Melbourne’s Secret Coffee Spots
This year, Fakegf and I embarked on a mission to uncover some of the secret coffee spots in Melbourne’s CBD. It took awhile, simply because we both don’t work in the city. But over the past 7 months, we’ve charted a hidden coffee trail of sorts and for the most part, I just relied on my phone camera to snap my photos so as to remain as anonymous as the cafes.
Windowsill, at Patricia Coffee Brewers (Instagram snap)
The cafés and brew bars that qualified had to be difficult to find or be at quirky locations. They’re often tucked into a laneway off another laneway, or are so unmarked that you’d walk right past it without knowing. Finding these cafes usually involved some backtracking and map referencing, it was really fun!
Our second requirement was how the coffees served had to be of a certain standard, and I’m glad to say that most were pretty good. And guess what? Fakegf has hand-drawn a coffee trail map, complete with footprints! Ha ha ha!
I hope you’ll enjoy our Melbourne CBD hidden coffee trail. Special thanks to Lachy, who gave me most of the venue suggestions in this post, and to Fakegf, who joined me in uncovering all of these spots.
Also, someone who loved this post has created a Foursquare Map based on it, you may find that useful when navigating.
Cup of Truth
There’s a secret inside Flinders St station…
And no, it isn’t this!
How do you get to this secret place?
Well, first get to Degraves St and find Grill’d burgers. Opposite Grill’d lies the entrance to the subway arcade. Our hidden coffee spot is in that arcade below.
On first pass, Fakegf and I walked right past the coffee stand without noticing it. We backtracked, then saw the words “Where Do You Look For The Truth?”.
Aha… found ya!
Beans are from Axil Coffee Roasters, a sleek Synesso machine to work with, and Jonesy’s milk to finish the song. We grabbed two piccolos and sat on a subway bench to enjoy them. My houseblend was quite simply delicious, as was Fakegf’s single origin Rwandan Musasa, which had hints of stewed apricot, giving an almost perfumed sweetness to the drink!
What a surprise find… great coffee in the bowels of one of Melbourne’s oldest railway stations…
De Alleyway Espresso
On the lead-up, we saw astroturf, checkered floors, red stools and street art scrawled on walls.
Better yet, we learnt that the beans are from The Maling Room, a roastery that we approve of. Fakegf’s South African Nyeri Kyjiji piccolo was full of fruity leafy acidity, just gorgeous. I went with Honduras Barrios Estate, which came robust and chocolatey. In retrospect, we should’ve swapped drinks. Fakegf likes strong robust coffees, while I really love the bright botanical fruitiness of African beans.
De Alleyway is manned by two friendly dudes, David and Nick. David does the cakes while Nick mans the Synesso machine. I’m quite happy to have found this place, now I know where to go when I want to buy Maling Room beans!
Technically, I shouldn’t include this cafe in the list, it’s located on a main road. Collins St, in fact.
But how many of you know of this place? There’s aren’t signages at all, just dark glass doors against a red-bricked building, and an endless stream of CBD power suits walking in and out.
COD Kenya Mukangu 4.2 | Eclipse blend (by Veneziano) 3.5
Not that I was bothered by the important looking patrons. Once we got into the business of our coffees, I was kinda dancing in the clouds!
Even with a blocked nose that morning, I detected hints of spice in my Kenyan piccolo, it tasted sweet with a butterscotchy finish. Delicious! Fakegf’s Eclipse blend magic was well made too, with berry hints in its crema.
Little Bean Blue
On to our next charming find. This brew bar borders on not qualifying as ‘hidden’ because it sits right on Little Collins St. But I decided to include it because it’s located at the outskirts of the CBD, the entrance was a little bit recessed, and their coffees were good.
It’s a narrow but inviting space, and the coffee machine’s one that I’ve never laid eyes on before – a custom La Marzocco Mistral. While the beans are sourced from Veneziano and Proud Mary, they’re hand roasted by the crew themselves.
Fakegf’s house blend magic was rich with bubble gum and cherry hints, with quite an astringent bite. My Costa Rican (San Juanillo) piccolo was smooth with a sharp acidity of blueberries. They were nice coffees to have along with sweets.
Sometimes I wish I have better caffeine tolerance, then I can down more than two hits of coffee a day. I love coffee, but am also sensitive to caffeine!
530 Little Collins Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9621 1013
Now here’s a truly hidden brew bar. To get there, you have to go right through the building into the back alleyway. I can’t explain it any further, but the GoogleMap link provided above might give you a better idea of where to head towards.
Fakegf’s skinny magic had a fresh zing with dark berry hints, but she thought it was on the thin side. My piccolo came full bodied with nice notes of dark chocolate. Love the cute dainty spoons provided.
I really love Little Wish’s location. It isn’t overly hyped, and you are incredibly unlikely to stumble upon this place unless you actually set out to look for it.
Patricia Coffee Brewers
Patricia fully qualifies as a hidden brew bar in terms of location and unmarked entrances. But anybody who’s into coffee would already know about this place. Still, I think this place deserves inclusion simply because the coffees are delicious!
It’s on Little William St, really close to EARL Canteen and Pacos Tacos. Before visiting Patricia, I never knew a Little William St existed!
And if you’re drinking in the bar, you get a glass of sparkling to help cleanse the palate.
Fakegf had a chocolatey Seven Seeds magic while I had a fruity Proud Mary Ghost Rider piccolo. Both coffees were smooth, fresh, and absolutely hit the spot!
I love the stark windowsills overlooking a nondescript laneway, such a Melbourne thing… Patricia also uses beans from my favourite roasters: Proud Mary, Seven Seeds, Market Lane and Small Batch. Too easy to come back!
Shop 4 280 King St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9670 4002
I came here with the intention of making it a brunch post, hence the non-Instagram snaps. The cafe was awarded two cups in 2012′s The Age Good Cafe Guide, but I found the menu mainly covered just sandwiches and jaffles.
Jaffle with egg, spinach & mushroom $5
However, the coffees were well made, and with its rather isolated location in Melbourne CBD’s west end, I think Dancing Goat deserves inclusion here.
Honduras ‘El Naranjo’ piccolo | Seven Seeds piccolo
I couldn’t taste much notes in our coffees (from Seven Seeds), but they were smooth and delicious enough.
PS: For those of you who enjoy Seven Seeds coffee, don’t forget Brother Baba Budan on Little Bourke St, another hidden(ish) brew bar that I’ve already blogged about previously.
PPS: The next final two cafés in this list have been included as honourable mentions. The coffees are of the old-school, harsher style (as piccolos anyway) and they weren’t that enjoyable to our palates. However, their quirky, hidden locations makes them worth mentioning as part of Melbourne’s secret coffee world.
11 & 12 Manchester Unity Arcade
220 Collins St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Fakegf and I were so excited when we found this place. We got there by walking right through Manchester Unity Arcade from its Collins St entrance, and then bearing left when we reached the elevators.
The coffee stand is literally a hole-in-the-wall, with barely enough space to house the La Marzocco machine. But what’s cuter still is the narrow alcove-like nook opposite where you can sit and have your coffees. The Coffee Supreme piccolo we had was very strong, almost like a macchiato.
There’s more seating in Howeys Place right next to Switchboard. It’s quite thrilling to know that such hidden places can be found right in the heart of the CBD, near Swanston St.
We’ll end this post near where we began, near Flinders St station… in Banana Alley Vaults and right next to the 24 hr gym located under the railway.
It’s a somewhat iconic hole-in-the-wall coffee stand that’s been around for a long time. I’ve walked past this area so many times but never noticed there’s a coffee stop here until I actively searched it out.
Coffees (by Atomica) at T’Roy were very very strong, punchy and astringent when they’re taken as piccolos. Again not unlike a macchiato. A decent place if you like your coffees strong. I hear all shots the friendly guy pulls are made as double ristrettos.
This spot marked the perfect end point for our hidden coffee discovery trail…
Out in the open… at a coffee stand that you’d never knew existed. Feeling the relaxed pulse of Melbourne on a work day… and knowing that home is but a happy stroll away.