With all the coverage and attention being paid to Melbourne's coffee scene in 2013, I imagine folks who don't live here think of Melbourne as a teeming, endless coffee metropolis, with great cafes stacked on top of each other on every last street. This not entirely true. While Melbourne's cup certainly runneth over with excellent coffee options, there are still certain blocks of the city without much to offer. The Central Business District – Melbourne's most densely packed area, our “downtown” – has heaps of great cafes, but until just recently, the high-traffic block of Flinders Lane that runs between Elizabeth Street and Swanston Street was one such empty pocket. That's changed now, happily, with the open of a brand new (and frankly gorgeous) cafe from Dukes Coffee Roasters, located in a community-owned heritage building called Ross House.
Dukes opened their original flagship cafe in 2008 on Chapel Street, in the suburb of Windsor, located well south of Melbourne's Central Business District. The team at Dukes have spent the last 5 years working tirelessly on their roasting and sourcing, and when the opportunity for the city location arose they couldn’t pass it up. The goal of their new Ross House location, as owner Peter Frangoulis explains, is to showcase their coffee without any other distractions. Mr. Frangoulis told me, “We have tried to create a space where each type of brewing is given the opportunity to reach the true potential of the roast.”
Which is not to say the cafe is drab. This space was designed by Chris Connell Design, with panels of light wood, beautifully tiled floors, and a comforting diner-esque feel, with warm lighting and mirrored panels along the wall.
The coffees served by Dukes are currently roasted at their Chapel St. location, though they’re soon moving into a new roasting facility in Melbourne's very hip Collingwood neighborhood. Mr. Frangoulis and his team purchase green coffee sourced by a cadre of fine importers, including Silo Coffee, Café Imports, MTC, Melbourne Coffee Merchants, Lattore & Dutch, and Bennetts. Instore, these coffees shine brewed through two La Marzocco espresso machines, a Mistral and a Strada (one for black coffee, the other for white), as well as on their purpose built filter bar, which boasts V60s and AeroPress brewers and Mahlkonig Guatemala Lab grinders.
Coffee is, of course, the main attraction here, but there are sweets and pastries as well. Dukes does not go too far down the breaky path that's become synonymous with Melbourne specialty coffee, but I was impressed by their pastry offerings, from bakeries like Dolcetti, Matt Forbes, and Mosaic.
The building that Duke’s is housed in, Ross House, is a uniquely self managed, community owned heritage listed building, which you can read more about here. This community concept has been strongly supported by Duke’s with the creation of the Ross House Blend, with $3 of each bag sold directed back into the building’s projects.
They're also paving the way for environmental consciousness in cafes, bringing all supplies in with re-usable packaging, using The Juggler for milk dispensing, and putting all organic waste through a commercial food dehydrator (that’s conveniently located at the bottom of Ross House). Directly addressing the environmental impact of cafes is a hot topic of right now in Melbourne – SILO By Joost is one such example – and the team at Dukes and Ross House have integrated such considerations in a way that feels natural, and effective.
Dukes new location is a warm and sophisticated addition to the Melbourne Central Business District, and the city's thriving coffee scene. And really, who doesn’t love sitting in a bay window in the middle of a busy city, enjoying a delicious filter coffee and watching the world go by?