The set-up at Core Roasters is classic Melbourne – small street, small warehouse, small signage. Beyond the yawning roller door and forest-green facade, there’s a long coffee bar with a glassed-in pastry kitchen behind and further on, a 15-kilogram Roastmax coffee roaster.
Yet co-owners Michael Allen (ex-Small Batch) and Dani Sunario ensure that this isn’t your standard coffee and croissant sort of joint.
Alongside regular croissants, almond croissants and carrot cake, you’ll find pandan-spiked kaya (coconut jam) squiggled on toast, char siu pork tarts and pasties filled with mushroom rendang. Coffee is also a theme, showing up in espresso banana bread and tiramisu cookies. You can thank Sunario for these: the former music teacher has been honing her self-taught baking and viennoiserie skills here, while leaning into her inherent creativity and Southeast Asian heritage.
Then there’s the coffee situation. Core has three machines from Decent Espresso, a manufacturer founded by a software developer. Like many Silicon Valley companies, it has a rosy, utopian mission: build a small, affordable espresso machine that can emulate all others, from vintage piston-levers to the newest models from La Marzocco. And by many accounts, it’s pretty good at it.
The ’spros at Core taste a bit different – the long blacks especially, which are made using a lungo-style extraction, rather than filling a cup with hot water and adding a double-shot on top.
If you are looking for something a little unexpected, or which you haven't tried before, look to the rest of the drinks menu. That house-made kaya is turned into a latte with steamed milk and topped with toasted coconut and gula melaka (palm sugar). Teas from India and Taiwan are brewed, iced and lightly gassed, then sweetened with fermented fruit syrups. And hot chocolate is house-made, from raw bean to final powder.
You may also find take-home condiments, including chilli oil, tea-infused fermented marmalade and fruit ketchup with nectarine and jalapeno.
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