Since Mike Cracknell opened the first Vertue Coffee Roasters in Carlton in 2015, the business’s growth has been steady. In July 2019, a smaller espresso bar arrived in Cremorne, and in May this year Cracknell supersized the operation – opening a third outpost in a sunny, 270-square-metre Port Melbourne warehouse that’s also home to Vertue’s brand-new roastery.
“This pandemic has thrown a spanner in the works,” says Cracknell, who signed the Port Melbourne lease in October 2019 and began construction in March. “The reason we’ve done okay is we’re constantly diversifying our business and exploring new areas. Some income streams are hurting, and some are doing better … if the Carlton cafe was all we had, we would have been screwed.” (Being in prime student and tourist territory, the shutdowns hit it hard and fast.)
However, relocating the roastery from Carlton to Port Melbourne means there’s now 30 times more space, Cracknell estimates, and 16 times the production capacity. (With the new set-up, there’s scope to roast four tonnes of coffee beans a week.)
While the roastery isn’t accessible to the public, you can still peer in on head roaster and Cracknell’s business partner, Ciaran Arden, at work. A set of vertical windows open the spaces up to each other, plus there’s a tiny kids’ cubby with its own secret window. As you’d expect, a rotating selection of espresso blends and single origins, as well as batch brews – all roasted on-site – are available.
But Covid aside, the menu here was always going to be geared towards grab-and-go. Pick up vegan sausage rolls with tomato relish; loaded scrambled-egg wraps with bacon, haloumi and harissa mayo; and slow-cooked beef sourdough sangas with Swiss cheese and caramelised onion. Sweets-wise, in the display cabinet you’ll find choc and peanut-butter cookies, raspberry and dark chocolate brownies, and salted-caramel slice.
Need some supermarket staples? There’s also a corner-store-style breadbasket stocked by nearby bakery Noisette, and a fridge filled with alterative milks, juice and eggs, as well as chia pots and bircher muesli.
The fit-out is light and bright, with bold splashes of Vertue’s signature blue on the building’s facade and tabletops, while soft blonde timbers soften the space. When restrictions ease, it will be able to seat 20 people inside and about 16 outside.
Vertue Coffee Roasters Port Melbourne is takeaway-only during Melbourne’s stage-four lockdown.
Vertue Coffee Roasters Port Melbourne
425 Graham Street, Port Melbourne
Mon to Fri 7am–3pm
Sat & Sun 8am–3pm