Tag 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

Elixir Coffee Specialists

Elixir Coffee Specialists

Normally I’d take issue with a name like “Coffee Specialists”. It’s draws parallels with fast food chains calling themselves “Burger professionals” or “Sandwich artists”. Sure it’s a catchy title, but it in no way makes me think the person behind the counter with the pimples and the hair net knows anything about making quality food.

Of course the difference in this case (aside from a distinct lack of hair nets) is that crew at Elixir Coffee Specialists are in fact, coffee specialists. Ignoring for a moment the slight issue of another cafe recently opening with the name Elixir in it, and a need to adequately distinguish themselves, you don’t get much more of a coffee dream team than Justin Kenny and Jonny Nease.

Jonny Justin

If you’re a Perth coffee lover, you’ll have likely seen Justin’s face around town. He’s been owner and operator of many excellent establishments in their time, the likes of which include Grind in Trinity Arcade, Fix in West Perth, and most recently Velvet Espresso on King St. It was at Velvet that Jonny came on board, and now Elixir is the culmination of Justin’s long legacy in the Perth coffee scene.

A consummate professional who goes about his business without pomp or ceremony, Justin describes Elixir as the goal he’s been building to all along. A place where he has the space to do what he wants. To create a boutique cafe and a small batch roastery where he can finally do coffee his way.

Elixir is in the building formerly occupied by The Grocer (a fact they’re constantly reminded of by the regular flow of people coming in and asking where The Grocer is, expecting to buy saffron threads and truffle oil). The good thing about this though, is that not only do they pick up new business from every person who gets a whiff of the amazing smell of their coffee, but it also means that there’s plenty of storage room out the back for the new arrived roaster, a coffee lab, and hopefully soon a whole lot of interesting green beans.

With the roaster to be commissioned in the coming months it’s an exciting time for Justin, Jonny, Gemma, Ruth, and the rest of the Elixir team, who all genuinely seem to want to be there… which is a nice thing to experience. Jonny, Justin, and Gemma run the coffee, and Ruth and Jen are the girls who make the food sing. All the meals are done on site with ovens out the back to get some serious cooking going. The menu changes often and has a focus on simple cafe classics done well. My last visit included a steak sandwich with roast tomatoes and a garlic creme that really hit the spot.

Elixir coffee - espresso pour Latte art capp

Coffee is an increasingly difficult thing for me to comment on. Being involved in barista competitions and knowing more people in the industry, it would be unfair of me to start throwing out unfettered opinion on every cafe I go to. Knowing more behind the scenes, you soon start to realise that one flat white or espresso can not be assessed on it’s own, but rather appreciated knowing the various factors that have gone into it. Where the beans are from, how they’re roasted, how they’re stored, what equipment you’re using, how well it’s maintained, and how busy the cafe is at any given time of the day are all big deciders in the overall quality of the cup.

So I won’t be rating 7 out of 10’s or 4 stars or giving you a detailed break down of the flavour profile of the coffees I tried.
What I will say however, is that Elixir is the kind of place where continual improvement and the pursuit of great coffee is the underlying goal. So regardless of the make up of their blend, the single origin they happen to be using on the day, what new and zany tamping technique, or grams per shot ratio they’re using, it will be part of an evolving process that I’ll happily take part in.

Espresso pour @ ElixirCroatian CupsReflecto manFlowery lightingThe shotSexy cupperyShots for a latteJustin pours at ElixirLatte pour throughPress button to roastThe love brushJonnyPain endsJustin manages a smileElixir Coffee Specialists

Elixir Coffee Specialists
Chelsea Village, 145 Stirling Highway
Nedlands

Phone: 9389 9333
Open Monday – Saturday: 7.00am – 4.00pm
Closed Sunday

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Melbourne: Liar Liar – Hawthorn

Clover coffee's @ Liar Liar

I really didn’t get very far with these Melbourne posts did I ? Well now that things are settling down a little I’ll at least try and catch up with the photos I’ve already uploaded.

Liar, Liar in Hawthorn in the latest venture of former Perth coffee dignitary and 2007 WA barista champion Nolan Hirte. Nolan and his partners have set up an excellent space in Hawthorn, funky, relaxed, but focused on quality and totally befitting of the owners.

I can’t say I know Hawthorn very well as an area, but I’m led to believe it’s vaguely similar to Claremont in terms of style and clientele. An old and well established area with a fair amount of old money around the place, but not completely wrapped up in the establishment to realise the value of people trying to do something fresh and different.

Fresh and different would sum up Liar, Liar pretty well. From the decks on the bar where Nolan spins tunes when he isn’t pulling shots, to the very chic Clover Coffee brewing machine, and seriously tasty breakfast choices. It’s quite the compelling package.

We stopped by for breakfast on day 2 of the trip and a caught up with Nolan while talking coffee. This was first introduction to the Clover, which takes an innovative approach to single serve brewed coffee. From the Clover website:

After dosing it and grinding it to your specifications, you will add the coffee to the Clover brew chamber. You will choose the cup size and the steep time on the user interface, and then press the brew button. Clover delivers the exact dose of water at the temperature youíve chosen. Stir and wait while the coffee steeps. At the end of the set time, Cloverís piston rises, creating a vacuum that draws the coffee through the grounds. The piston will then descend and deliver the coffee into your customerís cup.

The flavours are very clean and there mouthfeel is entirely different to regular french press style coffee, which still retains a lot of sediment. We tried an Ethiopian and a Guatemalan through the clover and were pleasantly surprised by the delicate flavours and finish.

The regular coffee was of course fantastic. Nolan takes his espresso seriously even managed to swap records in amongst pulling some fantastic shots.

The food was on song too. My poached eggs (the test of any cafe) were perfectly presented, and Sharon’s coconut bread with fresh berries and yoghurt was more art piece than breakfast.

If I had to live in Melbourne, I think a trip out to Liar, Liar would be a weekly necessity.

Liar, Liar
90 Kinkora Road, Hawthorn
Phone (03) 9818 8864

Melbourne : The City

Stay amazed !

That’s right Melbourne. Stay Amazed. Naysayers might try to convince you that the toilet doors of squalid public bathrooms are not the place to get valuable life messages from, but they just haven’t seen the light of grimey self discovery that waits on the other side of cubicle door.

So this post is a little update while the other updates prepare themselves. The morning we arrived in Melbourne, we picked up the car kindly borrowed from Sharon’s friend Michelle and proceeded to drive it into oncoming traffic. Of course I didn’t think I was driving into oncoming traffic, but the inner road that runs down the middle of St Kilda road is confusing. We pulled up alongside a tram facing the wrong direction, and then made a quick u-turn to get the hell out of there. Melbourne roads (1) – Matt (0).

We eventually made it to St Ali without further injury, and then when we were sufficiently sated there, ventured our way into the city. Of course driving into the city is not the best or most efficient way to get there. Unless of course paying $45 for a couple of hours parking is your idea of efficient. At the time though I figured that wasn’t much to pay for the convenience of being able to get where we wanted to go quickly… albeit risking being killed by a horde of screaming taxi drivers.

So we park on Flinders Lane, and begin to wander up and down streets and laneways. Sharon stopping at more clothes shops than I can name, while I trundled slowly from cafe to cafe, stopping to check out the ones that looked interesting, and pondering how many coffees would constitute too many.

Now I just realised I said this would be a short post, so I’ll wrap up with a few impressions of the places I did stop at.

Journal

Journal
253 Flinders La, Melbourne

Great looking place, very cool concrete bar and dark lighting, even in the day time. I ordered an espresso and a portugese tart. The espresso was not so hot, the tart was cold but tasty. I’d go back for drinks sometime, or food upstairs at the Journal Canteen, which looks good.

13th Apostle

San Churro at QV building
Shop LTL 255, QV Centre, Swanston St

Why do people rave about San Churro ? I guess the same people also rave about Max Brenner or Koko Black. I’m perhaps one of those few people who does not turn into a raving lunatic when describing or thinking about chocolate. I wasn’t in the mood for a mountain of deep fried stuff, so I ordered the kids meal… which was surprisingly rewarding if only for the look on the girls face. It came with two churros and a bowl of dark chocolate and hundred and thousands. The churros were quite hard and dry, and the chocolate didn’t transport me to a mystical place, the sprinkled made me feel like I was 5 years old at a birthday party… which was nice :)

The rest of the city is hard to describe, and a little overwhelming at times. So many lane way and alleys to go down, so many places holding so much potential. If we had another few weeks I’m sure I’d be able to cover most of it, but a few days will not do it justice.

On the way out I did manage to perform not one, but two (!) successful hook turns, and not get hit by a taxi or a tram. Melbourne roads (1) – Matt (2) !!

St Ali : Welcome to Melbourne

Flat white from St Ali

Thank you to Tiger Airways for getting us to Melbourne in perhaps the most cramped and undignified manner possible. At times I felt like I should have brought my own seatbelt along, as it probably would have helped make me feel moderately comfortable about traveling in an over sized chicken coop.

What I was grateful for however, is the lovely and handsome Ben Bicknell of 5 Senses, picking us up at the airport and whisking us back to the place we were staying in South Yarra for some much needed sleep (which was nigh on impossible on the plane) and a chance to make ourselves respectable, before beginning the onslaught that was to be our time in Melbourne. First stop… St Ali.

If you haven’t heard of St Ali and you live in Melbourne, then there is something seriously wrong with you. Mark Dundon’s cafe and roasting operation has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and is consistently named in the top places to visit, and from what I can gather, rightly so.

It’s located in a quiet street in South Melbourne, seemingly away from the hustle and bustle of the city and it’s many laneways. There’s no sign out the front, but it’s completely packed. I have no idea where the people are all from but there are suits galore (and not of your Man to Man / Ed Harry / Insert cheapo guys clothes store name here, variety), happily mingling with hipsters and hippies of all persuasions. It’s a Thursday morning (I think), ok maybe lunch time.

We grab a table by the bar, unlucky not to get a seat at the big communal table, but it does make surreptitious photography more difficult.

Orders are done at the table and so I grab a couple of double flat whites to begin, with a fried egg stack and chorizo for Sharon (damn i knew i should have got that), and some house made white beans with proscuitto for me). The flat whites were superb. Cutting through the milk nicely and balanced sweetness with that chocolately body that’s so inviting for a cold Melbourne morning. The food arrived and was equally great. Though I perhaps felt a bit left out when a group of 4 businessmen all ordered the same dish of Lamb Kofta balls… decadently soaked in a tomato sauce.

Fried Eggs and Chorizo @ St Ali

Still what we had was great. The beans hearty and the proscuitto salty and delicious. I tried not to eye Sharons chorizo, but it soon got the better of me and I caved… it was great too.

Next up another round of coffees, espresso for me, short macchiato for Sharon. While waiting the barista strolled over and surprised me by saying

“Sorry, this is for you, it’s a really nice looking ristretto but too short for an espresso, so I figured I’d give it to you for free rather than waste it”.

How lovely. It was a great ristretto, syrupy and dense with a great smokiness running through it. I thought about asking about the single origin they have on each day, but I was loving the house espresso blend too much to care to be honest. The espresso which soon arrived was equally tasty. More balanced and less syrupy than the ristretto, but a well put together shot. I felt at home.

St Ali oozes so much cool there should be hazard signs out the front when you walk in. It’s just effortless. We thought to ourselves that if the rest of Melbourne was as good as this, we were in for a good time :)

St Ali
12-18 Yarra Place
South Melbourne
Telephone (03) 9686 2990