As many already know, it’s often hard to get a table at Auction Rooms. “A lot of people love it here,” admits the manager of Counter Amy Malone. “A lot of people. It’s always super busy.”

So Andrew Kelly, the man behind Auction Rooms, decided it needed an overflow: Counter. Conveniently located across the road from the mothership, Counter has taken the space formerly occupied by the much-loved, short-lived record bar, Wooly Bully.

The idea is to direct Auction Rooms’ takeaway traffic to Counter, giving locals their fix even quicker while the original continues to concentrate on what it already does.

Like a growing number of Melbourne cafes, Counter hopes to nurture a drop-in atmosphere by being standing-room only. The fit out, designed by Charles Scott’s Intuitive Design, sets sandy-coloured joinery against a blue and green colour palate. “The decor’s a lot brighter,” says Malone. “I think it’s quite an unusual fit out for a cafe – we’ve done something quite different.”

An unfussy range of sandwiches are available to take away. Lox bagels join inventive baguettes with ingredients such as lingot cheese, wilted kale and tomato chutney.

A small range of produce will be on sale, with breads from South Yarra’s Tivoli Road and vegetables out of Glenora Farm in Central Victoria. Soon, Counter will also stock homemade jams and chutneys, as well as some fancy syrups to be used with Soda Stream carbonated drink makers at home. “People will pay a deposit for a vessel, and then just come back to have it refilled,” explains Malone.

As an offshoot of Small Batch, however, Counter’s focus remains firmly on coffee. The roaster’s range of seasonal single origin beans and its signature ‘Candyman’ blend are on offer, as is an unusual style of filter coffee from something called the Gold Cup. “I think it is the first one in Australia,” says Malone. “With a traditional pour-over there is a barista slowly pouring water over the coffee. The Gold Cup dispenses the water for us, which means the barista can do other things.”

“We really want to get to know everyone in North Melbourne,” says Malone. We want it to become a real local’s place – part of the the Small Batch takeover.”

104 Errol Street, North Melbourne

Daily 8am–2pm