Today it is my utmost pleasure to give you, dear readers, a little sneaky pre-opening peek at Hortus, a new cafe that opened just today in the waterfront inner-city suburb of Docklands.

A collaboration between art curators Utopian Slumps and Folk Architects (collectively known as Utopian Folk) and specialty coffee roasters Seven Seeds, Hortus (Latin for ‘garden’) is a freestanding glasshouse on the Harbour Esplanade of Docklands, housing a café and a stunning plant installation. Coffee service at Hortus is semi-temporary, with a shelf life of just 18 months, making it more than a mere pop-up but not quite permanent. Visitors to Melbourne should catch it while they’re in town.


This is a fascinating project, largely because of its location: Docklands is a unique area in Melbourne because it has, for the most part, been recreated from the ground up over the last several years. Where other suburbs such as Richmond or Brunswick tend to start out rough and edgy and slowly move towards gentrification, Docklands is essentially coming from the other end of that scale. It’s so new and shiny, it nearly needs degentrification.

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It’s an area that has been mostly pushed by developers (tall apartment buildings and corporate offices), and less by the Melbournian interest in the neighborhood itself. As a result of this, there have been initiatives by groups like Places Victoria, who are working towards bringing a stronger community appeal to the esplanade and the Docklands area as a whole. Hortus is the result of a Places Victoria contract being awarded to Utopian Folk.


Now, before I get angry emails in my inbox, I’m by no means saying that this is the first caffeinated cultural hub to make its way to the Docklands. Over the last couple of years there a number of cafes have staked their claim, with places like Halyard Coffee, Story Coffee by Dukes Coffee Roasters, and Long Shot opening up and bringing quality coffee and service to a previously deprived area.

Hortus is a welcome addition to these trailblazers, and under the management of Jake Sullivan of Seven Seeds they’ll be serving coffee deliciousness through a La Marzocco Linea and a trusty Fetco (yet-another instance of batch brew’s growing presence in Melbourne).  Guests can also enjoy array of cakes, pastries, and sandwiches sourced from quality suppliers around the city.



When I popped in they were still finessing the final bits and bobs, but this is clearly a stunning space, and will be a fine hub from which to soak up the sun as autumn inevitably turns to winter in Melbourne. Developers and real estate types are banking big on the Docklands; this is a place of tremendous growth and investment, but it also must have soul and purpose for it to truly feel like home. This lovely new cafe certainly helps make the case.


Hortus is located at 131-141 Harbour Esplanade, Docklands. For more information, follow @hortus_7seeds on Twitter and visit the official Seven Seeds website. 

Eileen P. Kenny (@EileenPK) is a staff writer for Sprudge.com, based in Melbourne. She is the publisher of Birds of Unusual Vitality, specialty coffee’s premiere interview web magazine. Read more Eileen P. Kenny here.

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