The Best Cafes in Melbourne’s CBD

Updated 1 week ago

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Melbourne’s cafe culture is admired around the globe – and it’s easy to see why. We have innovative chefs in kitchens, sleek fit-outs from recognisable interior designers, and coffee by top roasters and baristas. Plus, that friendly yet efficient service that your interstate mates call “so Melbourne”. We’re spoilt for choice, too. Melbourne has more than 2000 cafes (that’s more than double the number of McDonald’s outlets nationwide), and some of the finest fall within the 3000 postcode. We’ve narrowed down the best to make things easier. From cuisine-crossing sandwich spots like Warkop to standing-room-only coffee shops like Patricia and lofty all-day diners like Square One Rialto, these are the standout cafes in Melbourne’s CBD.

  • 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.

  • At Bench Coffee’s CBD flagship, stop in for an espresso at the sleek standing bar or grab a latte and rich, bite-sized dacquoise (in flavours such as matcha, black sesame and vanilla-sea salt) to go. Also on Bourke Street and in Brunswick.

  • This pillar of Seven Seeds pumps out espresso and batch brew for hurried office workers in the CBD. It’s named after the 17th-century Sufi merchant who, according to legend, smuggled seven seeds of coffee from Yemen to India.

  • When it comes to flavour, this standing-room-only joint is as modern as it gets. It showcases a who’s who of local guest roasters, alongside its own house blends and single origins. Plus, find baked goods from All Are Welcome, Mork and more.

  • 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.

  • Enjoy one of Melbourne’s favourite coffee haunts in a historic building at Queen Vic Market. Enjoy high-quality espresso and filter coffee in the al fresco area, or take a bag of beans to go. Also on Collins Street, Victoria Street, in the Queen Vic Market and at other locations.

  • The second outpost for Melbourne’s most revered croissants. Expect to queue for at least 15 minutes, if not longer. Also in Fitzroy and Armadale.

  • Dukes is a heavy hitter when it comes to excellent coffee in the CBD. It specialises in organic coffees sourced from small international farms and cooperatives. Dukes’ espresso blend is one you’ll see around, but this warm spot on Flinders Lane is the best place to try the latest single-origin roasts, brewed with care.

  • Fancy sandos and high-quality coffee are the draws at this sleek, takeaway-driven spot inside Emporium. The main event comes five ways: crustless shokupan filled with either egg, chicken, prawn, Wagyu or Kurobuta pork.

  • This Japanese-inspired bakery is from the team behind Little Rogue across the street. It’s selling whole loaves of shokupan, flaky almond-yuzu croissants and Danishes piled high with berries.

  • Stop by this inviting sandwich and wine bar for Axil coffee and Penny for Pound pastries, or linger with a Martini made with Four Pillars Olive Leaf Gin. Plus, dishes like breakfast pasta and crackling-coated porchetta rolls.

  • 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.

  • This sibling to the Collingwood favourite is mostly geared for takeaway, with a few nooks inside to spend five minutes in. The coffee is a house roast, served espresso or batch-brewed. And there are croissants, cake slices and bagels, too. Also in Collingwood.

  • This Indonesian sandwich and coffee shop (by an ex-Navi sous-chef) serves Aussie cafe favourites with Indo flair. Find gado gado sandwiches and sambal-spiked Filet-o-Fish alongside Dukes coffee. Also in Richmond.

  • With an all-white fit-out and a sleek under-counter coffee machine, Industry Beans’s first satellite cafe sets forth with its own identity. Also in Fitzroy and Chadstone.

  • As regal as the name suggests, this striking all-day spot by the owners of grab-and-go sandwich shop Earl Canteen is one of Melbourne’s most beautiful cafes. But this is a place you’ll want to linger – with mighty muffulettas, reimagined caesar salads and spicy Bloody Marys.

  • A small laneway cafe where work from aspiring artists adorns the walls. Come for pastries from Bakemono across the street, and standout cherry blossom and matcha lattes.

  • You know the old-school, untouched-for-decades diners dotted all over the US? This CBD spot is a slick recreation of those retro relics. Go for syrupy pancake stacks, loaded brekkie muffins and filter coffee in classic diner mugs.

  • A tiny, light-filled space with a touch of Miami Vice from the founders of Pillar of Salt, Touchwood and Barry.

  • A passion for coffee and friendly atmosphere are the main draws at this bright spot on Queen Street. Most customers grab a quick coffee or pastry before heading back to the office, but there’s communal tables and outdoor seating if you want to stick around.

  • This offshoot of South Melbourne’s St Ali is like a cellar door for coffee. Baristas in white lab coats might walk you through a series of sensory tests with tasting notes, or make your coffee from a variety of brewing methods.

  • 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. Also on Hardware Street.

  • Since opening in 2010, this cafe and roastery by two champion baristas has grown into a small empire. Alongside lattes and cappuccinos there’s batch brew, cold drip and other specialties. This spot offers excellent coffee and full kitchen service. Also in Melbourne Central, on Lonsdale Street, Flinders Lane and beyond.

  • A homage to New York’s Bowery subway station that combines the industrial feel of a subway and the efficiency of an American canteen. First stop? An everything bagel with schmear, or filled with new-school combinations.

  • This poky Seven Seeds outpost punches well above its weight. Stop by for excellent coffee alongside sandwiches, cakes and pastries.

  • This cafe’s name harks back to earlier days – it’s located on the heritage site of Melbourne’s first telephone exchange company. The main game is brunch, with creative dishes like soft shell crab omelette and black rice poo. But the Code Black coffee and hojicha lattes make Operator25 even more worth your time.

  • At this bright spot off Little Lonsdale Street, the US-style donuts are made fresh on-site every day. Find traditional flavours like vanilla bean to more creative ones, like honey and sea salt crullers. Plus, hot coffee by Market Lane and bags of beans to go.

  • A slick specialty coffee bar by the Rustica Team. Pop by for a smooth locally roasted brew and a grab-and-go egg-and-bacon roll, then take in the peach-terracotta terrazzo and striking green marble of the pretty room.

  • Look for the rabbits to find this small bakery, which nods to Korea’s many self-service cafes. Head in for dramatic pastries and theatrical drinks. Think “lava” pandoros, matcha-chocolate canelés and purple sweet potato lattes.

  • This casual Korean eatery serves up lesser-known dishes like yukhoe bibimbap and mandu-guk. The menu runs the full gamut of flavours and textures, from fermented and fiery to crisp, cool and refreshing.

  • A day-to-night bakehouse and brasserie serving sourdough and laminated pastries in the mornings, and refined dishes by an ex-Gimlet chef around lunch. It’s by the group behind Sunda and Aru.

  • A cafe by day and cocktail bar by night, from one of Melbourne’s top coffee roasters. Come early for brunch or later for coffee-spiked cocktails, Victorian wines and snacky plates (think roasted bone marrow on toast).

  • This spot, by a trio of Melbourne cafe legends, has a neighbourhood famiresu (family restaurant) vibe. Find katsu curry Benedict with house-made spam and Japanese curry hollandaise, AM Bakehouse pastries and whisked-to-order matcha.

  • It feels like your grandma’s lounge room – in the best way. And in true grandma style, it’s nailed the art of afternoon tea. Go for Japanese shortcake and Basque burnt cheesecake by the slice, plus topnotch matcha and matcha madeleines.