De Clieu is everything Melbourne expected of consummate professionals Bridget Amor and Mark Dundon (ex-St Ali; Seven Seeds/Brother Baba Budan). The well-selected site in Gertrude Street enhances an established foodie precinct. The classy fit-out is streamlined, unpretentious and welcoming.
Chef Steven Carr (ex-Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander, Healesville Hotel) has created a diverse, original menu that complements the impeccable coffee. Theres a section selling about a dozen different beans and blends, filter-style coffee equipment and a range of teas, and a darkened coffee lab where in-house coffee geeks use computers to analyse tins of precious beans.
I copped some disinterested table service, but most of the staff have come from the Carlton and city outlets and are efficient and responsive.
The coffee is served either espresso or French press (plunger) style. Theres a Seven Seeds house blend, a selection of single-origin and single-estate beans and some specialty blends. A Phat Tony espresso blend (Costa Rican, Brazilian, Kenyan and Indian beans) is described as an ode to the Italian influence in Melbourne and its viscous, velvety extraction packs a bittersweet punch.
The French press choice of the day was a Hacienda La Esmeralda, one of the worlds most expensive coffees, revered for its musky floral and fruity notes. Divine.
Bowen Holden is managing one of the hottest specialty coffee cafés to open in Melbourne this year. But the relaxed, genial barista doesnt deliver a drop of insouciance with the first-rate brews he serves.
Holden worked at Leroy Espresso and The Pelican, joining Dundon and Amor when they established St Ali four years ago. His qualifications were for a career in the kitchen, but he found it too anti-social.
Being a barista still gives you a creative outlet, but you can be more sociable, he says. I like being involved in the retail side of things, too. Its an opportunity to fill people in on specialty coffee and direct trade. We take coffee for granted because its such a large commodity, but it deserves to be seen as something more.
De Clieu, 187 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
Phone 9416 4661
Barista Bowen Holden
Coffee Seven Seeds
Baristas choice French press
Open Monday-Saturday 7am-5pm; Sunday 8am to 5pm
This imposing charcoal-fronted café sits across a broad corner space off Gertrude Street, but the strongest impressions are the legs of its customers, dangling across the wide, open timber ledges. The easy-swinging mood contrasts with the subtly nautical-themed fit-out by architects Six Degrees: polished concrete floors and benchtops, a scrub-green canvas wraps around the front counters, recycled tables and stools and sparkly, hanging glass lights. Glossy white tiles line the walls of the small, drum-tight kitchen and notes of the green canvas are reflected in paint on surrounding pillars. Brightly lit cakes and pastries sit neatly inside a crisp glass display case.