable laptop parking, and the sun can be a killer on the tables at the front. Luckily for the team here, most of the time that I come to try to get a seat it is full anyway! There is still some settling down with the consistency of the coffee, which is made by a rotation of baristas to date, but it is usually excellent.
As a direct flipside to Vertue, Cheeky Monkey is my place for standard coffee. Neighbouring a flower shop (Glasshaus), the new digs (now a few years old) are warm and homely. There is heaps of room on the coffee bar to comfortably sit and occasionally watch the people and traffic go by, and I find I can normally get a spot even though it is usually busy. There are also several different areas, front, back and in between, that keep things interesting. There is a younger staff that seems to stay regular. The coffee is a blend, but is well made and consistent. Don’t worry about the slight film that seems to come with the long black as it makes no difference to the taste, but can deter on presentation.
A previous review
I’ve become less regular to Heresy but I’ve always liked their single origin long blacks and their cold brew in warmer months. This is basically a hole-in-the-wall and is best suited to take aways or a quick espresso on the bar. When I used to walk past for work I was a regular, but I still try to stop by every now and then. The sister café is in Equitable Place in the city.
Irene, barista and owner of Lumberjack, makes excellent coffee and cold brew. While we used to go weekly at my old workplace, I still occasionally go out of my way just for coffee here, or to catch up with the old gang for lunch. My affiliation leads me to write about Lumberjack, but it is definitely over twenty minutes walk away for me!
A previous review
If I’m in the area
I can be pretty hard on cafes, but that doesn’t stop me diversifying where I feel like a change, or I’m close by.
Again, in no particular order, cafes where I occasionally frequent around Richmond and Cremorne include Fifty Acres, Reunion, Touchwood, Jethro, A Thousand Blessings, Penny House, Friends Of Mine, Sloane Ranger, and Denis The Menace. All of these at one time or another were either regular or close, but things change!