All posts filed under: cafes

Lolo & Wren

It’s always a promising sign when a cafe located roughly in the middle of nowhere is still functional. Even better when it’s thriving. This, surely, is when you know you’re onto something good. Cycling to Lolo & Wren, I was sure I must have copied the wrong address. I found myself in inner-suburban no man’s land — an obscure part of Brunswick West somewhere between Melville Road and the CityLink tollway. Yep, romantic. But there it was, nestled among houses and apartment buildings, with little to attract punters apart from an A-frame sign and a few glowing recommendations. Run by husband and wife team Franco and Karen Caruso, it’s Lolo & Wren’s food that’s put it on the highly competitive Melbourne cafe map — no wonder considering Franco is a former Scottish Young Chef of the Year (2006). The cafe itself is large and bright, with an open kitchen and a central wooden bench perfect for perching to read the newspaper. On a recommendation I tried the pancakes with pear, almonds, walnuts and mascarpone, and my friend …

Captains of Industry

I have a new cafe crush. Captains of Industry couldn’t be more Melbourne. Tucked down a laneway off Little Bourke Street, this cafe sits one floor above street level, its large front windows overlooking the beautiful GPO building on Elizabeth Street. The space has a warehouse look, with painted brick walls and large metal roof beams, but it doesn’t feel cold or cavernous. A smattering of small wooden tables, a long dining table and window benches makes this a comfortable hangout whether you’re visiting as a group, a couple or alone. And here’s where the industry comes in. Branching off from the main cafe space are three tiny shops: a shoemaker, a barbershop and a jeweller. Each is the size of a shoebox, but each is filled with a fascinating array of tools and contraptions. Peeking through these doors is like catching a glimpse into the Melbourne of another era. While the website declares that ‘the practitioners of Captains of Industry are Practical Men of Wide Experience offering the Good, the True and the Beautiful …

Lentil as Anything

Nestled among the trees in graceful Abbotsford Convent by the Yarra River is a little Melbourne miracle. Lentil As Anything is a volunteer-run restaurant and cafe serving up simple, hearty self-serve vegetarian food that is, quite literally, priceless. Payment at Lentils works through an honour system whereby diners give whatever they can afford. There are no cash registers here — no waiters handing out bills. There’s just a little wooden box asking for donations — whatever you feel your meal is worth. Photos by Marleena Forward Originally opened in 2000 in St Kilda, Lentils is now a registered not-for-profit organisation with four restaurants in operation: St Kilda, Abbotsford, Preston and Footscray. The Lentil As Anything website explains its evolution and philosophy thus: “Money was influencing the trends in the community, leaving many disenchanted. Lentil As Anything aimed to re-engage those who where left behind. It seemed that money was often a barrier to people participating … We used the money left in the box to run the restaurant. Money became a unifying force. Trust began to feel at home. The quest …

A1 Lebanese Bakery

Located in upper Sydney Road in Brunswick, A1 Lebanese Bakery is a big, breezy, slightly dishevelled place serving up cheap and delicious Lebanese pastries with zero pretentiousness. The front of the bakery is occupied by a bunch of tables, while down the back is a shop section offering a variety of Lebanese treats including dried herbs, dips, lentils and canned goods. The bakery is to the right, where you’ll find an enormous oven and all sorts of tasties including spinach triangles, halloumi pies and za’atar pizzas for just a few coins each. You can also get coffee here, and some baklava to finish off. If you love Lebanese food, you’ll love A1.   A1 Lebanese Bakery Address: 643–645 Sydney Rd, Brunswick Tel: 9386 0440 Opening hours: Sunday–Wednesday 7am–7pm, Thursday–Saturday 7am–9pm   Read more reviews at  

Acústico Café

Two years ago, Diego Iraheta opened a tiny one-room coffee stop called Acústico Cafe on Union Street, near Jewell Station in Brunswick. For a time, this place remained a somewhat hidden secret behind dark tinted windows — a caffeine pit-stop for a handful of locals. Gradually, however, Diego realised the cafe was outgrowing its premises, so he opened the back room to create a lounge area furnished with recycled bits and bobs, including a couple couches and a stripped-back piano. Here, the large industrial side-door is rolled up in warm weather for an ‘outside-in’ feel, and there’s a steady flow of well-chosen, laid-back tunes to soothe the ears. The coffee at Acústico is tasty and the food is delicious and reasonably priced. The Latin-American influenced menu rotates every few months to keep things interesting — check the Acústico facebook page for recent additions. This is where you’ll also find details of any gigs and other events happening at the cafe, which aims to be a hub for the local artistic community.   Acústico is the sort of …

Böreks at Queen Vic Market

    Mmm. Böreks. Just thinking about those tasty treats is making my mouth water… If you find yourself in Vic Market and needing a snack, head straight to the börek stall in the delicatessen section of the market. It’s easy to miss — it’s just a single, simple shop front — but you can usually spot it for the crowd. Here you can buy a freshly baked börek with various fillings (cheese and spinach, spicy potato, or spicy lamb — my personal favourite) for only $3. The börek shop also sells wraps for $3, as well as a few other snacks, but everybody comes here for the famous böreks. During peak hour you’ll need to battle your way to the front of the crowd to get your order heard, but it’s all worth it.   The Borek Shop Address: Shop 95, Deli Hall, Queen Victoria Market Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 6am–2pm, Friday 6am–5pm, Saturday 6am–3pm, Sunday 9am–4pm Damage: $3   Read more reviews at

Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar

Whenever you hear someone talk about Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar, they will invariable use the words ‘Melbourne institution’ in the same breath. And quite rightly so. This little Italian cafe has been doing its thing for over 50 years, and it’s obvious. You don’t come here for the coffee so much as the atmosphere — the staff are friendly, if a little brusque at times, and the place is littered with tatty framed pictures of who-knows-what. Stepping into Pellegrini’s really does feel like stepping into a little slice of Italy on Bourke Street. There are no set prices for the food, but main meals generally hover around the $15 mark. I thoroughly recommend stopping by for a late-night coffee in the front checkered-floor diner. Caps off a night very nicely.   Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar Address: 66 Bourke St, Melbourne 3000 Tel: 9662 1885 Opening hours: Mon–Sat 8am–11.30pm; Sun 11am–8pm Damage: Around $15 for main meals   Read more reviews at

1000 £ Bend

  I discovered this cafe a couple years ago, just after it first opened. It was big, bare, cheap and different — the new kid on a city block that’s generally off-limits to the budget-conscious. Today, 1000 £ Bend is still big, relatively cheap and different — just with a few extra chairs, tables, lamps and lude scribblings on the bathroom walls that have gathered over time. The intervening years have given this cafe space to settle and find its groove — that groove being a blase hangout for Melbourne’s alternative crowd who have been shoe-horned out of their Fitzroy/Northcote/Brunswick homes and flung into Melbourne’s all-too-mainstream CBD. Despite its city location, you won’t find a suit in sight, although free Wi-Fi makes this a popular workspace so during the day the place becomes a sea of laptops. Behind the cafe area in the front is an enormous room used as a quieter work space — when it’s not being used to house exhibitions. Upstairs is a cinema, where free film screenings take place every Sunday. There’s also free live music on Sundays from 2pm-4pm. Food here is mostly of …

Melbourne’s best cafe…?

Look, I’m going to be honest with you. I’m not that into coffee. I know, I know. Shock, horror — a Melbournite who isn’t obsessed with discussing cafes and beans and temperature and strength. Only a few days ago, while I was sitting in a cafe, I overheard a girl say to her friends, ‘I find it really weird when people don’t drink coffee. I don’t think they’re real humans.’ (That’s a direct quote.) Dare I say it, it’s just a drink. There. I dared. Don’t get me wrong. I like coffee. I drink it from time to time. And I do appreciate a good coffee, just as I’d appreciate a nice glass of wine. But in this city, the word ‘like’ often just doesn’t cut it where coffee’s concerned. Despite my dispassion for this particular beverage, I am partial to cafes, which is handy seeing as this city’s daytime social life exists largely within these little establishments. For me, a good cafe doesn’t only feature good coffee; it’s also got to be a comfy …