In the well-storied cafe scene of Melbourne, it can be hard to discern the substance from the fluff. There appears to be an endless variety of designer all-day diners and grungier, hole-in-the-wall establishments. With so many options, each seemingly as attractive as the next, it’s easy to feel as though you might miss something. But something always draws us back to the venues that combine quality with beautiful design, bountiful food, and of course, that incomparable Melbourne-made coffee. These are our top 5...
The Kettle Black
There is a reason South Melbourne’s The Kettle Black has been spotted on Instagram accounts from Oracle Fox to Margaret Zhang. Nestled under the overhang of a neighbouring Ellenberg Fraser apartment building, the restaurant’s elegant white townhouse facade is worth a visit for the sheer juxtaposition of architectural styles alone. Inside, the fit-out by Studio You Me is equally impressive, with light filled rooms playing backdrop to sculptural design accents. In all this grandeur, it could be easy for the food to play a supporting role, but the menu continues to challenge our notions of breakfast. Chilli scrambled eggs with Mooloolaba Crab, Crayfish Oil, and Samphire? Proof that The Kettle Black is equal in both style and substance.
An institution in the true sense of the word, this wood-paneled den sits in a tightly-held nook of Spring St. on the edge of the CBD. Part of a larger group that owns Siglo, Melbourne Supper Club, and City Wine Shop, The European brings the pared-back elegance of France and Italy to a crowd that appreciates classic fare. Espresso is served in gold-rimmed china, eggs are simple and good, and a continental breakfast of brioche, orange juice, and coffee is as close to being transported to Paris as it comes.
Another of Melbourne’s great institutions, Alimentari is split across two venues in Fitzroy and Collingwood. The menu is heavily influenced by Italian flavours, the coffee is as good as you’ll find, and the marble bench tops heave under the weight of an array of sweet treats. But if there’s one reason to sample the Collingwood venue in particular, it’s the Amalfi-imbued courtyard. Under a canopy of wisteria and twinkling lights, baked eggs and grilled ciabatta are accompanied by white tablecloths and silver cutlery, with the occasional Aperol spritz enjoyed well before noon.
Baker D. Chirico
Sitting just a hair back from Carlton’s Lygon St., Baker D. Chirico reminds us of our love of both baked goods and interior design. In fact, it’s hard to pay this bakery a visit without feeling a newfound respect for both art forms. Under an undulating, sculptural wooden ceiling lies a long bar that serves to highlight a decadent offering of bombolone, brioche, and flaky shortcrust tarts. Behind, a wall of bread beckons with the scent of freshly baked dough. Baker D. Chirico takes the art form of bread and pastry to a whole new level, but much as we would like to, the shopfront is no place to linger: there are no seats here. But sometimes the best breakfast is a take-away coffee, a flaky croissant, and a baguette under the arm - for later in the day, of course.
A newer addition to South Yarra’s once meager breakfast offering, Gilson has quickly earned its stripes through a beautiful fit-out and elevated menu offering that feels both on-trend yet timeless. Attention to detail is infused in everything on the menu, whether it’s perfectly cooked eggs or the surprisingly moreish garfish toast. And for those unaccustomed to one of Melbourne’s most beloved weekend activities, breakfast this side of the river can only be followed by a walk around the ‘tan’. However, at Gilson, breakfast could just as easily blend into an early lunch of gnocchi and aperol. It’s the weekend, after all.