It’s not the space, it’s the way you use it. And some of the best new openings in Melbourne (and beyond) are also some of the smallest. Two are holes in the wall, so small you can’t even step inside. One is standing room only. Another is worth planning a post-lockdown road trip around. Here are five tiny new cafes to check out.
Mork Chocolate City
Since Covid hit, the stellar hot-chocolatiers at Mork have been hunkered down, mostly focusing on their North Melbourne brew house. But when the opportunity arose for a second site, a literal hole in the wall off Little Collins Street, they pounced. At just seven square metres – in a cleverly converted lift shaft, of all places – the new store is about as teeny-tiny as it gets. The main event is its speciality drinking chocolate, available in ready-to-drink or take-home form. Alongside mainstays such as the signature Campfire Hot Chocolate – served with a smoky, toasted house-made marshmallow – there are a few frozen cacao drinks, and plant-based alternatives, including a Bounty-inspired number with caramelised coconut and sea salt. Plus, coffee by the nearby Patricia and baked goods by Mork’s sibling business, Sot – cheesy “everything” buns (as well as cinnamon buns), twice-baked chocolate cakes, dark-chocolate brownies and more.
Tuckshop by Comma
Queuing up at this hole in the wall might take you back a few years, but Moorabbin’s Tuckshop by Comma is nothing like your school canteen. Here, it’s all about OOT bagels, which are more novel than nostalgic. It’s by Adam Cruickshank and Megan Kwee, who last year opened Comma Food & Wine, a neighbourhood wine bar with excellent snacks, just around the corner. Behind a little roller door, its more casual sibling has just enough room for a green La Marzocco, a petite kitchen and very little else – so for now, it’s a strictly takeaway-only situation. Go for the Cape Grim hanger-steak bagel: a play on one of Comma’s signature dishes, it comes stacked up with potato crisps, dill-pickle mayo and smoked scamorza (which is torched to serve). Other options include salmon pastrami, crisp satay tofu and the slightly sweeter blueberry schmear.
Balaclava wine bar Pretty Little is known for dainty, delicate dishes. But out back the team is doing things differently. Down the inconspicuous rear laneway is its snug new (born-out-of-lockdown) sandwich shop. The once cobweb-covered garage – which hadn’t been opened for 30 years until the Pretty Little guys moved in – is now a no-frills shopfront with a tile-lined bench, a sandwich press and a few bar stools. If it weren’t for the cobalt signage, you’d never know it was there, particularly when the unmarked roller door is closed. “Part of the charm of it is that it’s hidden,” says owner Mike Byard. “Finding it is half the fun.” Seek it out for barbeque-beef-cheek Reubens oozing with smoked raclette, meatball subs slathered with garlic butter, stellar salad sangas and more.
At Northcote’s tiny new bakery-within-a-bakery, which opened in August, everything is vegan and gluten-free. Pandy Bakeshop’s charming, plant-filled home is inside Baketico (run by chef Raymond Capaldi and public relations gun Jodi Crocker), itself just six months old. It sells the kind of generous, unfussy cakes the Country Women’s Association is known for, but with thoroughly modern twists – and more dietary friendliness. On any given day there are five small, individual cakes available, and six to eight larger cakes sold by the slice. Everything will change regularly, as owner Sophie O’Connor is keen to keep innovating. Think fairy-bread lamingtons, Aztec hot chocolate tarts spiked with cinnamon and chilli, dainty rose and apricot tea cakes, slices of rich chocolate cake smothered in Guinness and whiskey ganache, and more.
One for the top of your post-lockdown hit list, Melburnians. On the Surf Coast, this new Mediterranean deli – named after mortadella – feels like it’s from another era. Only 40 square metres and with a lived-in vibe, it’s loosely based on an alimentari (grocer) in Cefalù, a beautiful coastal town in northern Sicily. There’s orange-and-white chequerboard flooring; lemony yellow milk bar-style shelves, stacked with fancy pantry staples and very purchasable merch; and a sweeping window that gives the space a nice airiness. Mortadeli captures owner Jake Cassar’s love for the supreme smallgood as well as his Maltese heritage, with want-for-nothing continental rolls and a less ubiquitous sandwich “every Maltese person takes to the beach”. And unlike some other modern delis-by-name, it also sells cold cuts – that includes three different types of mortadella.
Additional reporting by Quincy Malesovas and Nick Connellan.
Melbourne is currently in lockdown, and travel from metro Melbourne to regional Victoria is restricted. Masks are mandated in public spaces; public gatherings are banned, and minimal social contact is recommended. If you have concerns about visiting businesses or public spaces, or questions about self-isolation or coronavirus testing, check out the latest updates from the Department of Health and Human Services.