Typically the places we feature fall into three broad categories: coffee temple; gastro cafe or cracking all rounder. Which makes Dukes a tough pigeon to hole. By rights it should be a specialist coffee cafe. They are called Dukes Coffee Roasters after all and there’s no doubting that the coffee is excellent. A friend who’s opinion I respect enormously rang me after her first visit to tell me how amazing the coffee was.
That said, perhaps Dukes isn’t quite in the elite company of its neighbours Market Lane and Monk Bodhi Dharma. No slight on Dukes intended, it just so happens that they are nearby two of Melbourne’s best coffee destinations. And besides, thinking solely of Dukes as a coffee place sells them a little short. For mine there’s more to the Dukes story.
For a start, I really like the space here. The fit out is bang on. Somehow they have made a cavernous, warehouse-style space fitted out in exposed brick, timber and a terrazzo floor feel warm and just a little bit slick. But it’s the lighting I really love. If you asked me to describe it in just a few words I’d say it’s light and dark all at the same time. I promise I’m not about to get all metaphysical on y’all. There’s a big, beautiful window looking onto Chapel St that lets in buckets of natural light, not to mention a great view of the beautiful people, hipsters and freaks. Further into the space though, it’s all moody and dark, with columns of light falling from above to light the tables. To me it looks as though a cinematographer lit the space. I’m pretty sure that whoever did the lighting would be pretty happy with that.
Similarly the food is excellent. This morning I’m opting for the avocado hummus toast, poached eggs, honey candied bacon and dukkah. It was an arm wrestle between that and the smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, salmon roe and chervil creme fraiche. Given that summer is trying to make an appearance, I probably should have opted for the bircher. Maybe I’ll have a light lunch.
So bloody good food and coffee in a beautiful space. Definitely sounds more like a cracking all rounder than a coffee specialist. And one that is certainly worth a visit next time you’ve worked up an appetite doing some laps of Chaps.