The Vertue Of The Coffee Drink Carlton is a new cafe by Mike Cracknell, who has been involved in Melbourne’s coffee scene for a while now, and roasting beans under the Vertue name since 2013. Cracknell had been wanting to open a cafe for a while but had been waiting for the right space.
One term that can often induce cringing is “Melbourne” as a descriptor. That bar is so “Melbourne”, this place is so “Melbourne” etc. It’s become a lazy term used to describe things that can often be found anywhere else in the world so what I’m about to do kind of disgusts me but here goes. The location of Vertue of The Coffee Drink is very “Melbourne”. It’s located in an old building that was originally used as a stables and more recently a house. How do you access it? Down an alleyway behind a Shell petrol station.
Oh no, you’re thinking, with an expectation of the other stereotypes associated with lazy “Melbourne” descriptior. Never fear, as the location is the only thing that fits the sterotype. There is no unwanted attitude and there are no desperate attempts to be “on trend”.
Head chef Matt Green’s menu contains a variety of options that are more focused on being good then being on trend. Sure there’s qunioa (although arguable that’s not on trend any more) and chia seeds but nothing feels like it’s on there just for the sake of it. If you see something that’s currently all the rage on the menu it’s becuse it genuinely adds something to the dish.
Drinks wise it’s what you’d expect at a cafe. A few juices, organic soft drinks, coffee and tea etc.
Mork Hot Chocolate ($4.50)
I’m a big fan of Mork Chocolate. A local company who produce chocolate from pure, high quality liquid cocoa and have a great ethical underpinning to everything that they do when it comes to the ingredients they source.
The Mork hot chocolate is exactly what a hot chocolate should be. It showcases the quality of the chocolate used and isn’t overly sweet, which allows the complexities of the cocoa bean to shine through. This is often lost in a hot chocolate and it’s always nice to see it done right. Just like good quality coffee, good quality hot chocolate shouldn’t need lots of sugar.
Dirty Chai (With A Shot Of Espresso) ($6.00)
My friend had a dirty chai, which is just a chai with a shot of espresso. We loved the presentation of the drink and my friend really enjoyed her drink which, just like the Mork hot chocolate, relied on the quality of the chai blend and coffee rather than excessive sweetness.
Green Goodness Juice ($8.00)
This combination of Spinach, Kale, Apple, Celery, Cucumber, Mint, Lemon made for a great green juice. A whole lot of goodness in one cup with the right proportion of ingredients that nothing was too overpowering – it didn’t taste “grassy” as these green juices sometimes do.
Chickpea Chips With Charred Eggplant, Preserved Cherry Tomatoes, Shaved Parmesan & Poached Eggs ($18.00)
We had been discussing options for dining out on the walk to The Vertue of The Coffee Drink in the context of a mutual friend of ours who doesn’t eat meat or gluten. While there are a lot of dishes that are excluded with these 2 restrictions in general Melbourne still offers a lot and this gluten free, vegan dish (if you exclude the eggs) is a case in point.
The chickpea chips were thick and tasty – creamy on the inside with a light crunch on the outside. They worked well when combined with the other components on the dish or alone. In fact everything on this plate worked both individually and combined. Nothing fancy at all, but a lot going on both texturally and flavour wise on this pate, with all of the 5 components of flavour present. A great dish.
Avocado, Ricotta, Popcorn, Lemon ($6.00)
We ordered this out of curiosity. When we asked what it was we were told that it was literally just a combination of the listed ingredients that “just worked”. When all 3 of us at the table ate it however we all agreed that while the individual components were tasty as one would expect with such a simple dish, there was something missing. It didn’t taste bad, but it didn’t really do anything for any of us. We all agreed that perhaps some salt, or a drizzle of olive oil is all that it would have needed to make the subtle flavours pop.
Smoked Ocean Trout With Curried Arancini, Soft Duck Egg, Mango & Chilli Jam ($21.00)
Things got back on track with the house smoked ocean trout dish. I’m a big fan of smoked trout and the fish that came out on this plate was delicious. Perfectly cooked, with just the right level of smokiness it hit the spot. The soft duck eggs were perfectly soft boiled and the curried arancini plus mango and chilli jam worked amazingly together. A brilliant combination of ingredients that balanced smokiness and sweet components.
Generally when I have friends visiting from Interstate or overseas I take them to my favourite spots, the guaranteed winners. Taking a friend to a new place that I haven’t tried is always a risk however The Vertue of The Coffee Drink was a risk worth taking. It’s a really great space, the staff are friendly and the food and drinks menu is simple and focused. It balances the line between doing what’s on trend with simple stuff that’s just good.
The glaring omission from my end was that I didn’t actually have a coffee from a place that places such an emphasis on the beans it sources and roasts but I can’t imagine it would be anything but excellent given my experience with everything else at the venue. I know where I’ll be going to top up the beans in my grinder the next time it empties. Oh and I might just have to try the meatball sub when I’m back too – somebody on the table next to us ordered it and it looked brilliant.
The Vertue Of The Coffee Drink
8 Raffa Place
Mon – Fri: 7:00am to 4:00pm
Sat – Sun: 7:30am to 4:00pm