If you’re spending the night in a CBD hotel, avoid the hotel breakfast (even if it’s included in your room rate) and explore the nearby laneways. Ask the concierge or receptionist where their favourite cafe is; they’re in the hospitality industry because they love to make recommendations, and they’ll enjoy directing more customers to their favourite businesses.
Some of Melbourne’s laneways have forged themselves a reputation for housing forward-thinking eateries that will fuel you up for a day’s exploring. Degraves Street is one well-known example, and French waffle house Waffle On (9 Degraves Street, between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane) is one delicious example of a wanderer’s cuisine of choice, and its proximity to Flinders Street Station makes it perfect if you’ve got a suburban daytrip planned.
Further north, Manchester Press (8 Rankins Lane, off Little Bourke Street) might take a little bit longer to find, but located right near Melbourne’s famous Bourke Street Mall and Myer buildings ensure it’s a hit with visitors and locals alike.
Hardware Lane might be known for its night-time conviviality, but you’ll find a gem or two no matter what time of day it is. Hardware Societe (118 Hardware Street, between Lonsdale and Little Lonsdale Streets) has you covered when it comes to an indulgent breakfast, and will set you off on the right path.
When Melbourne was established, and during its first century, Melbourians followed in the footsteps of their English forebears and drank tea. Since the mid-twentieth century, however, and coinciding with a wave of migration from Europe (Italy especially), Melbourne has become synonymous with coffee. These days, during the working week the CBD runs on a steady diet of caffeine.
Melbourians are discerning coffee-drinkers and because they take their coffee so seriously, the black stuff is everywhere. Steer clear of the Gloria Jeans and Starbucks chains, and instead try your hand at a creamy flat white or rich espresso from any of the independent operators that you’ll find all over town. You’ll be supporting a local business, and chances are when you return home you’ll have a place to recommend to your friends – ‘that little place with the amazing coffee’.
For coffee with a quintessential Melbourne view, try Arbory Bar + Eatery (Flinders Walk, between Flinders Street Station and the Yarra River – access via the Flinders Street Station underpass or the stairs on St Kilda Road), an open-air, tree-lined space overlooking the Yarra that opened in early 2015, or give Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke Street, between Elizabeth and Queen Streets) a try for a pick-me-up you won’t forget any time soon.
To combine a coffee hit with the knowledge that you’re doing well, StrEAT is a social enterprise (read: a business established to support disadvantaged members of society) designed to assist Melbourne’s homeless youth. They do this through providing hospitality training and the chance to work in a thriving cafe, and with each drink – or meal – that you buy, you’ll know that you’re contributing to a young person’s future. StrEAT has a number of locations in the city centre,including in the Melbourne Central Shopping Centre, at 5 McKillop Street (between Little Collins and Bourke Streets) and at RMIT University.