Frequenting and supporting small and local businesses such as cafes makes me feel good and is great for my local community. However, over the holidays this means all my usual’s are taking a well earned break and shutting up shop. So I’ve been searching for a great cafe where a Chai fix can be had over the Festive Season in Melbourne. At the very last moment I have found one!
Miss Marmalade is the stand out establishment in a strip recently regenerated shops on Union Street in Brunswick opposite the Union Hotel. An outdoor and undercover street area with lots of pretty flowers are the first thing you notice about the Miss. Beyond that there is plenty of indoor seating surrounded by exposed brickwork and hidden further inside is a backyard where children and dogs are welcomed.
But back to the Chai. I was offered two types, a Kama Sutra brewed pot and a Phoenix Chai latte. Times definitely are a’changing. The soy Chai latte was beautifully made, not too sweet and a decent head of froth. Accompanied by coconut sugar this brings a whole new experience to melting the sugar on top of my Chai.
The lunch Turkish bread #3 Poached free range chicken breast with chopped pistachios, celery, Italian parsley and aioli made with local lemons was sensational. Such a combination of flavours I have never discovered before.
Miss Marmalade will be open between the Christmas and New Years public holidays and then closed for a couple of weeks. I will endeavor to discover where else will be open for the left behind Melbourne masses.
The best pot brewed Chai latte I’ve found in Melbourne is at the Old Barber Shop in Church Street, Richmond. The Chai is divine in all aspects. It tastes sweet but not too sweet, nor too strong on the black tea leaves. It is presented sumptuously on a wooden board with a tactile pottery mug in hues of blue, which has been pre-drizzled with honey.
I’ve visited several times since they opened in the former Barbers of Seville site a few months ago. A busy location, close to Church Street traffic and trams, the Old Barber Shop is surprisingly tranquil, perhaps the touches of blue in the china and furnishing exude calm.
A captivating display of treats make it hard to choose so there are many visits still to be had to try sandwiches, salads and croque madame’s. I can vouch for the Hazelnut Meringue and Canberry muffin, a curiously delicious muffin which crumbles like meringue.
Their ever attentive and friendly service make me feel like I’m being looked after here. Perhaps some of the old school barber shop ethos is living on.
Small Block is an old favourite I have been sipping soy Chai latte’s at for a few years. It’s top quality Chai, no fuss, no toppings but a decent froth that invites some raw sugar melting.
I’m not sure how commonly known the term ‘raw sugar melting’ is. I first came across it in New Zealand where I observed a friend sprinkling some raw sugar on top of her latte – a cafe latte at the time. The sugar crystals would quickly melt, leaving a beautifully caramalised top. As I have come to perfect this technique I have learnt one must then scoop a teaspoon of froth from the top at exactly the right moment when there is still a crunchy sugar texture. Why waste a spoonful of sugar in the Chai latte? It is rarely needed, but on top it is a treat.
Small Block is on the funky, gentrified end of Lygon Street in Brunswick East. The walls are adorned with large numbers I assume were once used at the servo telling the price for petrol. Sitting on a corner this cafe features an ever changing wall of street art (something else I love about Melbourne). I’ve seen some spectacular pieces here and adore the current adornment of little girls jumping in colourful paint.
The Chai and the street art keep me coming back to Small Block but I should also mention the food is divine. The Summer Breakfast with beetroot relish and goats cheese never misses and the ricotta pancakes with Barbados cream and pears are the best in town. For a mid week lunch the steak sandwich provides some satisfying hunger relief.
How would you like your Chai? That’s a statement I heard for the very first time at Miss Succulent one Sunday morning. Willing and able to make me the Chai I desired, either brewed in a pot with or without milk, or a latte, or perhaps other ways I’ve never tried.
I opted for the Chai latte with soy milk and it was beautifully made, hot and spicy. Accompanied by the most gorgeous little glass pouring jug full of honey.
There were a few menu printing teething problems for the new Miss Succulent on the day but this meant I had the pleasure of a verbal menu. The poached eggs on toasted Turkish bread were honest and good.
Set on the busy Dundas Street, Thornbury in the midst of suburban houses in an old milk bar. Naturally there are succulents everywhere, big and small, inside and out. Sitting at a yellow Laminex table surrounded by other vintage and retro pieces which could be whisked away by my fellow patrons at any point. Whilst looking through the louver windows to the front yard with a puppy staring back at me, it feels like I might be in my Nana’s house. There is so much visual stimulation along with a particular wallpaper or cup triggering childhood times I hardly remember I’m in a cafe. Below is a photo of said cup filled with a mocha that stirred memories for me.
I’m looking forward to returning to Miss Succulent for another Chai, maybe a brewed one this time, taken in the courtyard with some of the vegan fare like a vegan Oreo cupcake.
I know, I know, Melbourne is a city known for its coffee. Everyone loves to love coffee and you are just not quite with it if you are not partaking. Believe me I do love the smell, the taste and the whole ceremony of it as much as the next cafe frequenting Melbournian. However, for a variety of personal and digestive reasons since returning to old Melbourne town in 2006 I have been a Chai connoisseur.
Do you do a Chai latte? Well this question receives a variety of responses from a big agreeable smile, a confused not sure what you are talking about look, to an expression of sheer disdain. People must be drinking Chai though, it certainly is much more present on cafe rustic cardboard and blackboard menus.
Today I start this blog – Melbourne Chai Times – to share a few of my passions, Chai and photography from the eateries of Melbourne.
I start with what I consider the best Chai in Melbourne, perhaps it was because it was my first and my local back in 2006. But I always return to its gingery goodness. A Minor Place – Albion Street, set in the middle of Brunswick suburbia amongst brown brick housing and front yard roses. There are always a few pieces of street art adorning a wall of the cafe or a neighbouring block of social housing letterboxes.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the stable that usually accompanies my Chai from A Minor Place, their chicken sandwich, which I also consider to be the best of its kind in Melbourne. Organic chicken on wholegrain bread, onion relish and mayo, rocket and Swiss cheese, it just works a treat.
So while this blog is about Chai I guess it is also destined to be about many things I love about my Melbourne life.