Thu – Fri 9:30am – 9pm
Sat 9am – 7pm; Sun 10am – 6pm
Really, here in Melbourne, we can make a cafe out of anything. Give us a couple of milk crates and a square metre of footpath and we’ll make a cafe out of it. Give us an old switchboard cupboard and we’ll make a café out of it. Give us a department store doorway – we’ll make a cafe out of it.
Which is just what Sensory Lab did. It set up camp in a little transitory chunk of David Jones to waylay people with caffeined aromas that are all ‘hey, slow down, that Bourke St Mall can wait, what’s your hurry?’
Sensory Lab is actually a pretty warm little space, given the challenges of setting up a cafe in what is essentially a department store exit. It could’ve been cold and industrial but any hard edges are eased off with the use of soft gold lighting and vintage green paint.
Front up to the takeaway window and you’ll see baristas toiling efficiently. Behind them, in a little cabin-sized section with a 40s-kitchen feel, customers huddle cosily around wooden tables.
Walk in and you come face to face with a tantalising array of beans and baristas whoâ€™ll take their time with you even when you can feel people rushing around you. It’s like being privy to The Cone of Caffeine. The fray is rattling around but you’re fine, you’re cocooned in The Cone of Caffeine.
I asked for a cuppa that would pep me up without kicking me around and the barista prescribed a perfect Costa Rican pour-over – lightly acidic but still warm and wheaty with a citrusy aftertaste.
Food-wise, simple pastries and baguettes lounge beguilingly from a rustic wood-and-glass display case (when you’ve got D’s food hall just downstairs, no point kitting a kitchen out really). Sensory Lab also offer classes, equipment (how spunky are those Hario kettles? I mean, really?) and home delivery of beans.
A while back I wrote a review that mentioned a cup of coffee so delicious I wanted to throw myself into a bathtub full of it and splash around. Yep, Sensory Lab have also teamed up with kit, a Melbourne skincare and cosmetics company, to produce limited-edition coffee-scented candles, body wash and body scrub. If you buy the whole lot, it’s bagged up like a big bag of beans, Keepcup included. You drink the coffee, you smell the coffee, you wash in the coffee – itâ€™s like by osmosis, you will be coffee. And really, it’s the logical evolution for us, isn’t it?