I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes embody the ‘annoying-girl-who-won’t-stop-talking-about-her-exchange.’ My semester in Melbourne definitely left some of my peers and family members feeling tired of my frequent references to my time abroad, and I find myself comparing all aspects of life back home to my time in Australia. This is most acute when I pass a Second Cup or Starbucks, and wish that I were back in Melbourne—the coffee capital of the world. It is hard to find a café that competes with the quality found Down Under, but Café Melbourne, owned by two Melbourne natives, brings Aussie style and expertise to this bright café in the Plateau.
Café Melbourne, situated just north of Boulevard Saint-Laurent and Avenue Mont-Royal East, is a little slice of the café culture that is one of the cornerstones of the Melbournian identity. The café’s owners, Xavier Martinelli and Angus Castran, have compiled a food and coffee menu that one would find while walking down the streets of Melbourne, where every café serves craft coffee and almost always has an accompanying mouth-watering food menu.
The café has a relaxed vibe and unique atmosphere, with decorations that incorporate recognizable Australian symbols. Upon entering the café, Australian coins are immediately spotted on the counter, and if you take a look around, you’ll notice that the shelves hold an Aussie Rules football, a stuffed Koala bear, and a book on the flavours of urban Melbourne. Café Melbourne also pokes fun at its lack of ‘French-ness’ by putting a sign out front that reads in French, “Our French isn’t very good but our coffee is.” They have also jokingly added a “Le” in front of “Melbourne Café” on the window facing the street, a cheeky joke dripping with Aussie humour.
The city the café is named after is home to a foodie culture that brings a whole new perspective to the term “brunch game” and what it means to serve craft coffee. People in Australia, especially Melbourne, take their coffee seriously and have a great deal of pride in their craft. Filtered coffee is virtually non-existent, and there is a café on almost every corner.
This standard is maintained at Café Melbourne, where all the coffee is espresso-based and the coffee art is amont the best. If you want to try a flat white, an Australian classic, Café Melbourne is your spot. It is served with a beautiful decoration and has a silky texture, a combination that can only be produced when the milk is foamed and then poured in the espresso shot with expertise. While it’s still hot outside, an iced version of any coffee, like the iced Americano pictured above (or long black if you want to use the Aussie term) might be the most refreshing.
To accompany the coffee, there are also Australian sandwiches, called jaffles, on the menu. They are different from a toasted sandwich in that a jaffle press seals the bread along the edges, leaving room to stuff the sandwich with things like mac and cheese, or beans in tomato sauce. There are eight jaffles to choose from, including a breakfast jaffle with eggs, ham and Swiss cheese. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try something really Australian, the Vegemite jaffle is for you. Vegemite is a food paste made from yeast extract and various vegetable and spice additives, resulting in a salty mixture that is popular among Australians. On the lighter side, there is smashed avocado on toast, another Melbourne staple.
The quality of the food and coffee in addition to the relaxed atmosphere of the café makes it a great place to study. There are plenty of tables inside to work, read, or chat with friends. There is also a small patio— ideal for the summer—in the front and one in the back. The prices are reasonable, $3.50 for the coffees and $7.50 for the jaffles.
Martinelli is thinking of moving to Toronto soon as he “finds it to be most like Melbourne of the Canadian cities.” Torontonians may therefore find themselves stumbling across some Aussie specialties in the near future. In the meantime, the Montreal café will satisfy those nostalgic for authentic Australian coffee and treats.
This is good news for myself, because when I sought out the Café Melbourne here in the Plateau to see whether or not the name held up to my memories of the quality I found in Melbourne, my pretentious, obnoxious study-abroad self was pleased with what I found.