Sun 9am – 3pm
Queen Victoria Market – Melbourne’s top tourist attraction, apparently – is all things to some people. The fruit and veg are cheap, but not always good. Same goes for the meat and fish.
The deli section is lively, one of the chicken shops is a knockout, the hot donuts satisfy at least three of the major food groups (stodge, fat and sugar) and the bratwursts – go a spicy sausage with French mustard and sauerkraut – are beyond compare.
And the coffee? Well… The coffee is unspeakable. Always was. Stale, mediocre beans, dodgy milk and machines that urgently need a clean or possibly a good throwing-out.
And the baristas? What baristas?
But at a stroke, all of that has changed. Now, it is not only possible to collect your brat or donut and stroll up Therry Street for a brew as good as any in Melbourne, but it is essential. And may one day be compulsory. I hope so.
The coffee shrine in question is a tiny, hole-in-the-wall branch office of the outstanding Market Lane Coffee operations of Fleur Studd and roaster Jason Scheltus who began their missionary work from home base in Prahran Market and have now extended it (almost) into the venerable Queen Vic.
The cafe is shoe-horned into a space that previously housed an antique business. Inevitably, with Fleur in charge of operations, the fit-out is exemplary: these are cool, contemporary spaces if tenants have the wit to treat them decently.
On one wall is the Market Lane manifesto, which begins:
“We are not great multi-taskers. We focus on only one thing: delicious high-quality coffee. Admittedly, we are a little obsessed. We spend our time sourcing fine quality green beans, roasting them carefully…”
Yeah, well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? But they mean it. They’re serious, this lot.
We are not great multi-taskers. We focus on only one thing: delicious high-quality coffee. Admittedly, we are a little obsessed. We spend our time sourcing fine quality green beans, roasting them carefully…
The Market Lane shops represent the pointy end of Fleur’s Melbourne Coffee Merchants who are, with the brilliance of the beans they are importing, hurrying along the demise of the old, established “brands” whose anonymous, price-driven blends of lack-lustre beans are losing out to the expertise and dedication of the third-wavers. That’s the obsession they talk about in the manifesto.
Jason, as always, is responsible for the ever-changing coffee menu on offer here, which aligns with the Prahran menu at all times. Espressos are extracted with an expertly driven Synesso, Schultz organic full cream milk from Timboon is used, and sold, and an impressive array of single origin pour-overs are available.
As is the case with the Prahran outlet, food is but a minor consideration here, with a modest array of breads and cakes from Dench’s and a couple of other off-site producers on offer.
Brownies and carrot cakes are excellent, but nobody will mind too much if you arrive with a hot donut or four. Or, best of all, a hot brat in a roll.
And if you go the spicy-French-and-sauerkraut, try it with a Kenyan Gethumbwini. Or maybe that elegant El Salvadoran La Fany if it is still around. Whatever. Life’s good. And great coffee makes it even better.