Caffeine buzz in Melbourne

Published on Dec 24, 2011 02:14 PM IST

Head out on to the city's lesser-known roads and see a facet never revealed before

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HT Image
ByKalpana Sunder, Melbourne
I am in the brazenlymodern FederationSquare, a warren ofexhibition spaces andgalleries linked like aRubik's Cube withtriangular shards of glass,sandstone and zinc.Melbourne is a city withcutting edge fashion, art,architecture, food and music;where you have to be a forensicartist and delve deeper toferret out its little secrets.Fiona Sweetman's 'HiddenSecrets' is an innovativeattempt to guide visitorsthrough the laneways ofMelbourne -- narrow streetsbetween the city's broad thoroughfares,filled with eateries,bars, shops and restaurantsand offering a parallel city, soto speak.

I am taking the CaféCulture walk, which is just notabout coffee alone -- butbrings you up-close with manyindependent businesses andlocal enterprises.

"Melbourne is a city foundedon an entrepreneurial spiritand wealth from the GoldRush, and even today smallbusinesses are major playersin sweeping in big changes,"says Fiona. The city does nottolerate 'chains' and it's atelling point that Starbuckshad to close three fourths ofits shops in 2008, a few yearsafter entering Australia!

Fiona speaks about how theItalian immigrants were theones to introduce espresso inMelbourne. And when theycould not find good beans,they would even use groundchicory or acorns. There isthe iconic Pellegrino'sExpresso Bar, which importedthe first Gaggia machine inthe 1950s. Crossly Street isthe lane of boutiques andsmall innovative businesses.We peer in to the windows ofLucy Folk --a quirky jewellerwho specialises in her 'foodiejewellry.

There are food-inspiredpieces ranging from popcornand pretzels to tortilla chips.The mecca of the caffeineworld is Degraves Street,lined with cafes with umbrellasand red plastic chairs. Wehave a coffee here at DegravesExpresso, which uses recycledcinema seats and benchesfrom a magistrate's court!

We swing past HardwareLane, famous for its line ofopen-air cafés. La Belle Mietteis a French patisserie thatserves divine macaroons in littleboxes designed by a graphicartist. It's run by the daughterof a perfumer, who usesunusual scents to flavourthe macaroons.

There are also small cafeswith character, in large corporatebuildings. There isTruffula Seed hiding in theSteel House building onSpring Street, a nameinspired by Dr Seuss's bookThe Lorax! Their USP is theethically sourced beans fromthe Social Roasting Companydelivered on green bicyclesand carry-home cups that youcan re-use.

The Manchester Utilitybuilding is a beautiful ArtNouveau structure designedby the famous architectMarcus Barlow in 1932 andbuilt in nine months to counterthe effects of the GreatDepression with the first escalatorin Melbourne.

What we are here to see isthe Switchboard Cafe, imaginativelyrun out of the closetspace that housed the building'stelephone system! TheTuck shop in the foyer of theNAB building at BourkeStreet derives its name fromthe name given to comfortfood at school lunches. It's asmall café that serves a myriadsalads and luscious hotdogs along with coffee.

Our walk ends inManchester Press on RankinsStreet -- one of the newestcafés located in an old printingpress building and verypopular with the young crowd-- they have amazing openbagels. It's another link in acity which is using its oldspaces imaginatively in newendeavours...
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