To distract our daughter from the vaccinations she’d scored as a result of reaching her first birthday milestone, we took her out to lunch at one of Carlton’s newest cafes – The Vertue of the Coffee Drink. As we passed Lygon Street, peeling off Miss B’s plasters as we went, we turned into Cochrane Place from Elgin Street, between a servo and a motor mechanic shop, and wove cautiously between trucks parked tightly in tandem. To the left was Raffa Place where at the very end was number 8 – marked by a set of maroon double doors.
Within, there was a refurbished warehouse feel. It was warm, with abundant natural light streaming through the clear panelling of the ceiling. Rusty wall planters housed plush indoor plants, and at the heart of the establishment was owner, Mike Cracknell’s, pride and joy – the coffee roaster.
The cafe’s name is a tribute to London’s first advertisement for coffee (circa 1652). And, as we discovered, at The Vertue of the Coffee Drink, they not only take their coffee seriously – as micro roasters and coffee equipment retailers – their kitchen serves up incredible food as well…
The coffee was incredible. Full-bodied, creamy, with the most sensational, lingering aftertaste. Miss B loves fresh coconut (and a sip of coffee every now and again *ahem*). It was absolutely delicious and they’d fashioned a generous opening to enable easy coconut-flesh-scooping once all the coconut water was consumed.
Despite the fact that they serve all day breakfast, we ended up going for their lunch menu which starts from 10.30 am.
The eight hour lamb shoulder, tabbouleh, baby broccoli, dukkah and tahini was absolutely gorgeous. The lamb melted in our mouths, and although rather bland on its own, together with the tabbouleh, dukkah, tahini, and the generous squeeze of lemon juice over the top, it was a perfectly balanced (and generous) dish.
When the Muffuletta (pressed New Orleans deli sandwich with salami, smoked ham, capicola, provolone, Gouda, olive, capsicum) came out, I couldn’t quite believe it. It is apparently the legitimate brainchild of a Sicilian family that immigrated to New Orleans. I would have thought it had been created by a bunch of blokes, who after one too many beers, came up with this brazen idea to put everything they loved into an enormous focaccia, then to slice it up and share it with a few more drinks… Nevertheless, whatever you choose to believe, it’s one of the most amazing sandwiches I’ve ever beheld. The bread soaked in all of the wonderful flavours and aromas from the marinaded olive salad, and the neatly stacked layers of cheese and preserved meats added a tenderness to the sandwich which wasn’t overwhelmingly salty. Plus the divine layers made it look like a multi-coloured savoury opera cake – what’s not to love?
The kid’s scrambled eggs kept our little one occupied in a high chair whilst we indulged in our respective meals. Beautifully seasoned with salt, no pepper, Miss B self-fed and due to the nature of the two elements, made minimal mess!
Without question, we wouldn’t hesitate to revisit. I’m already yearning for their chia seed and coconut pudding with caramelised figs as well as their Scotch eggs!