Listings and reviews (23)
Sakura Kaiten Sushi
Sakura Kaiten Sushi strives to be as recognisable as the cherry blossom for which it is named. The restaurant is low lit, with the white cherry blossom designs against the shiny black walls giving the venue a sleek modern vibe. The space is narrow and almost all of the seating puts you right where you want to be: in front of the sushi train. Any seat gives you a clear view of the kitchen, where you can watch the chefs deftly cut and assemble each dish before placing it on a carriage plate, denoting price bracket in the age-old system of colour coding – at the base end it’s $2.80 for orange and $6.80 for the deluxe red plates. Expect high-quality versions of the classics: the mixed sashimi plate comes with salmon, tuna and kingfish; and the grilled snapper with basil nigiri is a standout for it’s combination of soft fish and tangy seasoning. For the more adventurous, the salmon with sea urchin roll is a mouthful of aquatic luxury, with the intense sea urchin flavour balanced by the cool texture of the salmon. If you’re craving something in particular and are just too impatient to wait for it to appear, you can order extras and hot food via an iPad and have it delivered by express train. It’s also a great place to take those unfamiliar with sushi trains, as each dish is preceded by a handy label, so you know exactly what you’re eating.
There’s nothing better than a train ride with a view, and that goes for sushi trains too. Located on the fourth floor of the Emporium, Tetsujin’s big floor to ceiling windows overlook Caledonian lane, providing a fresh perspective onto some of the city’s laneways. The décor is light and white, with tiled walls and bright train handles adorning the train in the middle of the restaurant. The tracks enclose a cluster of chefs, all working to keep it fully stocked with fresh dishes, removing anything that has had too many rides. There aren’t any surprises on the train or on the iPads from which you can order extras and drinks. Instead, Tetsujin focuses on doing simplicity well. The spicy salmon is dusted with chilli flakes; and the octopus inari sees creamy octopus salad wrapped in sweet bean curd, making for a delicious, if somewhat messy mouthful. Almost all the plates are $3.90, though the sashimi selection is a slightly pricier $8.50. Tetsujin isn’t just a sushi train – it’s also a bar and Japanese barbecue. The bar component means that Tetsujin’s cocktail menu is impressive and inventive. Go for the Mt Fuji Fury, a refreshing mix of grapefruit, orange juice and Nikka whisky.
Sakura Kaiten Sushi II
The first thing you notice about Sakura Kaiten Sushi’s younger, wilder sibling, Sakura Kaiten Sushi II, is the selection of Dragon Ball Z stickers and figurines by the front door. This pocket of pop culture sets the tone for the rest of the venue. Like its counterpart on Little Collins Street, the Lonsdale Street restaurant’s prices are organised by plate colour, there are iPads for ordering, and an express delivery system. Unlike it’s older sibling, the express train is actually a red double-decker bus. The food is bolder too, including fluke fin, muscle and geoduck, a kind of saltwater clam that you should definitely not Google image search before eating. The steamed scallop sushi is a tasty twist on a sushi train mainstay, adding a new texture to the creamy meat. The range seems endless, and there’s never a gap on the train. The food is accompanied by a soundtrack of upbeat jazz and friendly waitstaff. Prices range between $2.80 and $6.80, and for dessert, look out for the green tea mochi ice cream, a glutinous rice cake with matcha flavoured ice cream at its core.
Sushi and Nori
Sushi and Nori is not your average food court sushi train. Positioned near the escalator amidst the Emporium’s packed Café Court, there isn’t a soggy scallop or tired tuna in sight. Instead, complimentary bowls of thick, yellow pickled ginger and packets of wasabi frequently pass by on the train. There’s a serious amount of salmon on offer at Sushi & Nori, so go for the highlight: the grilled teriyaki and chilli salmon steak, which comes served on a bed of smashed avocado. The oysters, served with seaweed salad and topped with roe, are surprisingly fresh flavoured. The ‘chef’s special sauce’ that they’re served with seems to be the traditional ponzu, a soy and citrus dressing that brings out the oysters best qualities. Each new dish is announced in both English and Japanese, and is accompanied by a chorus of ‘hai!’ from the waitstaff. Sushi & Nori does struggle against its location – the bustle of the food court and the long line can make you feel a little rushed. The prices are also a little higher than other sushi trains, at $4.5 and $8.50 for deluxe plates.
Sensory Lab has always been the easy target of those looking to make fun of Melbourne’s coffee culture, and it’s because Sensory Lab are very, very serious about coffee, and their locations are tucked away in a particularly Melbourne way – there’s one in the David Jones store near the food hall, for instance, and a little metal-and-cork module hidden in a small arcade at 30 Collins Street. Sensory Lab roast, sell and serve their own beans, and there’s usually six roasts on offer at a time. The single origins change frequently, meaning there’s always something new and fruity to explore. The baristas are across absolutely any coffee question you could throw at them. This expertise comes at a price – the fanciest cup of single origin pour over can cost you up to $9 and a standard ‘white’ coffee costs $4.50. But every espresso shot is a double, so you kind of end up ahead. There’s also no BYO cup discount, so you might as well sit in, especially at the 30 Collins Street store, where there are iPads embedded into the tables so you can browse the latest New Yorker while the caffeine hits your bloodstream. If time is short, it’s still worth sticking around an extra two minutes to get some toast and tartine, made by St Ali’s executive chef.
Hole-in-the-wall charm does not mean sub-par coffee. They’re using the Pony blend from Clement (of the Sensory Lab, Market Lane and ST ALi family) so you’re guaranteed a milk coffee with a caramel apple flavour. All black coffees are made with a Sensory Lab single origin, and the busy baristas are happy to run you through the tasting notes of whatever’s on offer. Despite the constant queue, the team at Tom Thumb are always smiling. There is a small spot to sit in, hidden away upstairs where you can enjoy a Reuben bagel and watch the foot traffic of Flinders Lane wander past, but Tom Thumb’s real game is takeaway. The price is pretty standard for Melbourne coffee – a black brew is $4, a white espresso variety is $4.50, and the filters are $3.50 (but it’s worth the extra dollar for a large). There’s a 50 cent BYO cup discount, and the brand Tom Thumb recommend and sell (Frank Green) has a neat bluetooth device you can sync to your bank so you don’t even need to bring your wallet. In terms of snacks, there’s no better afternoon pick me up than the Butterbings, two brownie cookies with thick buttery cream in between.
Brother Baba Budan
The origin story of Brother Baba Budan is that he stole seven seeds of coffee from the Middle East and took them to India. Now his namesake is a Seven Seeds branch in the city, a noisy, happy place with a single large communal table and a persistent ten-minute wait time (just in case you needed another indicator that the coffee was good). Takeaway is your best bet here, as there are more chairs on the ceiling than there are on the floor. The Seven Seeds roastery provides consistent top quality beans so that the flat whites are eminently drinkable and the espressos dashingly strong. But for our money, order Budan’s coffee of the day. Whether it be a piccolo made with the caramel and grapey Golden Gate blend, or a single origin medium bodied Guatemalan batch brew, it’s a guaranteed way to expand your coffee knowledge. Prices range between $4 and $5, and there’s a 20 cent BYO cup discount. On the snack front, the chocolate chip brioche bun is a must.
Cup of Truth
The subway between Degraves and Flinders Street Station is an underground treasure trove. There’s Sticky Institute, Melbourne’s one and only independent zine co-op; nature-inspired jewellery from Corky St Claire; and Cup of Truth, a true hole-in-the-wall coffee shop. Cup of Truth serves commuters and laneway wanderers from their tiny, sleek black-tiled café that comes complete with a neon sign and Melbourne decal stickers. The blokes behind the machines are always up for a yarn, whether it be about coffee or just about how your day’s going. Using Axil roasted beans, the baristas can make the smoothest flat white you’ve ever tasted. All coffees, from lattes to cold drips, are $4 for a small. Matt Forbes provides the snacks, and you can’t go wrong with a chocolate chip cookie.
From Woolloomooloo to Flinders Lane, and New York to Panama, Toby’s Estate has an international brand and a global reputation for quality coffee. The Melbourne branch is a bright, airy affair inside Customs House. The staff are cheery and it helps that they’re subject matter experts; Toby’s Estate owns its own bean farm, Finca Santa Teresa in Panama, so they’re personally familiar with every part of the coffee making process. All the coffee ranges between $3.40 (short blacks and piccolos) and $5.50 (for the V60 filter). There’s also a 20 cent BYO cup discount for those environmentally conscious folk. Our pick is the $5 business + pleasure: an espresso and a flat white made with single origin beans. It’s an excellent way to experience the difference milk makes to a brew, gauge the full flavour profile of the beans, and secure your caffeine hit. They have a full café menu, but the standout snack is the rare beef baguette with caramelised onion, radish cream, spinach and cheddar.
Dukes Coffee Roasters
Inside the beautiful old Ross House building on Flinders Lane is Dukes Coffee Roasters. It’s a beautiful space to drink beautiful coffees in, fitted with light wooden benches and green-and-blue tiled floors. They’re committed to ethical trading with coffee sourced from farms and small co-operatives that they bring home to roast here in Melbourne. There’s a wide range of brew options available, from your classic espresso cups to filters and a manual pour over The price of a filter ranges between $3 and $10, while an espresso cup any way will set you back a reasonable $4, or an even more reasonable $3.50 if you bring your own cup. The espresso blend is strong, acidic, with cherry notes, meaning it goes exceptionally well with the Matt Forbes pastries.
Sun Moth Canteen
Lots of natural light, large wooden tables and menus written on blackboards all work to give Sun Moth Canteen and Bar a relaxed, rustic vibe. It helps that it’s a big space tucked away from the main roads – it never feels crowded, even during the lunchtime rush, which is no small feat given the attractive powers of good coffee and free Wi-Fi. The lattes are all made with the Small Batch Candyman blend. It’s got a macadamia kick and earthy notes, making it the kind of coffee you want to sip for as long as possible. Small Batch also provide the beans for the filter coffees, and they rotate daily. All coffee is a standard $4 and the food at Sun Moth is designed to be comforting, and prompt. If you’re in a mad hurry, grab a fresh mushroom sandwich made with spiced, grilled mushrooms, turmeric cashew spread, greens and cabbage.
Everyday Coffee Midtown
Everyday Midtown is the CBD branch of Fitzroy’s Everyday Coffee, and a massive boon for city-dwellers. The shop, just up Little Collins from Swanston, is mostly designed for swift takeaway service, but there is a comfortable minimalist set-up and American diner-style cups to wrap your hands around if you choose to sit in. Every day, Midtown roast their own beans in a Melbourne warehouse, and their All Day seasonal blend is a creamy chocolate Colombian mix that’s perfect with milk. The black coffee is always single origin and always delicious. While the menu simply says ‘black’, ‘white’, ‘batch’ and ‘pour over’, ordering a flat white or a cappuccino results in a perfect cup and no judgement from the friendly baristas. Even the fanciest cup of joe will only set you back $5, and there’s a 50 cent BYO cup discount (it doesn’t just apply to Keep Cups – any office mug can net you savings). Bakery partner All Are Welcome supply the chocolate almond croissants that along with a flat white are the best way start to your Monday, or, you know – every day.