We know we’ve said this before, but Melbourne really is a city where great coffee and great food often go hand-in-hand, with stalwarts like Auction Rooms and Proud Mary leading the charge for a number of years now. The high-end cafe scene in Melbourne is a vibrant thing, and recently a new group of trailblazers has been making a name for themselves with places like Top Paddock, and their already-crazy-busy new venture, The Kettle Black in South Melbourne.
One of the prominent people behind these ventures is Nathan Toleman, who’s quietly played a big hand in the coffee & food industry for a number of years, having now opened, in chronological order: Apte, Three Bags Full, Two Birds One Stone, and the breakfast behemoth that is Top Paddock.
Top Paddock has made an outstanding reputation for itself in Melbourne, pumping out quality brunches alongside tasty coffee with an impressive level of efficiency and friendly service. Toleman and his team have taken feeding Melbourne’s hungry masses (and keeping them happy) to quite an art, and The Kettle Black is no exception. Located in a busy nearly inner-city pocket just south of the Yarra river, this new venture has taken on many of the successful elements of the group’s other cafes, while still striving to improve and progress, at the helm of co-owners Sam King, Diamond Rozakeas, Ben Clarke, Tim James, and chef Jesse McTavish.
The physical venue itself is astonishing to behold—half of the café has been fit-out in the bottom of a brand new, super-sleek apartment building, which looms over the old Victorian terrace house containing the other half of the cafe. The space was designed by Studio You Me, with the new half’s floor-to-ceiling glass windows allowing a spectacular amount of light in, while the old half has a cosy, homely feel. Across the two sides, sophisticated elements of marble, brass, and green tiles tie the establishment’s aesthetic together—while a striking light piece brings a unique character to the newer half of the café.
Coffee offerings here are simple but well considered, with Five Senses espresso being pulled through the white powder-coated Synesso machine alongside filter offerings from local roasters like Market Lane and Small Batch. The Kettle Black has also taken the time to think about the flow of customers, having chosen to run two separate espresso machines—one for have-ins and one for takeaways, with the takeaway setup running a La Marzocco Linea PB, set up on an adorable little cart out the front (with an array of sweets to choose from, of course).
The food at The Kettle Black is a refreshing mix of breakfast & lunch options, from the usuals like eggs-your-way on toast with sides, all the way to tataki ocean trout served with kale and seaweed salad. They’ve taken the fine-dining approach to casual brunching that they had at Top Paddock, and kicked it up a notch—choosing to make their own relishes and butters, as well as fermenting their own coconut yoghurt in house (which is delicious, by the way). As well as focusing on flavours and providence of their ingredients, every dish is plated up beautifully, making the experience of eating & drinking at The Kettle Black incredibly aesthetically pleasing in pretty much every sensory way.
The Kettle Black is a delightful addition to the culinary and coffee landscape of Melbourne that shows why so many coffee markets are looking to Melbourne for food & coffee inspiration. It’s going to be exciting to see what the cafe will achieve as it grows and develops, and what the team behind it will accomplish in the future.
Eileen P. Kenny is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in Melbourne. Read more Eileen P. Kenny on Sprudge.