Tag Archives: coffee house

barista stalker

I’m not a stalker. Seriously. I mean sure, I seem to be following Courtney of Cup of Truth fame around, popping up at cafés he’s working at. I assure you appearances can be deceiving. You believe me, right?

But let’s jump back in time a bit, before I outed myself as a faux barista stalker.

When I train in — usually when I’ve skivved from riding my bicycle — I pop into Cup of Truth. As mentioned in an earlier post, it is the best place to get a coffee within the vicinity of Flinders St Station, hands down. Aside from the quality coffee and the appalling jokes, I also enjoy swapping coffee goss with Courtney and Verity. One such day Courtney mentioned Alex Anderson, of Seven Seeds barista fame, being in the process of scouting locations in Kensington for a new coffee venture.

I’d hit pay dirt, the good shit, the shiznit or any other cliché you might be inclined to hurl at it. I had some insider coffee knowledge, without being an insider. Fantastic. So after rubbing it in @alexlobov’s face (my personal coffee idol), I didn’t have much to do with the information. So patiently I waited for the grand opening of Melbourne’s newest coffee Mecca.

With further visits to Cup of Truth, I was able to ascertain that Courtney would, on weekends, be working at The Premises. Thus we are neatly back on the topic of barista stalking. Personally I think stalking is a bit harsh. It’s more like what happens when you find a good doctor. Once you found them, you don’t let go. Ever.

Now that we’ve established I’m only ‘kind of ‘strange, onto the review. I suppose this review is a bit of a repeat of that for De Clieu — great coffee with knowledgeable staff and tasty food. Unsurprising, given Alex & co. were a big reason for Seven Seeds success. The difference between The Premises and somewhere like De Clieu or Seven Seeds is the level of ‘polish’ to the aesthetic. Seven Seeds and De Clieu are executed flawlessly with respect to the architecture and café design. Contrast this to The Premises,which feels slightly less polished and more raw and rustic, perfectly fitting the slightly ‘decrepit in a interesting way’ feel of Kensington.

Ms G and I started the day’s caffeine intake with a pair of lattes (or lat-e as my grandfather pronounces it): a ‘woosie’ soy milk for her, and a manly cow’s milk for me! Very tasty, not too heavy in flavour, nor too milky — a well made latte.  With the coffee circulating, we’d need something to soak up the caffeine.
Gem went for the french toast with stewed vanilla apricots and spiced mascarpone, with the obligatory side of bacon (c’mon, bacon goes with everything!). Simply delicious. The fruit was very subtle and not overly sweet, working really well with the creaminess of the mascarpone. The bacon even worked too!

For me The Premises creamed corn, fried free-range and cumin salt on multigrain toast caught my eye. In my younger years I’d sneak cans of creamed corn from the pantry, but haven’t had it since. While the creamed corn isn’t remarkable on its own (’cause, let’s face it, it’s creamed corn) it works amazingly well with the other ingredients. The gooey yolk and slightly spicy and salty bit of the cumin salt offset the sweet creamed corn. My only quibble with the meal is the size for the price. At $14.50 I’d expect either a slightly larger serving, or the bacon to be included in the ‘base model’ (+$3.50 for bacon).

Sated, but never satisfied we decided on more coffees. I ‘hit up’ a long black Columbian Carlos Imbachi, while Gem (the perpetual hipster) had the El Salvador Kilimanjaro natural as a pourover. To be honest I can’t remember much about my coffee, other than it being tasty. Gem was enamoured with hers, and I was pleased that there wasn’t a beaker in sight.

Full to bursting, we waddled over to the counter to pay.  However, before we were allowed to leave, Gem was quizzed about her take on the pour over. Now while I’m only just developing the palate to discern flavours in coffee, she responded with something about ‘dark chocolate with star anise on the finish’. All gobbledegook to me, I’m afraid. Damn coffee wanksters.

So, in summary: a very nice cafe, in a very nice suburb. You can even stalk your favourite barista there.

The Premises on Urbanspoon

and sold!

Restorative, my arse. That was what my yoga instructor said about jumping to and from ‘down faced dog’ pose a dozen or so times. Harumph. Sure, sure, my insomnia is practically non-existent thanks to yoga but something was missing.

Brunch, that’s restorative.

Tristan gloated about his breakfast at De Clieu while I groaned and heaved into the car for a trip to my old ‘hood and Auction Rooms. The first time I went, I wasn’t really drinking coffee. This time, I was armed with a little bit of knowledge and probably more curiosity than was good for me. Something about ‘Andrew Kelly’…’third-wave’ etc.? Whatevs. Reading tantalising reviews (Melbourne Gastronome, I’m pointing an accusatory finger at you) was only going to teach me so much: you’ve got to visit and get your figurative hands dirty.

frenzy at the pass

Woah, Auction Rooms was seriously busy but efficient. Enter a cliché about well-oiled machines here. Truly, the staff made their jobs look effortless. There was one fellow in the kitchen whose sole job looked to be pumping out a constant supply of poached eggs. I know, I know – it’s their job and all but still: impressive.

so many eggs poaching

Tristan was pretty much ordered to get the pork knuckle sandwich by a couple of foodies via Twitter and being the obedient lad that he is, that was what he got. Tender meat coupled with the sourness of saffron-yellow pickled cauliflower. He said it reminded him of a similar such sandwich being served at a place I won’t mention due to conflict of interest (though I hope to secure a guest reviewer for it sometime soon).

pork knuckle sandwich

Under the pretence of ‘healthy’, I decided to avoid a meat-based dish (though I must confess to rather enjoying a diet made up of much less meat) and went with the ‘counter bid’ – a bed of parmesan polenta, with wild sauteed mushrooms and baby spinach stacked on top then finished with salsa verde and mascarpone. I chose to have poached eggs, as offered.

‘Egads, the poached egg soldier was fallible: the first one was a tad overdone. However, redeemed with the second one which was perfect! The hint-of-cheesy polenta was delicious, being perfectly cooked and not at all stodgy. It soaked up the juice of the mushrooms wonderfully. Don’t rule it out, omnivores, it’s just as delish as meat.

Judging by Melbourne Gastronome’s reviews, it looks like the ‘counter bid’ is their nickname for the vegetarian brunch option. I rather like that the name stays, but the actual dish changes. Clever!

counter bid

Of course, because coffee is a major strength of the Rooms, it’s imperative to try it out. When we visited, the Kenyan Oreti was on offer as a syphon. Both of us did try their house blend, affectionately named the Candyman. This was recommended to us by a staff member before trying out their single origins.

long black

Perhaps we did get slightly more attentive treatment after they saw the size of Tristan’s…camera, but they did forget right at the beginning to take our drinks orders as promised when they told us to wait for seats. A very minor detail. The fellow at the door was most efficient and even told us just how long we’d have to wait before we could order food. In any case, don’t be put off by how busy Auction Rooms is – definitely worth the wait. I look forward to more weekend restorative treatment when yoga has ‘failed’ me!

Auction Rooms on Urbanspoon

the french press is back, baby

happy customer

“So the creators of St Ali, Brother Baba Budan and Seven Seeds opened a new cafe, De Clieu, and they didn’t fuck it up” —  was my short-attention-span-generation review of De Clieu for Ms G.

Now while my ‘review’ above is a little short, and perhaps a tad profane, it pretty much sums up De Clieu for me. Legends of the Melbourne coffee scene have opened a new place, and as with all the previous iterations, they’ve executed it beautifully — friendly and knowledgeable wait staff, great food and of course, fantastic coffee. Tick, tick, tick.

I was at a loose end while Ms G was at yoga and it was suggested that I pop in to De Clieu. I’d grab a coffee (or two) and then G and I would hit up Auction Rooms for some mad ‘pork knucklage’ (but more on that in a later post). Perfect.

Scanning the oh-so-pretty menus for the smallest looking dish I settled upon the buckwheat and rice muesli. Damn it was good – puffy soft rice, chocolatey crunch of hazelnuts, bitey zing of dehydrated apple, strawberry and orange, creaminess of the yoghurt and the sweetness of strawberry jam.

rice and buckwheat muesli

I’d need an equally impressive coffee to go with my nom breakfast. The more I latte sip, the more I try to expand my coffee horizons, trying more exotic blends and more esoteric brewing methods. Today would be no exception, selecting the Guatemalan Cup of Excellence in the French press.

Now, I realise there is nothing fancy or new about the French press, except perhaps in an old-is-new-again kind of way. In fact, for me the French press (or plunger coffee) is distinctly unsexy — years of my father drinking plunger Lavazza gave me, quite literally, a bad taste for the French press. Fast forward to 2010, and the overlords of the lactose-intolerant-skinny-jean-wearing-coffee-sipping hipsters, Seven Seeds, have deemed the French press cool again. Well, if it’s good enough for those wacky hipsters, then it’s good enough for me. Subtle, tea-like in body, slightly fruity. Really quite delicious, and very much like a pour-over, which is unsurprising given both methods ‘steep’ the coffee in hot water. My father had it right drinking it black back then as such a light-bodied coffee shouldn’t be messed with by adding milk as it completely overpowers the subtle flavours. If only Dad hadn’t used Lavazza! On a previous excursion to De Clieu, Ms G had a similar enlightenment. From the way she describes the experience I suspect there were angels singing, trumpets blazing and soft cheeses and cured meats being distributed.

I shall forever have a soft spot for De Clieu in my heart because it is the place where upon having Ethiopian Nekisse through the French press, I was able to smell and taste the blueberry. A true coffee epiphany moment. To top it off, I gleefully shared my experience with the staff and instead of acting like they’d just been assaulted by some silly girl, they shared in my joy and enthusiasm. Much love.

french press

Following the French press I had a similarly delicious long black with an unnamed single-origin. I was buzzing.

long black

De Clieu is a beautiful venue, and like its larger brother Seven Seeds there’s whispers of design awards with a minimal and uncluttered layout. Unfortunately, as they say, strengths are sometimes weaknesses and seating is in short supply, so get there early. While you’re there grab a French press – they’re not nearly as daggy as you remember.

De Clieu on Urbanspoon