Melbourne bars, cafes, patisseries and coffee shops have a particular knack for turning tiny spaces into endearing homes. If you haven’t explored the city’s best hole-in-the-wall hotspots, here’s a list to get you started.
Everything about this laneway counter-only shop is cute, especially the toasted sandwiches. They’re smaller than the Aussie approach, have a smiley face toasted onto them, and the cheese is a bit South Korean-style sweet. Best of all, when you pull the two halves of Rainbow Toasties apart, the cheese stretches out into an eye-poppingly colourful rainbow! Feel the Instagram love while following up with one of Rainbow Toastie’s cute sweets or drinks. The blue Sky Drink is dotted with cloud-like puffs of whipped cream.
Just when we thought Degraves Street, one of Melbourne’s most iconic laneways, couldn’t get any cooler, Tulip Coffee appeared. This classic hole-in-the-wall is artfully decked out in pale pink, with a few tiny tables. It’s essentially built for coffee to go though – seriously good coffee, made with a house blend roasted out of Bureaux Collective. They also have excellent pastries and cookies to make your day even better.
The atmosphere is electric at Parco Canteen! This former substation on a traffic island near Carlton’s Argyle Square is now an all-day breakfast and lunch haven. Try the breakfast banh mi or the Thai duck salad, and check out the house-made sweets and fresh pastries from Dench. Don’t leave without a charming oversized business card, featuring sketches by a Japanese artist.
Hidden away in the historic Nicholas Building, Cathedral Coffee is an intimate outpost for Cathedral Coffee Roasters. It fuels a steady stream of creative types with either Ethiopian single origin or Acevedo espresso roast. People-watch from a perch by the window, or linger over a gozleme, chicken schnitzel roll, bacon-and-egg roll or frittata. Appease your 3pm craving for sugar with their miniature selection of sweet treats.
Switch Board Cafe
Melbourne is great at transforming the tiniest spaces into a daily ritual for locals, like this hole-in-the-wall cafe that used to be a switchboard. If a seat is free, grab it and get more than a coffee to go. Switch Board Cafe has made a virtue of its diminutive size by focusing on easily prepared snacks, like toasties and bagels. Settle in for a unique dining experience.
Chuckle Park Bar
A few strides will take you past Chuckle Park Bar. Keep your eyes peeled for this charming laneway space, whose no-fuss outdoor design includes a caravan dishing out simple bar food. Alongside wine, beer and classic cocktails, you can nibble through toasted sandwiches and antipasto boards.
South Melbourne Market institution Agathe Patisserie has a second store in Royal Arcade. Nestled underneath a stairwell, this tiny shop has treats delivered by bike from their South Melbourne bakehouse. Sweet goodies on any given day may include matcha croissants, custard hearts and escargot. Good luck choosing just one.
At the corporate end of Melbourne’s bustling CBD, Patricia doesn’t do much besides coffee. Luckily that’s all most bleary-eyed workers are after. The menu has just three options: white, black or filter coffee. It saves having to put your thinking cap on until later in the morning.
Jungle Juice in Centre Place
It’s difficult to miss Jungle Juice Bar, despite this laneway cafe’s slim entrance and cosy interior. Follow the trail of juice-wielding office workers, and you’ll find this little spot with a big sign blends some of the best. Linger for breakfast or lunch and you’ll also be rewarded with some of the finest bagels in the city.
A compact bar in Presgrave Place, Bar Americano is standing-room-only. Sleek dark wood complements white-tiled walls, while bartenders serve top-quality cocktails alongside steaming espressos. It’s the ideal no-frills post-work drink spot, or a good one to drop by early Saturday evening.
Cup of Truth
Wedged into a corner of Campbell Arcade, Cup of Truth truly has some of the finest takeaway coffee in Melbourne. A small pastry-lined glass cabinet and coffee machine encompasses most of the space. A no-frills venue below Flinders Street Station, it has just a handful of bar stools along the counter. Expect a smile with your morning latte.
La Petite Creperie
It’s impossible to get much smaller than La Petite Creperie on Swanston Street. The renovated old newsstand barely accommodates two employees, dishing out some of the best crepes in Melbourne. Order a salted-caramel crepe and be forever pleased.