The family-friendly suburbs of Melbourne's east are not exactly known for their raging nightlife. In fact, this leafy pocket is largely nightlife-free, thanks to council restrictions requiring a neighbourhood poll to take place before issuing a liquor licence. These so-called 'dry zones', which affect the likes of Canterbury, Surrey Hills, Mont Albert and Balwyn, might seem a bit outdated, but then Melbourne has a lot of kooky bylaws that seem to have slipped under the radar. After all, it is technically still illegal to drive a goat or a dog attached to a vehicle in a public space. Go figure.
However, rather than becoming a black mark on Melbourne's otherwise impeccable hospitality record, the eastern 'burbs have turned their talents to the coffee machine, and begun to churn out a number of first-rate cafes. Here, we've rounded up ten of the best eastern suburbs cafes to check out this weekend.
Prospect Espresso | Camberwell
Located off the main drag of Burke Road and crammed in amongst the shop fronts, Prospect Espresso is entirely unassuming from the outside. However, step inside and you'll find living proof that good things come in small packages. There's covetable bench seating in the front windows, as well as both communal and individual tables further in, and some rather impressive light fittings that double as art. The coffee is an absolute stand out, and is complemented by a fantastic menu populated by breakfast and lunch concoctions. Perfect for weekend brunches, or a coffee to go.
Golden Child | Glen Iris
Headed up by the team behind Little Ox in Brighton, Golden Child offers a first class pedigree. More than that, though, this Glen Iris haunt offers a break from tradition with a unique Italian-Chinese fusion menu. Everything on it is well worth a try, but we highly recommend the star shaped pretzels served with Asian pork mince, chili and a poached egg, or the chicken and quinoa salad with feta, pomegranate, beans and tahini yoghurt. With so much going on in the kitchen, it makes sense that the interior should be somewhat simple and minimalist, offering exposed bricks, timber floors, and a welcoming, neighbourly vibe.
Collective Espresso | Camberwell
Located across the road from Camberwell train station, Collective Espresso is fairly popular in the wee hours as commuters stop by for their morning caffeine fix. However, unlike a lot of transport-adjacent cafes, Collective's appeal does not expire once the working day begins. Oh no, this eastern gem has so much more to offer than just (very good) coffee. Take a seat at the dominant communal table or the bench in the window, and peruse a menu of simple but sensational breakfast and lunch staples, from eggs to avo to burgers. Do keep an eye on the specials board, and if the emu burger pops up again, grab onto it with two hands and don't let go. Unbelievably good.
The Fooddrinkery | Burwood
It doesn't get much more sleepy than the back streets of Burwood. Offering a diverse and value for money menu, The Fooddrinkery is one of the best eastern suburbs cafes, a kid friendly spot perfect for life saving caffeine hits after completing the school run, or as a meeting place for weekend brunchers in search of something delicious yet well within the budget.
Image credit: Miss Frank Facebook.
Miss Frank | Camberwell
Located at the unassuming end of Camberwell, on the cusp of Surrey Hills, this warehouse style café brings a taste of Fitzroy to the 'burbs. Designed with the local demographic in mind, Miss Frank provides ample seating for group catch-ups, a faultless menu for working lunches or weekend brunches, and an array of take home meals for diners on the move. Miss Frank is truly a treat for the local masses; the fact their coffee is perfect is just a bonus.
Xocolatl | Canterbury
Xocolatl is the ultimate haven for chocolate lovers. Rows upon rows of glorious artisan chocolates greet you when you enter the Maling Road café; hours can easily be lost poring over the range, so unique and exotic are the flavour combinations. No matter what you finally decide (we do recommend trying one of everything…), quality is guaranteed, as head chocolate maker Christos Partsioglous, along with wife Jenny and daughters Madelaine and Tina, doesn't let anything leave the laboratory unless it's 100% to-die-for. It would also be unspeakable to visit Xocolatl without grabbing one of their seven varieties of hot chocolate, with their chili option being quite possibly the best hot chocolate in all of Melbourne.
Platform Espresso | Glen Iris
With Glen Iris train station at its doorstep, Platform Espresso is another of our favourite eastern suburbs cafes, and is the ideal pit stop for your morning coffee. Featuring house brews from fellow east-sider Maling Room, not to mention a cake display offering a number of gorgeous treats, Platform Espresso is fully equipped to make your daily commute more bearable. However, if you have the time, do pull up a chair (of which there are many) and grab a bite to eat; their menu is seasonally dictated, yet always spot on.
The Resident Café | Ashburton
The Resident Café is fighting the good fight to bring specialty coffee and artisan produce to the family-friendly east. Offering Fives Senses coffee and a creative, seasonal menu, The Resident is the perfect mix of city quality and local heart. Plus, there's a sunny courtyard out the back – always a bonus.
Image credit: @wingardium_ via Snow Pony Instagram.
Snow Pony | Balwyn
One of Melbourne's best cafes, this Balwyn fave is named due to its location on Whitehorse Road (think about it…). Snow Pony comes from the fabulous dudes who brought us Porgie + Mr Jones in Hawthorn, and Friends of Mine in Richmond. The café may offer the same signature menu as its predecessors (thus furthering their smashed avocado's gradual take over of Melbourne's breakfast scene), but Snow Pony also comes with its own personality – and its own courtyard, perfect for lunches out of the office.
Hyde n Seek | Ashwood
We're well into 'burb country here, at the amalgamation of Ashburton and Burwood. In fact, Hyde n Seek's name alludes to the fact that you won't find yourself casually stumbling across this eastern suburbs café; you'll need to make a bit of an effort to find this one. But trust us, it's worth it. Owner Sem Elmazi chose this sleepy, school-adjacent spot due to the strong community spirit in the area, and you can feel that motivation shining through in the simple yet faultless menu and the welcoming demeanour of the staff.
Main image credit: Gotuje, Bo Lubi.