Category Archives: Cafe

Monogram Caffe

I first met Thomas Greene at Boucla in Subiaco. As a newish blogger back then I was rather delighted when he told me he’d been reading my blog and really enjoyed my photos. “I like this man!” Was my immediate and rather cheap response to essentially any form of flattery (seriously, it’s not hard at all people). After chatting to Tom for a while I realised we shared a few things in common. He was a photographer too, and a very fine one at that, having taken trips abroad to places like Egypt to embed himself in life there and explore photojournalism. He also made a damn fine coffee.

After that I saw him at many of the usual suspects, Cantina in Mt Lawley, Mini Espresso in the CBD. It was always comforting seeing Tom behind the coffee machine because I knew whatever the reputation of coffee from that venue, his would be good.

He’s not a geek mind you (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the kind of thoughtful person who puts a lot more effort into his craft than he lets on. I have no doubt his primary school report cards would have been full of such words as diligent, conscientious, and considerate.

Such is the approach he’s taken to his latest venture at Monogram Caffe @ The Grove Library in Peppermint Grove. It’s essentially a pop up coffee stand given a permanent place to live inside the library that Tom has given his own unique style.
An elegant wooden bench which conjures both art deco and Nordic stylings, Tom wheels it out at the start of the day, and back in at the end. It’s a one man show as he goes about his craft making fine coffees for extremely lucky library visitors and those in the know.

The coffee is a special blend of Fiori beans, worked out in collaboration with the fine gentlemen at Lowdown Espresso, and with Tom’s delicate touch it really sings. He has fresh cakes and home made sweet things to go along with the coffee and I can think of few things more pleasant than sitting down with a good book, a lemon tart, and a perfectly made flat white, and then returning the book afterwards because I’m too cheap to buy it…

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Monogram Caffe
Inside The Grove Library
1 Leake St, Peppermint Grove, at the Cnr of Stirling Hwy.
Sundays to Fridays

Bench Espresso

Rejoice East side CBD workers, good coffee has arrived to your humble lunch bar existences. No longer do you need to “make your own” or frequent an awful chain for your morning coffee fix. Bench Espresso is the newest addition to the cafe scene on the East side of Hay St, and they’re doing a fantastic job.

Vanessa Moore is the owner and chief evangelist at Bench, who takes it name from the law courts across the road, and a desire to be the benchmark for coffee in Perth. Vanessa comes from excellent coffee pedigree, she started out her coffee journey at the infamous Core Espresso in the city (arguably the starting point for specialty coffee in Perth), and then moved to Epic Espresso in West Perth, where she helped manage the store and ran the barista school. After Epic changed hands Vanessa headed off to Melbourne and did stints at Market Lane and Three Bags Full before coming back to Perth to start the task of opening a place of her very own.

The style of the cafe is very simple. Slotted into a narrow glass box at the front of an apartment block, with large glass walls and a high ceiling. The layout is minimal with a kind of modern Nordic feel. It’s surprisingly warm for a place where the predominant colour comes from the brush stone benches, but that’s because light just pours into the cafe from all around.

The coffee is great as you would expect from someone of Vanessa’s skill and determination. She’s running 3 different Mazzer Robur grinders each with different blends in them, one for milk, one for espresso, and a single origin. I’m assuming the blends will change regularly as they refine the flavours, and as new and interesting beans arrive at 5 Senses (the roaster). The shots are pulled as short doubles for the most part, rich in flavour and texture. Coffee is such a variable and subjective thing that I’m loath to give tasting notes for specific drinks, but suffice to say the blends are designed to give the customer the best possible experience in each cup. I’d strongly suggest trying the milk blend with a cappucino and the espresso blend as an espresso or long black. There is quite a bit of difference to the body and acidity of different coffees that will lend themselves to certain drinks better than others.

They also have filter coffee on offer via the Clever Coffee Dripper, basically a device with a paper filter inside it that your use for pour over coffee, a method of preparation that retains much more origin characteristics of the beans than espresso does.

One of the other things that has survived the passage of time from previous incarnations in other cafes is the hot chocolate made using Belgian couverture chocolate incorporated in molten form from a bain marie. It’s a decadent way for chocoholics to get their fix.

Whilst it’s still early days for Bench, they are already having a great impact in the area, and along with the guys at Cafe 54, they’re finally giving workers on the east some good alternatives for CDB coffee without compromises. I’m looking forward to seeing where Vanessa’s coffee journey goes from here.

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Bench Espresso
471 hay street, Perth
08 9221 1131
Mon – Fri (7am – 3pm)

Lowdown Espresso

Lowdown Espresso Checked

I’ve been meaning to write a post about Lowdown Espresso for a long time now. They’ve recently captured my “Must visit cafe’s when in the CBD” vote, and I think the coffee they are making is some of the best in the city.

Lowdown is run by Mark and Adam Lowes, and two nicer gents you couldn’t meet, who take the flannel clad / bearded look and make it their own.

They took over the diminutive cafe in Cloisters Arcade from the previous owners and set about making it their own. Their Dad got involved used his carpentry skills to put the benches together and help get the place fitted out, and it is perfect in it’s simplicity. The guys use a customised Fiori blend for their espresso, and often have a single original filter available to try out as well. They’ve graduated from a 2 group Wega to a 3 group La Marzocco in the relatively short time they’ve been open and are pumping out more coffee’s than ever before.

I like it because they’re both down to earth guys who are obviously loving what they do and really seem to enjoy giving you a great coffee. The little chocolate button handed out with each coffee may go some way to explaining the chocolate notes I find in their espresso, but other than that it’s a rich and intense brew with a lot of body that a discerning coffee lover will appreciate.

The cafe is really too small to do any serious cooking, but there’s a few tasty sandwiches on offer every day, and on a recent visit some extremely commendable macarons.

If you love your coffee without pretense or attitude then pay these guys a visit. Be warned, it does get very popular during the morning “need caffeine before I can face the office” rush hour, but it’s worth the wait.

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Lowdown Espresso
Inside Cloisters Arcade
16a/865 Hay St
Perth WA 6000
(08) 9226 3041

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Low Down Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

Velvet Espresso

Velvet Espresso

The latest in the line of sexy new cafes run by people who know their stuff has hit the CBD. Velvet Espresso on King St is now open for business and pouring a fine brew indeed. I dropped by for lunch with Ben (W.A Barista Academy honcho and pin up boy for the Perth coffee scene) this week to check out the place and see how it all stacked up.

Justin Kenny, owner and barista of Velvet has a good track record in the Perth cafe scene. He owned Fix Espresso back in the days when it was actually making good coffee, and gained a reputation as a man who knows his stuff, quiety going about his work and impressing with the results.

Velvet Espresso is an excellent addition to the King St set. It’s relaxed but stylish, with lush dark wood tones on the tables and a Florence Broadhurst print on the walls. It looks the part, but what is more important… it tastes the part.
The King St area is currently dominated by cafes that earnt their reputations a long time ago (King St Cafe), and who now have fallen away into what I term espresso mediocrity (Cino to Go, Etro). They might look fancy, but the quality in the cup is a long way from ideal. Velvet changes all that.

Coffee from Velvet Espresso

Justin is using a great locally roasted ’5 Senses’ blend. It’s full bodied and robust, with a bit of edge to it, and a slightly spicey aftertaste. It’s what I’d call a great drinking coffee, and it works well in a short cup as well as in milk. The shots are pulled quite short to get the best elements of the flavour, without the lingering bitterness that so often destroys a shot of espresso. What’s more important though, is that it’s all a work in progress for Justin. He’s still refining his blend to get the exact flavour and style of espresso that he wants. A concept that I’m sure is completely alien to the majority of cafe owners in this city, who are happy with whatever Vittoria or Segafredo or “Insert Generic Italian Sounding Crap Coffee Brand Here” gives them.

They’re also serving some very tasty sandwiches and rolls, and Justin’s mum’s friands (that she bakes fresh each morning) are bordering on levels of tastiness to rival some of *my* mum’s baking (well, close anyway :) ).

If you work in the CBD, go and check out Velvet Espresso. It won’t disappoint.

Velvet Espresso
5/172 St George’s Tce (Enter on King St)
Perth

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Epic Espresso

Worth the wait...

Last Friday I headed down with great anticipation to see the latest addition to Perth’s burgeoning gourmet coffee scene, Epic Espresso. Epic is the vision of former “Core Espresso” owner, and all round coffee obsessive Corey Diamond.

The place looks nice. Sexy fit-out with wood tones and funky furniture throughout, and some crazy machinery sitting on the bar. To start with is the 2 x 3 group Synesso Cyncra’s… the top of the line in commercial espresso at the moment, and a small feat of engineering brilliance. I had the pleasure of playing around on one of them recently at the Perth Food & Wine Festival, and they are sweet. Next on the list is the sizable stack of Mazzer grinders. There are three Mazzer Roburs (two of them running off three-phase power, and another from regular power), and a Mazzer Mini (on the first day) for Decaf, that has since been replaced by a Mazzer Super Jolly. All that gear alone would cost more than I’d like to think… let alone the heavy duty ceramic cups, stylish new tea infusers, and an array of milk steaming jugs that could equip a small army (of milk steaming soldiers).

Needless to say, Corey is not one for doing things halfheartedly. Epic is his vision for raising the standard of coffee in Perth, and from what I’ve seen it’s done that already.

Baristi

Stepping into the shop on opening day I was greeted by the lovely baristi, and asked what to order. I thought i’d better start with a flat white and work my way on from there. All of epics coffees come with a double shot as standard, they have a policy of sending all their flat whites out with latte art on top, so mine was presented with a lovely rosetta. Aside from looking great though… it tasted phenomenal. The espresso cut through the milk nicely and although I’m pretty bad at describing flavours it had a definitely chocolaty after taste… If you’re one of those 2 sugars in your coffee by default people… it may be a good place to start getting out of that habit.

Next I tried a double ristretto shot of the Capricorn Estate Singe Origin. Epic dedicated one of its grinders solely to single origin espresso (which is funnily enough, coffee beans that are sourced entirely from one place, and not blended). This week/month (?) It’s an Australian grown coffee, and a good one at that. A lot of single origins don’t stand up on their own as espressos, and there is much debate about whether they should be used for espresso at all… but I think it’s great to have the ability to try and taste different coffees, and to help educate people into not thinking of coffee as just a bitter black liquid you have to pour sugar into for your morning caffeine hit. It’s by tasting single origins that you get to see the vast array of flavours that are possible.

Belgian Couverture Hot Chocolate

So next on to the hot chocolate. This is made with molten Belgian chocolate which is ladelled into a small steaming jug. Then milk is added and it’s steamed together to a nice thick consistency. Then poured out and extra molten chocolate poured over the top. No need for tacky marshmallows or the like…this is luxury in a cup… without the sickly sweet tasty that most hot chocolates suffer from… sure to be a hit.

Piccolo Latte

Finally, when I thought i was finished, and had a nice little buzz going from all the coffee (4 shots so far), Corey suggests I try the piccolo latte… which he thinks works really nicely with the espresso blend they’re using (another 5 Senses blend).
He was right… deep rich espresso and steamed milk… A great way to get the flavour of the coffee and the sweetness of the milk in one package.

All in all, 6 shots of coffee, and the happy satisfaction of knowing there is somewhere I can count on to get great coffee when my Silvia (Rancilio) decides to give me hassles. Looking forward to heading back soon and keeping them honest… but I expect lots of good things to come.

Epic Espresso
Outtram St (turn left off Hay St, just down from Miss Mauds)
West Perth

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