After 7+ years chained to an office desk, the freedom of being a full-time blogger and writer, working from where I please, is still a gigantic novelty. However, I have discovered that a sink full of dishes and basket of washing nipping at my ankles doesn’t exactly encourage my unsocial friend creativity out of hiding.
Earlier this year, I wrote about my quest to find the perfect Melbourne beach office (you can read about that here). However, now that it’s winter, you’re as likely to find me at the beach as you are on the StairMaster. Instead, I’m most commonly found holed up in a warm café – preferably one that serves good coffee and cake.
Last week I went on a mission to find Melbourne’s best writer-friendly cafés, and while I could have easily chosen five cafés within walking distance from home, I decided to commit to the cause, venturing far and wide:
Monday: Mileto’s, Windsor
Update: Mileto’s now resides in the graveyard of Chapel Street, having permanently shut it’s doors. Cafe OneThirtyTwo has taken its place.
Originally dismissing this breakfast/lunch café because of its gloomy, non-hipster vibe, I was so happy when a friend served me up a big fat piece of humble pie and suggested I move my office here for the day. I have since realised that Mileto’s is more homely, less gloomy.
Once your eyes have adjusted to the dim lighting, you’ll discover that it’s surprisingly cosy (but then I guess anything would be cosier than the outside air temperature of eight degrees). It reminds me of Nonna’s house. Not that I have a Nonna, but if I did this is what I’d expect her house to be like, with lots of pots hanging from the ceiling.
The back-to-basics Italian menu is fresh and delicious, plus relatively cheap. My prosciutto, basil and tomato roti, which came out within five minutes of ordering, was amazing.
Mileto’s chilled retro music makes it easy to think and generally the place isn’t packed, so you won’t get distracted by other people’s conversations, which I always do.
Mileto’s | 132 Chapel Street, Windsor, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9510 2241
Tuesday: Kanteen, South Yarra
Perched on a peaceful bend of the Yarra River, you can easily leave the hustle of nearby Chapel Street behind as you walk through Kanteen’s green front door.
On a cold winter’s afternoon this place was near deserted, which suited me just fine, claiming a prime window seat overlooking the Yarra River. Despite this technically being in the ‘outdoors area’, I easily sat sans coat, gloves and scarf as the overhead heaters were hotter than Alessandra Ambrosio in a Victoria Secret runway show. Warning: Kanteen does have more outdoor seating than indoor seating, so make sure you claim the prime real estate under the heater.
There is plenty to like about this peaceful riverside spot that sports a somewhat picnic vibe, and with plenty of rare South Yarra parking it was easier to get to than I thought. Take your pick from a range of yummy breakfast and lunch options, as well as a substantial dessert and cake selection. The coffee wasn’t bad either and arrived quicker than a Metro Train. Eclectic furniture adds to the charm.
Kanteen | 150 Alexandra Avenue, South Yarra, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9827 0488
Wednesday: Footscray Milking Station, Footscray
Footscray is about as foreign to me as Angola, but I thought what better excuse to cross the bridge and venture into the Wild West than my café-seeking mission. I did do a little research prior to hasten my game of treasure hunt and the name Footscray Milking Station kept appearing as one of western Melbourne’s best cafés. I headed in that direction.
Perched on the corner of two quiet, residential streets, I did do a quick iPhone check to make sure I was in the right spot, with the unassuming-from-the-outside café still very much resembling its former life as a milk bar, complete with Herald Sun advertising plastered on the brick exterior.
Inside, the milk bar theme continues, with the addition of a nice, relaxed vibe as customers munch on their fresh croissants and paninis, pouring water from milk bottle-style jugs.
I did arrive late in the day and the place was near empty, so I easily got a house seat at the sunny window bench. But I have a feeling at peak brunch time this place would be busier than the West Gate Freeway.
Footscray Milking Station is a cute spot that ticks all the right boxes (yet bizarrely only open during the week?!). Although as sweet as it is, I’m 99.9 per cent sure I could have found an equivalent in my Chapel Street heartland. Leaving Prahran to brunch in Footscray is kind of like leaving New York to find a bagel in Newcastle. I’ll stop hogging a clear westside gem.
Footscray Milking Station | 35 Bunbury Street, Footscray, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9029 9240
Thursday: The Kettle Black, South Melbourne
From a writer’s point of view, The Kettle Black was a complete fail. Super busy and super loud, it’s near impossible to get any kind of work done here, aside from gawking at the incredibly fashion conscious clientele, admiring artfully put together dishes and unashamedly eavesdropping on very close conversations.
A sibling of Richmond’s highly popular brunch go-to Top Paddock, I was expecting The Kettle Black to be busy, but silly me also thought a gloomy, mid-week day would keep the avocado-eating masses at bay. Wrong. The day I visited, The Kettle Black was busier than Chadstone Shopping Centre’s car park on a centre-wide sale day. Given the groups waiting for a seat, I felt privileged to be awkwardly squeezed onto a communal table, where I barely had enough room for my iPhone, let alone a laptop.
Farewelling the concept of getting any kind of work done, I was able to enjoy the foodie experience, and The Kettle Black is indeed an experience, with charcoal slabs that substitute as plates and incredibly inventive garnishes. The décor is also as arty as the food, sporting a scandi feel of blonde wood, mint chairs and gold highlights.
Leave the laptop at home for this one.
The Kettle Black | 50 Albert Road, South Melbourne, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9088 0721
Friday: Archie’s All Day, Fitzroy
I thought I’d finish the week with a bang and venture into that far away land that is north of the river. Headed for Gertrude Street, I was quite impressed when I found new kid on the block, Archie’s All Day.
It was one of those rare Melbourne winter days where the sun was actually gracing us with its presence, so I had the luxury of sitting in the outside courtyard (complete with underfoot false grass), racking up some vitamin D. But there is a good combo of booth, stool and table seating indoors too.
Sitting next to me were two 20-something girls casually knitting beanies. I was highly impressed by their knitting needle skill.
Again, sporting a Scandinavian feel with blond timber, aqua accents and exposed white rock walls, plus a collection of very on-trend pendant bulb lights, Archie’s is a very pleasant place to spend a few hours typing. Add in relaxed DJ house music from the behind-counter turntable, some delicious (but limited) sweets and an impressive all-day menu (yes, as the name Archie’s All Day suggests) and you have yourself a great all-day office.
Archie’s All Day | 189 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Victoria
Phone: (03) 9417 0066
My favourite Melbourne cafe office?
This is a tough call as I had a great week coffee-hopping my way around Melbourne, and found all the cafés I visited to be much more inspiring than my clothes horse-laden apartment.
However, Archie’s was the clear winner, with its energetic tempo, friendly staff, beautiful ambiance and free wi-fi courtesy of City of Yarra Council. I’ll definitely be back and, who knows, might end up ditching the laptop for some knitting needles next time.