If you’re walking up Little Bourke St in Melbourne, towards all the important-looking law buildings, stop for a moment, and look left down Little Williams, where you'll spy a small oasis of coffee making that goes by the name of Patricia Coffee Brewers. With a fluorescent sign on the roof proclaiming ‘Sunshine’, and a tiled doorway stating ‘standing room only’, you’re suddenly made aware that you’ve found your way into a special little place that knows exactly what it’s doing.
Opened in December 2011 as a joint venture by Bowen Holden (formerly of Seven Seeds, Brother Baba Budan, De Clieu) and Pip Heath (formerly of Dead Man Espresso), Patricia—named after Pip and Bowen’s grandmas of the same name—is an aesthetically beautiful and quality-driven coffee bar in the heart of Melbourne. Here, they're focused – lazer focused – on carefully made coffee, delicious treats and, above all, exceptional service. Located in what was formerly an office, the venue was transformed in collaboration with interior architects Foolscap Studio and graphic design firm Beyond the Pixels.
The menu at Patricia is simple. Guests can order Black ($3.50), White ($3.80), or Filter ($3.50) coffee service, roasted by either Seven Seeds or one a rotating guest roaster, including Small Batch or Market Lane Coffee. But this menu simplicity belies a great deal of complexity beneath the surface, and a few outright tricks up Patricia's sleeve. For example, their iced pour overs are made hot, stored in the fridge in individual metal flasks, then served with a giant ice cube that you’d be more likely to associate with an upmarket cocktail bar. They also have a creation called “Clouds Mountains”, which is a delicious abomination that consists of an affogatto served with a canelé pastry in the middle of it. And in what myself and my editors are confidant is a uniquely Melbournian quirk, coffees sold whole bean at Patricia are repackaged in colourful canisters to take home; similar repackaged branding is offered at other top Melbourne multiroasters like Assembly and Everyday Coffee. This implies a great deal of trust between the roaster and their cafe partner, and it's a trust that Patricia Coffee Roasters have earned with their top-notch service and dedication to quality.
Espressos are pulled through the Synesso Cyncra and manual Mazzer grinders (modified with timers and remote switches), and milk is dispensed by one of the first Juggler milk systems anywhere in Melbourne. Filter is brewed consistently by V60s throughout the day, so that the many thirsty lawyers who patron this fine establishment are able to get their black filter coffee ASAP before their next hearing.
Everything in Patricia has been meticulously thought out by Mssrs. Holden and Heath and their team. The conception and design of the space was done with the goal of it being unique and functional, and every element speaks to this. There are handsome leather aprons made by Jess Wootten atop delightfully tailored uniforms, and coffee is served in beautiful cups made by master potter Malcolm Greenwood. There’s a small pastry and cake offering to complement their delicious coffee offerings, and these are supplied by Lune Croissanterie, Gracious and Delicious, Candied Bakery, and Dolcetti.
The one thing that is most unique about Patricia isn’t something that you’ll see, smell, or touch. It’s an intangible something that has set them apart from the slew of coffee shops in Melbourne, and that’s their service. As Mr. Heath told me, “A key concept to Patricia is the idea of not leaving any customer out. We try not to miss anyone, not just in service, but also in taking an interest in them as people… the goal is basically to give every single customer a great experience, every single time.”
When you work in specialty coffee in Melbourne, as I do, it can sometimes feel like a bit of a clique. I think it's the same in most cities: You go into other people’s cafes and you get special treatment, a free espresso here and there, a little something extra, and don’t get me wrong – it’s lovely, and welcome, and delightful. But there’s something so unique about an espresso bar where everyone is getting that special treatment, regardless of whether it’s their hundredth time at Patricia, or their very first.