North Melbourne has not always been the first place that comes to mind when it comes to Melbourne’s thriving cafe culture. This won’t last for long though because some of the city’s best new cafes have been popping up around Errol, Victoria and Queensberry Streets. Cafe owners are taking particular advantage of the shopfronts and warehouses of this formerly working-class neighbourhood, converting them into light-filled daytime food havens.
We’ve put together a list of ten of the most noteworthy cafes in Melbourne we think you’re going to fall in love with. So grab a friend, and head down for a coffee and a toastie or two this weekend!
Hot Poppy has been popular among North Melbourne locals since it first opened its doors 20 years ago. With high ceilings and an easy going vibe, there’s casual seating indoors to have coffee, chat and a toastie from their menu. On warmer days, you can nab a table out the front in the sun and to some people watching.
The brunch menu is eclectic and ranges from blue swimmer crab omelettes, chicken schnitzels, asian salads, and cevapcici meatballs to classics like eggs benedict, smoked salmon with scrambled eggs, and the New English breakfast with free-range bacon and fresh chorizo. You can’t go past Hot Poppy’s toastie menu, perfectly grilled and some of the best in town. Think reuben’s with Jarlsberg, mustard, pastrami and sauerkraut, cubano’s with Dr Pepper pulled pork, double smoked ham, mustard, pickles and gruyere, and a mushroom toastie with fontina cheese, mushroom duxelles, caramelised onion and leek.
This place has ties to Oskar & Joe Taylor’s cocktail and pizza bar next door, one of the places mentioned in our guide to the Best Restaurants to Try in North Melbourne, and is well worth a visit later in the evening.
Nestled among some of the big-hitting cafes on Errol St is Fandango Cafe, a light and airy place with considered decor and homely food. The space might look a little small when you enter, but if you wander through you will find a lovely brick-lined courtyard out the back with blankets to keep you warm even if it’s cold.
The kitchen offers an all-day breakfast perfect for busy weekdays and light lunches for those who have time to linger a little longer. For breakfast, the coconut bircher, pesto bruschetta with poached eggs and breakfast burrito offer a twist on the more traditional menu items, such as the French toast, smashed avo and eggs benedict. Either way, it’s all fresh and well prepared. For something more substantial, you can tuck into their range of burgers and sandwiches.
For that caffeine kick, the barista serves up coffee by great Supreme Roasters and there are teas available by T2. Stop in and say hi to their friendly staff next time you’re nearby.
There’s tough competition, but Auction Rooms may hold the title for the most buzz-worthy cafe in North Melbourne. Serving locals and Melbourne foodies alike, this cafe is always bustling, often with a line of eager diners waiting out the front on weekends. With its large rustic-chic interior and sunny courtyard, there aren’t many better ways to spend a Sunday.
The all-day breakfast here is something special. At a glance, the menu is what you would expect from a cafe breakfast menu, but it is the subtle additions and use of high quality ingredients that levitates each dish. The brioche French toast comes with frosted pecans, raw cacao, caramelised banana, whipped bourbon cream and stewed berries, the housemade granola comes with tahini roasted nuts and seeds, coconut yoghurt, passion fruit syrup and seasonal fruit, and the hash comes with slow-cooked beef, shredded potato, cabbage, leek, poached eggs and a spicy hollandaise. For something a little less breakfast-y, they have a spanner-crab linguine, an eggplant steak and a char-grilled beef burger.
The baristas use St Ali beans for their coffees and Mörk chocolate in their mochas and iced chocolates. For something a little naughtier, you can grab a bloody mary, espresso martini or cold brew negroni to take the edge off the night before or get your arvo session started early.
North Melbourne’s Code Black outpost is set in an urban warehouse with rustic decor and offers coffee, breakfast and lunch staples. Code Black has had a long relationship with cafes across Melbourne. The boutique coffee roasters specialise in sourcing and roasting single origin and blended coffee beans. There’s no surprise that they put a lot of thought into a coffee here, and you will be getting one of the best in town.
It isn’t all about the coffee here though, this cafe’s menu is impressive. The food is tasty and diverse, with pulled beef toasties, kimchi waffles with pork belly and rockling fish burgers among the favourites on the all-day brunch menu.
There are take home packs of roasted beans and coffee paraphernalia at the counter so you can get your Code Black hit at home. If that isn’t enough, there are several more Code Black locations throughout the city.
A chocolate bar, concept store and warehouse all in one, this cafe is, as its name suggests, all about chocolate. The small venue has a sleekly-designed interior, with stone flooring, white walls, stylish lighting, and is a sweet tooths delight.
Considered one of the best chocolate wholesalers in the country, Mörk takes their chocolate blends as seriously as coffee makers do, which is pretty serious in Melbourne. The attention to detail and respect to the origins of the ingredients is just as considered as any caffeine snob would have for their coffee. You will be hard-pressed to find a better hot chocolate in Melbourne.
The chocolate drinks take centre stage here, with the hot chocolate accompanied by a juicy roasted marshmallow being the hero of the place. There are also cold-brews and a selection of well made danishes and pastries to accompany your cacao-infused drink of choice. The walls and counter are adorned with items to take home, including packaged chocolate blends you can purchase for making your own luscious hot chocolates at home.
One of North Melbourne’s new kids on the block, Le Bajo Milkbar is quickly gaining cult status around town. A converted warehouse with an open-style kitchen and high arched ceiling, Le Bajo does vintage Australian goods, Japanese sandwiches, pastries and quality coffee.
The kitchen dishes out some pretty creative and delicious stuff including a fruit sandwich with cream, dirty fries with teriyaki sauce or miso-mayo, and toast with toppings that include spicy cod roe, ogura red beans and a miso,corn and condensed milk number. The pick of the menu has to go to the epic Japanese-style sandwiches, with the classic tamago egg, the katsu chicken and the kinoko mushroom sandos often selling out before lunchtime.
The cafe sets itself apart from other cafes by roasting their own coffee and baking their own bread in-house, including the Shokupan Japanese milk bread used in their sandwiches. Furry friends are allowed to lap up the sun with diners in the cafe’s outdoor area and you can pre-order Le Bajo cakes to take home. Get in quick before the rest of Melbourne catches on.
More of a bakery than a cafe, we thought we’d still include Bread Club as the dough-based fare they serve up can’t be ignored (and they do coffee). Using sustainable flour, local and seasonal ingredients and traditional techniques, Bread Club has hungry North Melbourners lining up for their fix of tasty treats. From savoury scrolls to donuts, blueberry danishes, almond croissants, milk loaves, custard tarts, cookies, baguettes and all things sourdough, everything is delicious here.
There’s always a soundtrack blaring in the background at this little place. The boys here know what a good time is and enjoy sharing their love of all things bread. Bread Club has a page on Soundcloud with mixtapes made by local DJ’s including CC Disco and Edd Fisher, amongst many others. The team also has an Albert Park outpost keeping the bayside crowd well fed.
Tucked on Queensberry Street away from North Melbourne’s hustle and bustle is community favourite Twenty & Six. The team here are real locals, sourcing all their ingredients at nearby Queen Vic Market, creating tasty seasonal dishes cooked with the care that makes you feel like you’re at home.
The kitchen puts together a menu you won’t see everywhere else. Black sticky rice pudding with banana, coconut cream, passionfruit and wild popped rice alongside the pecan and almond granola with pepitas, fruit and earl grey-infused yoghurt make for an amazing breakfast. For something a bit closer to lunch, you can’t go past the grilled halloumi sandwich with beetroot relish or the lemon and herb chicken burger with a cob of spicy corn on the side.
The baristas here know what they are doing, making coffee using alternative single origin and blends from Seven Seed roasters. If you’re after a bit of a health-kick, the banana and berry smoothies are refreshing and the cafe encourages local pups to join their owners by the courtyard and street-side tables.
As its name suggests, Baguette Studios does all things French, but don’t be surprised to see a bit of Korean influence on the menu also. Co-owner Aileen Seo blends her Korean heritage with her French culinary training to bring something a little different to the streets of North Melbourne. Baguette sits at the base of the Wreckyn Street apartments complex and has a clean minimalist design with polished concrete flooring and white wall finishes that provides a calm setting for neighbourhood locals.
Freshly-made bread and baguettes are available to take away and sell out quickly. The dine-in menu changes weekly with sandwich fillings including grilled three-cheese, leg ham and bulgogi beef showing the Korean/French crossover.
The baristas use coffee beans by Inglewood Roasters for your caffeine hit and make sure you don’t leave without grabbing one of their delicious pretzel croissants.
The cafe and home of these coffee specialists, this space was originally home to a frozen seafood factory. The menu’s changed a little bit since then, as this local favourite serves up a gorgeous seasonal menu in a light-filled industrial space.
With so many cafes in the area, the kitchen here knows what it takes to be special. They’ve got an all-day brunch menu that includes acai bowls, chilli scrambled eggs, truffle mushrooms and breakfast tacos. For something a little heartier, try the calamari salad, the spaghetti with clams or their old school cheeseburger. You can wash down with a beer, wine or cocktail if you’re in that kind of mood.
If we haven’t mentioned it already, this place roasts all of its coffee beans onsite and knows its way round an espresso machine. There’s all sorts of coffee paraphernalia you never knew you needed available to take home along with sealed take-home packs of their beans, blends and cold-brew mixes.
Address: 19-21 Leveson St, North Melbourne VIC 3051
With so many choices, you’re gonna need a few weekends to get through all the cafes in North Melbourne. Veriu Queen Victoria Market apartments are available to stay just a short stroll from this bustling neighbourhood. So pop on down and enjoy some of the best food this suburb has to offer!