Fitzroy has an astounding collection of cafes. I wouldn’t be surprised to meet someone and for them to detail their life’s ambition is to try every cafe in Fitzroy, and Fitzroy alone. Good luck to them because I’ve decided unless you live smack bang in the suburb, and don’t become a repeat visitor to any of them, you are going to struggle!
There are only so many Saturday and Sunday mornings you can dedicate to Fitzroy cafes, but those adventures, skipping traffic through the backstreets, and then spending twenty minutes trying to find a free parking spot, are worth the trouble. There was a time that you could accurately predict the likely crowd, the offerings on the menu, that the coffee would be well above standard, and that the fitout would look like many of the clientele – quite fashionable and good looking, without the ordinarily associated high expense.
These days there is no hymn book all of the cafes are singing from. There are all sorts of influences, many modern touches, and a far more diverse crowd from both local and further away. As more restaurants and serious bars have infiltrated the scene, the cafes have equally had to keep stepping up. Now the one up-person-ship has been taken to a new level that would be the equal or better of the best brunch spots I’ve eaten at in great cities like L.A. and NYC. Certainly the coffee is far superior, but the food is now as good.
The reason I am reflecting on Fitzroy cafes is getting to try yet another impressive option in the form of Industry Beans. Housed towards the back of the Rose Street markets, this new age industrial slash minimalist fitout with a variety of tables flowing through the cafe like waves, doubles as a roastery.
Catherine and I have a thing (because I can be a bit tight) that I drop her off to begin the waiting process, while I look for a free parking spot. This is normally a five minute adventure, except in Fitzroy. Today it requires several blocks in the rain, and I almost give up on my second time along Johnston Street, before – viola! – there is a spot three blocks away, twenty minutes later. Of course, by now Catherine is being seated and I do my other usual – run to the cafe!
I’m thirsty but not alert, ordering a single origin from one of my favourite countries (Ethiopia), but not realising it is decaf. Thankfully, our waitperson comes back thirty seconds later to check that I want decaf and I certainly don’t, changing up to the Indonesian Black Panther, which is fantastic. Catherine’s pear, rhubarb, lemon and mint juice is terrific too.
For breakfast I go with the crispy beans and quinoa. It is accompanied by chilli pickle, avocado, heirloom tomatoes, spanish onion, a poached egg, and I get a side of wood smoked bacon (even though it should be the smoked salmon they recommend!) This is quite an unusual dish for me to order, and the adventurous option has paid off. The combination works well, the chilli is the right heat for me, and there is enough crunch to make each mouthful pleasant.
Less adventurous, but just as nice, is Catherine’s avocado smash and chèvre, with a poached egg and charred lemon. The plate is covered with green tea sea salt, which adds some spark to the presentation. This is a simple dish that relies on its ingredients and these are high quality and full of flavour. Both dishes are comparatively expensive for breakfast, but given the quality it is still reasonable.
With service on top of the game too, this is yet another Melbourne cafe that is extremely impressive. There are a few handfuls of well known cafes that have exceptional food and very good coffee (or vice versa). It is far harder to have both at an exceptional standard, and while we’ve only had one visit to Industry Beans, the house roasted coffee, and very high quality food, suggest that this is an exceptional offering, even with Melbourne’s wonderland of cafes.