Some months ago I was discussing with Anna and Alex and Grace where we would go for a coffee.
“I know a place,” I said. “My coffee guy recommended it.”
Anna laughed. “That’s so Melbourne.”
Jason is my coffee guy. I know he reads my blog so I just want to make it clear that I don’t think his role in life is simply to try out different coffee places all over Melbourne and then tell me which ones to go to. That’s just one of the things he’s good at. He also tells me where to get brunch.
Every so often I get a text message from him like this one: If u r in e city,check out Patricia,btwn LtBourke&Bourke b4 William. And then I go and track down the place he’s recommended, which is usually down some dingy looking side street that seems at first glance to contain nothing but a few wheelie bins.
Have you ever seen that film, Nick and Norah’s Ultimate Playlist, where these two teenagers go from one underground New York bar to another in search of their favourite bands, following clues that have been scribbled in the toilet stalls? I was thinking it’s kind of like that, except I couldn’t keep it up for more than, say, three coffee places in a row before I’d get the caffeine jitters.
I wondered how Jason found these places. I thought maybe he stood around on street corners studying laneway activity, looking for clues such as an unusually high proportion of people carrying take away cups, or stacks of empty milk crates on the ground. It turns out he uses an app.
I don’t have an app, but I did manage to find my own hidden coffee place a few weeks ago, right next to the Rose St Market. In this case, my clue was the people sitting outside drinking coffee. OK, Grace is not that well hidden. As well as the outdoor tables, the building is covered in graffiti. It’s pretty conspicuous. But, there’s no sign outside, which made me very excited when I spotted it because everyone knows if you make good coffee, you certainly don’t advertise it. At least that’s how it works in Melbourne.
My theory is that if you wanted to open up a very successful café here, the best thing to do would be to set up shop in some anonymous block, and then just wait a few weeks for it to fill with people who don’t necessarily know good coffee from dishwater but who get a kick out of going to trendy, undercover cafés. Then again, Melbourne is full of aficionados so you probably couldn’t keep your business running for very long unless you were serving good quality coffee.
Anyway, I’m pleased to have graduated from being the person who hears about good coffee places to a person that finds them. So check Grace on Rose St out, and remember, you heard about it here first, unless you heard about it from Indolent Dandy, Slicing Almonds and Zesting Lemons or The Thousands.