Most Beautiful Cafes in Melbourne

Updated 1 week ago

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Not so long ago, a DIY paint job and some cheap second-hand furniture was enough to open a cafe.

How things have changed.

Cafes have arguably overtaken restaurants as the focal point for Melbourne’s collective design talent. Today’s designers work with marble, brass, hardwood, imported tiles and six-figure budgets.

With so many talented architects and interior designers on the scene, it takes a lot to stand out. Many cafes just slip into the derivative pool of polished timber, white subway tiles and hanging Edison bulbs.

Or did, back in 2015. The current “it” look involves rounded edges, lots of plants, metallic highlights and dusky “millennial pink”. Some of our choices include these elements – trends have to start somewhere – but on the whole these interiors are strikingly unique.

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  • Melbourne-based architecture and interior design firm Ritz & Ghougassian is behind the polished 130-seat space, and were briefed to create a clean, but high-impact look.

  • Winner of the Best Café Design award at the 2019 Eat Drink Design Awards.

  • Try not to crick your neck as you take in the 15-metre-high ceilings in this former power station, outfitted by DesignOffice.

  • 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 – designed by architect Fiona Drago.

  • Named after Geoffrey Bawa, a Sri Lankan architect who popularised “tropical modernism”, which blends buildings with the natural landscape. Executed by Foolscap Studio.

  • Although most of the headlines surrounding Ona rightfully focus on its coffee, we think the fit-out at the Melbourne flagship is worth calling out, too. The understated, timber-heavy design by Breathe help make the space as welcoming as it is.

  • Thank Therefore Studio for this pastel-driven, Miami Vice-like fit-out.

  • This yellow, white and aqua colour palette is so cheerful, it's almost therapeutic.

  • This design from the seasoned team at Flack Studio is all about modern Italian elegance. Marble, dark timber and lipstick-red leather upholstery are the starts of the show.

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  • A white-and-blue space by Ewert Leaf.

  • These 7.5-metre-high ceilings must have been an inspiring canvas for Architects EAT, which filled the space with white-veined marble. Our favourite feature? The tall fig tree in the middle of the room.

  • An old stable converted with help from Two Design. We're particular fans of the circular-saw-shaped stools by local woodworker Michael Kelly and the brassy dodecahedron light fittings.

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  • A house of prosperity and poached eggs serving modern Asian-Australian cuisine on Whitehorse Road.

  • The way this space transitions from a modern apartment foyer to a Victorian terrace is something else. Then there's the brass and mint-green accents. Kudos, Studio You Me.

  • At this South Melbourne spot, the interior sports terracotta-pink columns and floor-to-ceiling eucalyptus-green cabinets. Large windows let natural light into the 140-seat space, and you’ll find native flora all over the room.

  • Biasol is behind this mix of polished concrete floors, bulbous brass lamps and turquoise tiles inspired by Melbourne's 1950s Greek delicatessens.

  • Finally, a cafe brave enough to ditch whites and pastels in favour of moody olive-green and grey curtains. Another winner from Architects EAT.

  • There's nothing too fancy here. Just lots and lots and lots of white. But the commitment to that "theme" is impressive – it's like stepping inside a fluorescent bulb.

  • This Joanne Motee interior won a global design award in 2016. We can see why.

  • An old mechanic's garage turned into a pastel- and plant-heavy paradise by Mim Design.

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  • The most understated spot on this list, but with plenty of lived-in Art-Deco charm.

  • 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.

  • The Brunswick branch of one of Melbourne’s most-loved coffee roasters. Take in the warm, wood-panelled interiors with a cup of seasonal blend or single origin coffee, alongside pastries from Austro Bakery. There are also coffee beans, at-home brewing gear and ceramics to take home.

  • Cityscapes, nature and excellent food rarely coexist, unless you’re outside at The Terrace. Here, you can tuck into a scone or some Turkish-style eggs against the picturesque backdrop of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

  • This cheery cafe offers up a playful brunch menu, grab-and-go pastries and hot coffee from Dukes. Its creative brunches might include Reuben sangas (with an unexpected combo of kangaroo pastrami and pineapple sauerkraut) or cured salmon mille-feuille on a New York-style bagel.

  • Hit this Euro-inspired daytime diner for its marmalade-slathered carrot-cake toast, hotcakes two ways and killer chicken-caesar sangas. Sit at a snazzy stool inside, or in the shaded outdoor area, and sip on Industry Beans coffee, or boozy-brunch-friendly cocktails and pét-nat.

  • This sprawling urban farm and eatery sits in an unlikely spot – atop a suburban shopping centre. It’s a rooftop oasis, complete with all-day, farm-driven fare and views of the Dandenong Ranges.