“Did you know that you’ve misspelt virtue?” is a question that the staff here are probably used to getting asked by their customers. And the answer is no. Vertue was named after a promotional handbill that was circulated around London back in the 1600’s – testifying to the medicinal properties of drinking coffee.
Located in Carlton, this hidden gem was once formally a stable and then more recently, a house. Now, it happens to be one of my favourite places in terms of aesthetics to go brunch at in Melbourne. Also, it’s within walking distance from Melbourne University.
There are no clear-cut signs in finding Vertue. To find the café, you would have to walk all the way to the back of a gas station located on the corner of Elgin and Lygon. Continue down a questionable-looking alleyway lined with dumpsters, take a left from there and you’ll be rewarded with a strong whiff of coffee coming from this beautifully spacious and light-filled cafe.
Despite its unpromising (and small) entrance, the café itself on the inside is just like the TARDIS: spacious, intriguing and enchanting in every imaginable way. Beautiful timber interiors and furniture, brass beams coming off of the lavish-looking coffee machines on display, and natural light – lots of it too.
Mad as a Hatter Chai Latte $5.0
Oat & Coconut Porridge $14.0
I’m not really the kind of person that would order porridge but when my friend ordered this dish, I might as well have tried it. And it was actually quite nice. There was a lot of crunch in each spoonful thanks to the cacao nibs and toasted coconut shavings. The goji berries and raspberry compote also helped to save the dish from being too bland.
Tea Smoked Salmon $21.0
And now for the most highly anticipated dish of the day consisting of these beautifully cooked pieces of salmon, polenta crumbed eggs atop a bed of cauliflower puree, truffle oil, and cubes of green apple. I wasn’t that a big a fan of the polenta-crumbed poached eggs but the rest of the dish was lovely. The tangy cubes of apple and smears of soft cauliflower puree gave the dish an overall light and fresh taste.
Overall I would have to say that this dish didn’t quite live up to my expectations. But maybe part of the reason was because the next dish ended up as the winning dish of the day.
Smoked Fish Chowder $19.0
Thanks to a recommendation from Elizabeth, I decided to order the smoked fish chowder instead of a third tea-smoked salmon. Served with a few pieces of toast, this comfort dish can be quite filling overall. So my suggestion is to split it with a friend if you don’t want to feel especially full afterwards!
For a fish chowder, the dish didn’t have a strong fishy taste to it at all. Instead it was rich, creamy and oh so flavourful. You’ll come across pieces of rockling fish, mussels and quail egg throughout spoonfuls of the aromatic chowder. And I especially loved the barbequed corn and chive sprinkled all over the top!
Personally, I would recommend this dish over the tea-smoked salmon any day.
I think a lot of what draws people to The Vertue of the Coffee Drink is the fact that it embodies everything wonderful about the Melbourne café culture: gorgeous interiors, exceptional coffee and a casual ambience. Aside from the aforementioned reasons, I would still happily come back to Vertue – if not for their friendly service and perfect lighting (for those great Insta shots!).
One of Melbourne’s best hidden cafe gems boasting great coffee, and even better brunch dishes.
The Vertue of the Coffee Drink
8 Raffa Place,
Carlton VIC 3053