Vertue of the Coffee Drink is Carlton’s latest awesome-sauce cafe, having opened its doors just six weeks ago and already witnessing a roaring trade. Read on, dear Listers, for our verdict on the virtues of, er, Vertue.
It may be off the beaten track, but once you’ve navigated the unsigned alley to arrive at Vertue of the Coffee Drink, you’ll be overwhelmed by your destination. This coffee crazy Carlton cafe is concealed from foot traffic like a buried treasure. ‘We chose this building as it was a little quiet oasis hidden behind Lygon Street, and we wanted something a little special that could be discovered and passed on to friends,’ says Director, Mike Cracknell.
Mike is a bit of a jack of all trades. With a hospitality background spanning seventeen years (with a focus on coffee), he not only owns Vertue of the Coffee Drink (along with some silent partners), but also manages the site, roasts the coffee, and even serves it up with his mad barista skills. Mike has a self-confessed ‘passion for all things coffee, especially the science behind it and what makes a coffee really tasty.’
Picking out the best green beans they can source, roasting, and then extracting—‘using some very fancy equipment’ according to Mike—is all part of an endeavour to bring caffeine-mad Melbournians the best coffee they could hope for. Even the name is coffee-themed, coming from a handbill written and distributed in 1652 from London’s first coffee house, outlining the coffee making process and its medicinal properties. Yep, vertue is actually the archaic spelling of virtue—learn something new every day!
In Melbourne, we all love a good coffee, that’s pretty much an indisputable fact, but if you’re puffing out your chest and grumbling ‘I dispute that’ then calm your farm, the chai lattes are pretty flipping fantastic, too. ‘And what of the food,’ ask the frantic foodies? You’ll be stoked to hear that Vertue’s menu not only has great variety, but also smoked pork belly. Yep, the Scotch Egg with smoked pork belly, pig skin cracker, piccalilli mayonnaise, onion marmalade and brioche soldiers is rich, comforting, salty and tangy! If you’re after a decadent (perhaps hangover friendly) and unique meal, don’t go past this dish.
For those sporting a more delicate morning appetite, you won’t want to miss out on the Chia and Coconut Pudding with kiwi and passionfruit. Just be prepared to stare at it for at least five minutes before diving in because it’s just so darn pretty!
Other unique and brilliantly high-calibre dishes at Vertue of the Coffee Drink include Smoked Ocean Trout with curried arancini, a soft duck egg and mango and chilli jam, or for the tummy grumblers, a Meatball Sub. A high-calibre meatball sub? Yes, we’re dead set serious. The pork meatballs are so delicate your perceptions of meatballs will be shattered, snuggled in a brioche roll with napoli, provolone, jalapeños, pancetta, sage, apple slaw and beer battered onion rings. This is a ripper all-killer-no-filler meal.
Once a stable built in the late 1800s, the team at Vertue have kept most of the bones, with the design a collaboration between Mike Cracknell and Rohin Adam of Two Design. ‘We wanted to ensure we preserved the light, bright, airy space, kept as much of the original features as possible, then made the new parts feel really special and a little different.’ The main dining seating is encompassed by a lofty high ceiling and light-filled area, highlighting a luscious vertical garden from Glasshaus. The attention to detail is hard to miss, with copper and blue accents throughout, and individual flowers adding bursts of colour to each table. It’s so beautiful we could cry (with envy. Seriously, those custom-made copper ceiling lights would look GREAT in The Urban List HQ).
So navigate down that alley and check out the Vertue of the Coffee Drink, even if just for a coffee (but it’s never just a coffee is it? Especially when there’s a display including Nutella and peanut butter cookies). Mike is keen to continue building Vertue’s reputation for coffee excellence. ‘We want to build on this, without resting out laurels, and ensure we are constantly seeking improvement and pushing the boundaries of coffee, taste, and what is considered to be possible.’
That sounds great Mike, but we’d simply be happy with another round of the Scotch Egg please!
Vertue of the Coffee Drink
8 Raffa Place in Carlton
Image Credits: Megan Osborne for The Urban List.