The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, Melbourne

Author: Michael Harden
Photography: Anthony Gallwey

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country right now: The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, Melbourne.

OK, the name first. It's unwieldy, yes, but it has good coffee pedigree, being the title of a 1652 ad for the first café to open in London. And The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is a café very much focused on coffee's virtues (it roasts its own, and the impressive roaster with its shiny copper exhaust pipes is the dining area's centrepiece) and presents the java very well in both espresso and pour-over forms. But there's more going for TVOTCD than coffee. For starters, location: a lane off a lane between Drummond and Lygon streets in Carlton. Second, the fit-out: a former stable with a cosy coffee bar at the front and a double-height, light-flooded dining space out the back with large rusting planter boxes bolted to the walls, timber panelling and an electric-blue banquette. And then there's the menu from chef Matt Green (ex-Station Hotel, The Commoner), a breakfast-lunch affair that mixes the comforting with the playful. Smoked ocean trout comes with curried arancini, a duck egg and a side of super-sweet mango and chilli jam. Lamb shoulder is braised for eight hours, arriving tender and teamed with tahini, tabbouleh and baby broccoli. The New Orleans-inspired muffaletta (a press-toasted deli sandwich heavy on the meat and cheese) has rightfully garnered an early following. There's a kids' menu, too, and all the makings of a straight-cooked breakfast for those not interested in Scotch eggs teamed with piccalilli mayonnaise and crisp pig skin. It's yet another reason to get thee to Carlton, even if the spelling does make you twitch.

The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, 8 Raffa Pl, Carlton, Vic, (03) 8060 6987

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