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Urban Social Cafe – North Balwyn, VIC

6/321 Balwyn Road, North Balwyn, VIC, 3104

John “Hannibal” Smith was noted as often saying in the A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together,” however it is often just as good when the plan goes totally and utterly pear shaped!” as I discovered in relation to Urban Social.  I had attended the Manningham Prayer Breakfast at the Manningham Club in Bulleen and being a complete nube when it comes to Melbourne – when leaving I did the Adelaidean thing and avoided the line up of traffic, that was obviously not going where I wanted to go and went around them, only to discover that they were lining up to get on the Eastern Freeway, which is where I needed to be.  Next thing I knew I was over the Eastern and into a leaving green hilly suburb that was completely unfamiliar. So I turned down the nearest street, grabbed my phone to find my bearings.  Once satisfied that I hadn’t fallen through the looking glass and could quite easily make it back to the office by another route, I grabbed Beanhunter to find the best coffee along my way – and that is how I found Urban Social in the back streets of leafy North Balwyn, but 10 minutes from my desk.

This is a very trendy place to hang out – perhaps skewed toward the upwardly mobile soccer Mums – with good parking and plenty of space between tables for pushers – its comfortable, clean, stylish – and I am sure, a mecca for the two wheeled lycra set on the weekends.  I liked this place!

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Coffee Hit – Doncaster, VIC

G217, Westfield Doncaster, 619 Doncaster Road, Doncaster 3108

As my first review in my new home town, I thought it best to start close to my new ‘patch’ and work outwards as time and opportunity allow. So that then raised the question about where do I go first?  So I did what any reasonable coffee snob would do and consulted the oracle that is “The Beanhunter” and searched for coffee near Doncaster.  After crunching the numbers, twiddling the dials and channelling the algorithms, it told me that Coffee Hit was the best place nearest me (location and highest average score of 7.4 in the area). So, on my first day on-site (two days before I actually started) I arrived an hour early and wandered down (about 2 minutes walk) to Shopping Town to secure a coffee hit.

Coffee Hit is located on the ground floor of the Westfield in a Kiosk type arrangement in the centre of a produce themed area (Fruit, Vegetables, Butcher, Fish Monger etc). When I arrived the place was comfortably busy for early on a Monday morning – with a few ‘coffee’ meetings taking place in the vicinity.  Coffee Hit also roast their own beans, having a ‘little red’ roaster (see left – the red thing) on hand, and sell beans to the public (and online).

So to the all important first coffee review in Melbourne….

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a mother’s milk – Unley, SA

105 Unley Road, Unley, SA, 5061

I have waited so long for this place to open – I even made an aborted attempt a few weeks back only to discover I had chosen the only day in seven that they are closed (Tuesday) – and today, with my friend and colleague David in tow – the threshold of a mother’s milk was crossed.  Now remembering that this place has only been opened now for about a month….The first thing you notice about this most recent addition to the Adelaide speciality coffee scene, is that it is warm and inviting – and that is not just a comment on how it appeared during the cold, wet and wintery final day of summer on which I first entered – because the aesthetic is trendy, yet comfortable – and then there is the customer service. We were greeted like long lost brothers – “Glad you could make it” was the greeting.  Now, while I have met the owner (Stef) on two occasions at his previous place of employ – the chances are that he wouldn’t know me if he tripped over me – but with such a simple, yet sincere greeting (rather than a person behind the counter looking up from their facebooking, inwardly groaning and then plastering on a fake smile) Dave and I were able to relax, shrug of the stresses of the morning and peruse the substantial menu before deciding just on some coffees (assuming that six constitutes ‘some’).  Like all the speciality coffee places across Adelaide, a mother’s milk had a number of coffee types on offer – and this was the first time – ever – I was asked which bean I’d like to try – and you’ll find out which if you read on.  Read the rest of this entry

The Espresso Room – Adelaide, SA

57 North Terrace, Adelaide, SA, 5000

My second stop for the day, after a glorious breakfast at The Pantry on Egmont, was The Espresso Room – a place I became aware of after it (they) friended me on Facebook earlier this year.  Situated on Adelaide’s North Terrace, adjacent the Adelaide West Campus of Uni SA (my alma mater) and across the road from the future Royal Adelaide Hospital Precinct, this place has potential written all over it.

Making good use of the more than 100 year old terrace house, The Espresso Room takes pride in its coffee – sourcing its beans from the Coffee Barun out at Sefton Park, and has a quality barista (whose name I have forgotten – but was known by Junko the award winning barista at the other place I ventured too for coffee – see above) who knew his art and took pride in his work.

Plenty of seating is available both inside – taking up many of the original rooms – and outside, both in the front behind glass as per the picture, and out the back in a beer (perhaps that should be coffee) garden atmosphere which leads directly into the Uni campus behind.  But now to the all important review:

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Blu C Cafe – Christies Beach, SA

1/13 Beach Road, Christies Beach, SA, 5165

Location, location, location – potential, potential, potenial – I mean check out the view from the café – uninterrupted ocean views of Spencer Gulf, a beautiful park with playground – the inside of the Blu C Cafe was nice – but that is about all the good things I can say.  And I don’t like to be negative – do a search on ‘Bad’ from the TAGS – and see what I mean.

Latte Quality – Bad – it was just…bad. My wife made me throw it away because of how much I complained about it.  For starters – the milk was already in the jug from who knows how long ago – being that I waited f0r 10 minutes and the customers already served had cool drinks…then the frothing wand on the machine was dirty – covered in dry milk from previous use – the milk was frothed then sat aside while the shot was poured – again, coffee was already ground in the hopper.  Check out the bubbles on the latte – photo before first sip.

Cost – $4.00 for regular

Coffee Supplier – Monjava Coffee

Fairtrade – No indication

Customer Service –    – acknowledged my presence and value as a carbon based entity – but not much more;  there was an employee at the counter when I walk in – she looked at me coming and left to go on a break – she came back twice to see if I was still waiting and then returned to her break. The other employee who also saw me enter, but went out the back on the other side of the shop, only came back in after I had rang the bell on the counter, twice.

Venue Suitable for:

  • Quiet Chat,  Deep and Meaningful, and/or Study and Reflection – As I said – the location and the potential of this place is just awesome – but bring your own coffee – or (dare I say it) go to Jamaica Blue or Gloria Jeans at Colonnades first.

Paddy’s Lantern – Adelaide, SA

219 Gilbert Street, Adelaide, SA, 5000

In a quarter of the Adelaide City that many people may have never ventured through, sits this fresh new expression of the burgeoning South Australian speciality coffee scene. Opening in the first week of October 2011 Paddy’s Lantern is, according to owner, chef and barista Sam Carey – what he thinks would have happened if “Bar 9 and Coffee Branch had a baby”[1] and it finds itself nestled amongst a fairly standard Adelaideian mid 1980s row of shops – a child’s stone throw from the Dukes of Brunswick Hotel – however, make sure you are looking for it – blink and you’ll miss it.

Walking in – you just know this place is serious about the coffee – as the menu board is 90% about the beverage and 10% food – yet the food is superb!  Serving single origin 5 Senses coffee, blended on site, through a gorgeous looking Synesso machine,  a Sam made ristretto is heaven in a cup [see below.]  The interior is minimalist – having stripped back what was once perhaps a computer shop, it is now part single story – part spacious warehouse – yet will probably only seat perhaps 20 people, and is my no means clinical.  If you are cyclist, you are catered for – with three bike racks adorning the walls just inside the front door.  Together with my brother from another mother, friend and colleague we consumed three ristrettos, three lattes, and 2 Barossa Ham & French gruyere on Mylor Bakery Sourdough – in our 90 minutes of bliss, with occasional dedicated attention from Sam – who understands that customer service produces loyalty.   Parking is potentially a problem – but if you can find one nearby, they are free for 2 hours – just be persistent and the rewards of Paddy’s Lantern can be yours.   Read the rest of this entry

Boulevard Café on the Lake – Encounter Bay, SA

41 Bartel Boulevard, Victor Harbor, SA, 5211

The unfortunate event of my wife and boys having a car accident (they are all Ok – Thank God!) turned into the fortunate event of me being able to relax lakeside, sip a latte and read a book doing sermon preparation, while waiting for them to pick me up (the crash repair place is within easy walking distance – not sure if this is a positive or a negative aspect in relation to the café itself – or whether I should include this stat as part of all future reviews…?? Let me know).

I have known about this place for quite a while, having driven past it on the way to other coffee places, church camps or just going to sit by the beach at Encounter Bay – and I can not really offer an excuse as to why I had never stopped before.  Even at the most recent CoC State Camp held down the road, people were commenting on their nice coffee – and yet I still never went.  But I am glad to say that I have rectified the situation.

While the Café itself is hardly “on the Lake” I assume they chose that name because the “Boulevard Cafe from which you can see the lake through some trees beyond the lawned area” doesn’t have the same ambience {see picture below} – but what it lacks in proximity to the man made fresh water lake, it more than makes up for in style and customer service.  Offering a full service menu from Breakfast through Dinner, the food comes highly recommended – and there is plenty of seating both inside and out.  Off street parking is available – which is a plus – and with a southerly wind blowing you can sometimes catch a whiff of the ocean.

If you are attending the Salvation Army ‘Encounters Conference Centre‘ then this place is across the road and away from the beach a bit….so to the review.

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