* All reviews are the opinion of Melbourne Mum, and are not sponsored.
Espresso Alley, on the corner of Balgonie Place and Separation Street in Northcote, is awkwardly placed. The closest parking is Northcote Plaza or behind the library so when they first opened, I wondered how successful they would be.
Although clearly not privy to their accounts, they look to be doing a roaring trade. The cafe itself is a converted brick terrace (anyone know whether it used to be a residence?) and typical of other cafes in the area, the interior theme is industrial/vintage and the food is modern, with a mediterranean flavour. I usually order the salami, provolone, olive tapenade and rocket panini for lunch – it’s a simple dish, but worth going back for. I have dabbled in other items, and whilst the menu is small, the flavours and textures of the dishes are all superb (sorry, channelling by wanky inner-Masterchef. Pardon me). There is no kids menu as such, but there are kid-friendly options such as the ham and havarti toasties and the fruit salad with honey and yogurt. I don’t actually think Inky would care if they had any food for her, as long as they keep the babycinos coming.
The coffee is beautiful. I often go in to have ONE coffee and end up ordering three, not because I need them (although I’m pretty sure I could justify it), but because the coffee really is magical. It is a very easy place to spend a few hours in, even with kids. No-one seems to bat an eyelid at the presence of little scampers, although my splatter-radar is set to high given it’s right next to a main road.
The brainchild of Vince Colosimo and restauranteur Vince Mazzone, the “local hero” (or should that be “Street Hero”?) factor certainly hasn’t hurt Espresso Alley, although I’ve only seen Vince once (happy to report, he is still one rather hot man).
The service is pretty efficient and wavers between very friendly and a bit snooty, depending on who you get. Snootiness doesn’t bother me all that much, although I know of people who avoid places like the plague at the mere suggestion of snoot.
I think Espresso Alley is winning over the northern suburbs folks because they have followed the successful recipe of rustic, textural food, wonderful coffee, a laid-back, industrial vibe and adept service. Melbourne Mum and the hungry ferrets always feel welcome here and the cafe’s approach to food and coffee can’t be faulted.
- What was the bill?: Lunch for 4 + coffee for 2 – $60
- Where is it? Espresso Alley, 4 Separation Street, Northcote
- How kid-friendly is it?: 8/10. Kids are welcome and there is plenty for them to eat in spite of no separate kids menu, there are highchairs but it’s BYO activities for kids (and BYO splatter radar for parents).