SIPPING coffee in Melbourne. Everyone does it, but hunting for good coffee and a chic cafe atmosphere that’s far removed from the big coffee chains can sometimes be a quest of epic proportions, especially in the CBD.
Past Elizabeth St and up Little Bourke, there are a row of shops selling camping equipment and army supplies. Hidden among these speciality stores are two of the most quirky, creative and sensational cafes in the city – Manchester Press and Brother Baba Budan.
If you blink, you’ll miss these coffeehouses. Small and cramped, Brother Baba Budan is always packed, which is unusual for a spot with absolutely no cafe vibe about it. But if you’re lucky enough to get a seat, you realise that this isn’t just any popular coffee spot in Melbourne. Brother Baba Budan is one-of-a-kind.
First, there’s the decor. In one word – chairs. Not on the floor, where’d you expect them either, but on the ceiling, hanging precariously over your head as you enjoy your coffee. At first it’s overwhelming, but the coffee is so good here that most people would probably forgive a chair or two falling into their lattes (just joking).
The walls of the coffee house are stripped of colour in a stylishly rundown way. Together with a natural colour scheme, a giant wall-to-wall window and ceiling chairs, the faded wallpaper gives Brother Baba Budan a trendy, vintage vibe.
But this coffeehouse isn’t all style and no substance. Staff at Brother Baba Budan are remarkably pleasant, which is a welcome change from the substandard service you get from most cafes in the CBD. Down-to-earth and downright friendly, the staff here have multi-tasking down to an art form and they make you feel like a regular, even if it’s your first time.
Brother Baba Budan is designed for coffee lovers, so you won’t find whipped cream frappes or chai lattes here. It’s bean only. There’s no menu, only a list of different brews available on that day. The limited selection of food on sale is baked on site. It’s mostly banana bread and carrot cake. After all, ‘Brother BB’ is known for its coffee, not its food.
The baristas are part of a production line, deftly making cup after cup, which aren’t just delicious, but beautiful too. The patterned and swirled milk is delicately mixed with today’s finest brew, not too creamy, too hot or too bitter, it’s impressive to say the least.
My only advice is to be prepared for a busy cafe. You’re still able to sit, read and enjoy your brew, but remember, this is Melbourne and everyone is on the go. There’s a reason why this cafe is so popular, so the wait for a seat is definitely worth it.
On the other side of the street is Brother BB’s relaxed neighbour, Manchester Press. Exceptionally spacious for a CBD cafe, Manchester Press boasts a huge ex-studio space with whitewashed walls and floors and great big windows. And their selection of food is as extensive as their seating choice. While their chairs remain on the floor, Manchester Press’s walls are draped with tapestries of plain ink figures on beaming white paper.
There is nothing rushed about Manchester Press. Something about the dazzling brightness of the cafe, the vintage décor of its old books and artwork, and its colossal size, just invite you to spend hours at a time there. You could easily come for a coffee and wind up staying for lunch, talking with friends, reading a book or working on your laptop. There is nothing to remind you of the hustle and bustle of the city. Here you can escape the chaos.
Manchester Press is also renowned for its baristas. It’s all well and good to make a coffee that isn’t burnt but still hot, but to able to pour the espresso and milk into a glass, have it froth evenly and create an image is a rarity. And not just any image, my latte came with a man in a suit and he had a happy expression. That’s true talent.
My only issue with Manchester Press is that it can be a little hard to find. There’s no way of knowing that one of Melbourne’s coolest cafes is waiting for you down Rankins Lane unless someone has deliberately told you. Fortunately Manchester Press’s location hasn’t impacted business as more and more people are hearing about it and looking for it every day.
Apart for its locale, Manchester Press is a unique and one of a kind cafe in the CBD simply because it’ll make you forget that you’re in the CBD at all.
Brother Baba Budan is located on 359 Little Bourke St, and is open Mon-Sat from 7am-5pm. Phone: 9606 0449