Above the buzz of Flinders Lane, tucked in up a non-descript staircase in the CAE building, is one of Melbourne’s best casual dining experiences.

It looks very much like its old-school-canteen namesake, with classroom-style seating (because it used to be one) and chalkboards. Suits and students mingle to see what’s on offer in the daily menu and vie for the bench seats overlooking the street below.

The joy of the canteen kitchen is that it’s simple. The daily menu is small and the dishes are based on Italian recipes and the best seasonal produce, with coffee from the stovetop pot included in the price. It’s the easiest decision you’ll ever make.

Just like it's sister, Journal cafe just down the stairs), the canteen, as the red neon sign peering shyly over the laneway will attest, embraces its traditions with a canteen menu that is short and sweet; one soup, two pastas, roast and dessert of the day. It spills over into a lively dinner service during the week. The Journal Canteen is homely and humble traditional Italian fare.

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Updated: July 4th, 2023

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