ROCK up to Naked Espresso Bar on a Monday in your boxers, and you get a free coffee. But there are also other reasons why it’s pants down, one of Meld foodie Diane Leow’s new favourite haunts.
Melbourne is home to plenty of legendary coffee places, St Ali and Sensory Lab, just to name a few. But when you’re looking for a cosy spot with divine coffee to match, there’s no better place than the newly opened Naked Espresso Bar on Little Bourke St.
Designed to be a little alcove amid the city rush, Naked Espresso Bar has a bright yellow feature wall that quietly defies Melbourne’s gloomy wintry weather… and fashion sense.
The coffee shop is a venture by Toby’s Estate’s Jason Berley, and Tom Ervin-Ward and Shanny Sena, the couple behind the now-defunct Elevenses Espresso Bar on Collins St. The coffee beans are from Toby’s Estate, although sometimes, just to mix it up, they also get their beans from Market Lane.
As for its rather strange name, well that comes from a special porta-filter used to make their signature rich, creamy double shot of espresso coffee, which is known as a naked espresso shot. But true to the owners’ quirky nature, the name is also linked to a peculiar Monday ritual where Tom, Shanny and Jason all turn up to work wearing boxers, and anyone else who does the same gets a free coffee. I’m not sure if anyone has actually walked into the shop with no pants on, but it would be fun to watch if they did.
I visited Naked Espresso Bar on a gloomy Tuesday afternoon for a late lunch. There were bagels sitting in the display packed with fillings like peach and bourbon pulled pork, and kangaroo with sauerkraut and Swiss cheese (aka the Roo-ben). I gravitated towards the pulled pork, which Tom promptly popped into the toaster. My friend (let’s call her J) opted for the kangaroo, despite her usual skepticism for red meat of any kind.
Both bagels were served warm on a cute little bamboo chopping board. While your typical bagel can be gummy and hard to bite into, these were surprisingly soft and flavourful. My peach and bourbon pulled pork on rye was magnificent. The pork was moist and tender and the little peach pieces surprised me every bite. The entire thing was smothered in a slightly smokey barbecue sauce that added to the myriad of flavours without masking the freshness of the fruit or pork.
J’s Roo-ben was pretty amazing too. The kangaroo was grilled to perfection, a little pink in the middle, but perfectly tender. Together with the sauerkraut, it made for a light, refreshing bagel that left me wanting another bite. Too bad J wouldn’t let me have any more!
For dessert, we shared a black forest waffles with an elderflower chocolate sauce, morello cherries and double cream. Technically, it’s on their breakfast menu, but it’s also a dessert… in my books anyway, and completely exceeded my expectations. On their own, waffles, chocolate sauce, cherries or double cream might seem boring, but in this dessert, it all comes together nicely, like a chorus on my tongue. But the real magic lies in the elderflower syrup. Its slightly floral demeanour rounds off the tartness of the cherries, bittersweetness of the chocolate sauce and richness of the double cream.
What draws me to Naked Espresso Bar though is the infectious happiness of the place. Shanny and Tom are quick on their feet and each cup of coffee is served with a warm smile. Sometimes I forget I’m in a café and not at a friend’s place.
In short, Naked Espresso is a great place to grab a quick lunch or to sit by the window and enjoy a great cuppa. Just remember, if it’s not Monday, you have to wear pants!
Naked Espresso Bar is located at 390 Little Bourke St, Melbourne.