Thursday, September 20, 2012

Coffee Hopping Pt 1

"We go coffee hopping", said Manny one Saturday afternoon when he was recently in Australia. I love some of the expressions he comes out with. He had the latest of a Melbourne coffee guide and he had short listed three cafes with three star ratings

We started in Balaclava. What a surprise. Down a lane next to Safeway (Woolworths) was a large expanse of concrete and what looked like might have been a substantial brick shed. The cafe is called Monk Bodhi Dharma, I expect The Monk for short.

The place was buzzing with people. It is clearly a much loved cafe. The staff knew their coffee and were very friendly and helpful. The food looked delicious and the prices appeared to be average.

Four coffees for three people? Yep, two short blacks of different varieties of non blended coffee, a cappuccino and a cafe latte. Although both Manny and R had colds, we shared the coffee, with me drinking from a different side of the cup or glass. I have remained coldless, so that worked well.

Manny bought a couple of kilos of coffee to take back to Malaysia.

Acknowledging the  original inhabitants of the land, the Yalukit Wilam clan of the Boonwurrung people. It is a first class cafe with great coffee.

I wasn't keen on the mural.

Next stop was Miss Jackson almost on the corner of Jackson and Grey Streets in St Kilda. Although in an older building, it was quite modern inside, with a series of rooms opened up to each other. It was popular enough and there was nothing wrong with it, but I didn't feel the atmosphere quite suited me.

Nice arrangements on a mantlepiece.

Same as the first time. I was very much enjoying the short blacks, but the stronger taste was spoiling the milk based coffees.

We had wanted to go by tram, but Manny was moving from his friend's place to the Victoria Hotel in town for a couple of nights, so we had his luggage in the car. We parked outside this used car sales yard. The iron work is getting a bit rusty.

The car yard used to be a plant nursery. I think it has now moved to the old Albert Park railway station, but don't quote me on that. It started, as I recall, in Barkly Street in St Kilda before moving here.

How appropriate, a coffee palace. Coffee palaces were quite common in Melbourne, designed to attract  the punters away from the demon drink. None stayed in business for very long and most became liquor licensed premises. This one is now backpacker accommodation.

One more cafe to visit which I will tell you about in another post.


  1. Hello Andrew:
    We rather like the sound of coffee palaces and should not mind in the least 'hopping' round them all! Perhaps the connoisseur's guide to coffee palaces in Melbourne should be your goal....copies would go like hot cappucinos we guess!!

  2. Hey!- that coffee palace is The Hotham, dirty old fleabag, just up from Fitzroy Street. It had a tiled chequered floor, just inside, is it still there? You remember my visit to the lovely Andrea in Fairfield last Saturday (marvellous artist but she put six legs on a goanna) we tried a cafe just opposite the big wooden dog, I had a toasted sandwich: tiny slice of tomato in it and two little lumps of fetta: $6.80 for Christs sake! Who do they think they are? Don't go there!

  3. I miss coffee houses. Here there is one Starbucks on the north side and one on the south side, both in shopping centers. Perhaps it takes a city to make a decent coffee "palace".

  4. Monk Bodhi Dharma in Balaclava became our local, at least in the months when it first opened. The food and coffee are both great! But the location (behind the back carpark) has to be the ugliest in all of Victoria.

    You should pursue the story of the coffee palaces. I still find it amazing :)

    Coffee palaces

  5. JayLa, I expect such a book has already been written. I wonder what sort of coffee they made back then. It is more likely most people drank tea.

    RH, I am not sure about the present state of The Hotham. It is very difficult to get much in the way of food under $6 now, although South Yarra Station has old style ham and salad sandwiches for about $3.

    Rubye, Melbourne has what is called a coffee culture. This is perhaps because of the large number of Italian immigrants who brought their coffee skills and desires with them. I'd suggest where you find Italian immigrants is where you would find good coffee.

    Hels, when did it open? Because it is a carpark, I guess there is no opportunity for outdoor seating. You did very nicely yourself with your piece on coffee palaces.

  6. St Kilda Coffee Palace, aka The Hotham, was a filthy rooming house until the end of the 1980s. The upstairs rooms were roughly partitioned into smaller rooms which meant you might get a magnificent marble fireplace (boarded up) in your little slot, or an entire ceiling rose, full of spiders. Just inside the entrance there was a large tiled area in checkerboard pattern, very nice. What was funny in all those big joints was seeing dirty old drunks coming down grand staircases.

    Coffee houses were popular in London during the 17th and 18th centuries, spivs like Ben Jonson met there to blah about politics and literature, nothing changes.

    There's a coffee house here in Newport (1888) strangely located at the corner of Newcastle and Schutt streets. It was owned by the Housing Commision for a while but is now apa-a-artments. Wear some garlic if you come to see it, there's a catholic church on the other corner.

  7. PS: The RH Temple of Extreme Thought is nearby. Bring dancing girls.

  8. "The Monk" in the substantial brick shed must be a "hideaway". if I was walking along and glanced across to see that, I would never have thought, "Ooh! A coffee place!" Usually hideaways have great coffee.

    I think "plantusforsalus" is a great name for a nursery.

  9. Probably much the same now RH, except for backpackers. I'll check out the Newport coffee palace at some point. All religions need to be on alert about me. I am not feeling religious friendly at all at the moment.

    River, it is a good name. You make me think of the song Hernando's Hideaway. Care for a tango?

  10. I wish I could drink coffee like the French, black, strong and sugarless,I fail..white and three sugars is my poison, that could be the reason for not being as thin as Frenchwomen, that or my taste for family blocks of Cadbury's new 'Mousse with Chocolate Coulis'. Don't you find that the cafe's with the scruffiest decor always seem to be the trendiest, good coffee too! Looking forward to the last stop on your 'coffee hop'.

  11. Anonymous10:52 pm

    I love whiling away the hours tucked up in a great cafe, with coffee in one hand and a good book in the other. Oh and a piece of cake on the table!!
    Were you bouncing off the walls after all the caffeine? V.

  12. Well I don't want to put you off but there's a mosque nearby too, corner of Walker and Mason Streets. But hey, what can ya do?

    I had bacon and eggs at Byblos cafe in Cairns and it was the best bacon and eggs ever in my life: $8.50. That dried up thing for $6.80 in Fairfield was a fraud. No wonder stockbrokers are running cafes these days.

  13. Grace, I am aghast at your coffee choice. Merde. So disappointment.

    V, I did not feel like I had drunk much coffee, so no bouncing. Yesterday, my day off, I was hoping R would come home early and we would go out and have coffee and cake, but it was not to be. I had such a fancy for expensive cafe cake.

  14. It's nice that people can take their pets to cafes now, that woman in the second photo has a python around her neck.

  15. aaah give me a tea any day! :)

  16. RH, I had to go back to the photo to check.

    Fen, I bet they all do tea as well.

  17. For a moment I thought I had clicked on Yani's blog by mistake. Nice change of pace for you.

  18. Change of pace Victor? I am not sure what you mean.

  19. You are drifting into the Latte set there, Andrew

  20. Victor, I am signed up member of the inner city, chardy drinking, latte sipping socialist set, who has many white man problems, like which blend of coffee to drink.

  21. I knew you'd be the one to confront first world problems head on, Andrew.