The Best Cafes in Melbourne

Updated 2 weeks ago


Melbourne’s cafes are recognised around the world, and it’s easy to see why. We have former fine-dining chefs in kitchens, as at fast-favourite Korean cafe Ondo. There are fit-outs from leading designers (Dame’s interior was led by an architect who worked on the Louvre). And brewing-wise, we have some of the best roasters and baristas around, like Market Lane’s Toshiyuki Ishiwata. That’s all before you get to the efficient yet friendly service that’s gained attention in New York and beyond.

Clearly, the standard is extremely high wherever you look. But Melbourne’s best cafes really stand out. Their well-executed menus edge towards restaurant quality. Their fit-outs are considered and beautiful. And beyond just using locally roasted coffee or roasting it themselves, they understand how to get the best out of their beans across every brewing method. Lastly, these curated all-rounders have the service and ambience to match.

  • The ambitious cafe – by the hospo heavyweight behind Dessous, Hazel and Liminal – features a menu from 10 star chefs. Find cumin-lamb pancakes with chilli oil, a Portuguese pork sanga and an ube waffle with whipped Pepe Saya butter.

  • This Rathdowne Village cafe has an old soul: with a relaxed, unpretentious feel reminiscent of the pre-Instagram era. It's got a pared-back, produce-driven menu that looks different day to day (but the standout gravlax and signature riff on eggs Florentine aren't going anywhere).

  • This energetic warehouse cafe is ground zero for specialty coffee in Melbourne, and rightfully a destination for local and interstate coffee fiends. Alongside a solid bean roster (try the signature Golden Gate espresso blend), it also serves a crowd-favourite eggs Benedict spinoff with waffles and four-litre goon bags of ready-to-drink cold filter coffee.

  • This light and airy cafe serves dishes from across Asia. Get in early for intricate Japanese breakfast sets, alongside dishes like Hong Kong-style congee and Korean bibimbap. Plus, Vietnamese coffee served hot or cold, matcha and hojicha lattes and more.

  • “Cibi” is Japanese for “little one”. But this cafe, homewares and furniture store is not so little. It's in a light-filled warehouse with a spacious, homey kitchen, there are traditional breakfasts and takeaway lunches. Plus, a grocer with produce and pantry goods to take home.

  • This paddock-to-plate cafe and bistro sources much of its produce directly from the owners’ Gippsland farm, and uses it to serve up hearty breakfasts, plus harvest dinners with local DJs and booze.

  • This Canberra-based coffee roaster has made a real name for itself on the east coast. Visit this outpost and you’ll understand why. At any time, there are at least 20 outstanding coffees listed on its “freezer menu”.

  • Carlton’s Ima Project Cafe – the city’s standard-bearer for Japanese breakfast – is now a day-to-night cafe and izakaya, serving dishes like kingfish chirashi and shokupan slathered in mentaiko (cod roe).

  • South Melbourne icon St Ali was also one of the first on-ground in Melbourne’s specialty coffee boom, and it’s been perfecting its wares ever since. A grungy converted warehouse is the stage for its cheffy brunches, laid-back service and exceptional brews.

  • This daytime hangout from the team behind north-side favourite Florian offers fresh sandwiches, nourishing salads, a next-level mushroom congee, and a no-fuss takeaway menu.

  • A white, bright successor to the famed Melbourne coffee roasters old flagship site down the street. Single origins and ground-breaking brunches still reign supreme, served within a skylit warehouse splashed with greenery.

  • Proud Mary represents Melbourne coffee in a way that few roasters do. Its bright flagship cafe just off Smith Street was a trailblazer when it opened in 2009, offering then-novel extraction methods (V60, Aeropress, cold drip) for its blends and single origins – all roasted a block away at Aunty Peg's. Whether you’re feeling intrepid or sticking to the usual, there’s a brew here for you.

  • Terror Twilight takes its name from a song by American rock band Pavement – but there’s nothing scruffy or faded about this Collingwood classic. The polished menu is two-fold – there’s a section with classic all-day options like smashed avo toast, and another in which you can customise a broth or rice bowl with add-ons and proteins. A smash hit.

  • Even though it opened back in 2009, this cafe and roastery is still one of the most popular cafes in Brunswick. The interiors are spacious, with comfortable chairs and cosy booths. And the food is adventurous, but it won't veer too far away from anyone's comfort zones. The coffee is, predictably, excellent.

  • Located across from Queens Park, this expansive cafe goes beyond the rudimentary with its brekkie offering. And with 75 seats, it’s ideal for big groups.

  • The well-loved laneway institution has expanded beyond brunch. It’s now offering French cocktails, wine on tap and elevated Euro snacks in a 250-square metre space.

  • A cafe and roastery by a couple with serious coffee credentials, including an Australian barista championship. Also in Richmond, Chadstone, Kew and across the CBD.

  • Single origin coffee and hearty breakfasts come together at Proud Mary’s second cafe outpost. Its all-day menu might feature hotcakes, truffle mushrooms and a Wagyu beef burger.

  • This sea of olive leather, grey velvet and art deco touches is not your everyday foyer cafe. On the menu: French flatbreads you can fold up like a taco, and salads with porchetta or rotisserie chicken.

  • Sustainability, simplicity and even transportability are the guiding principles of this singular community cafe. It’s set within a recycled shipping container, and surrounded by an abundant kitchen garden that informs the no-rules menu. Kimchi toastie? Bubble and squeak? You have some choices to make.

  • The team behind Kettle Black and Top Paddock go beyond cafes with this spacious CBD spot, set in a former power station. Order fluffy ricotta hotcakes or chilli scramble with smoked yoghurt and saltbush. Plus, hot coffee and sharp cocktails.

  • Come for a Japanese- and Korean-style menu that might include crispy pork katsu sandos, house-made muesli topped with honey cheong (syrup) and the Japanese lunch set of your dreams. Plus, coffees from Primary, and iced lattes laced with condensed milk.

  • This all-day diner serves up flavours of Southern Italy with Mediterranean influences. Highlights have included panko-encrusted eggs accompanied by sourdough, salad, ham hock and candied walnuts. Also, fried eggs in a spicy Arrabiata sauce that’s given a lift with ‘nduja, garlic and peppers.

  • Want to explore Korean cuisine beyond barbeque? This cafe has hard-to-find classics, a selection of banchan (small side dishes) and black sesame lattes.

  • A cafe by day and izakaya by night. Mornings are for bowls of salmon- or Wagyu-topped rice with an umami-rich broth. And in the evenings, sake cocktails and snacky bites like mirin-dressed oysters come out.

  • A vibrant corner shop that combines a cafe, wine shop, deli and general store. Enjoy its dippy eggs and morning plates, or grab a bottle of wine and bouquet to-go.