Just near Melbourne Central, in one of Melbourne’s less-atmospheric laneways, is home. A home for anyone who steps inside its unassuming doorway. For inside, is home-cooked food, and a space which feels just right. Not cool, not trendy, not particularly fancy, just right – like home.
Café Giraffe is a surprisingly spacious café tucked behind a narrow Little Lonsdale Street façade. I was shown this place by a friend of mine, an international student, who had been told about it by a fellow student. We entered through the small kitchen, with its simple coffee bar and old-style pastry cabinet, and were greeted by a friendly face. Onwards, into the seating area we headed, and discovered a world of bookcases, wooden table-and-chair settings, wall features, comfy couches, an indoor tree and sundry odds and bodkins.
Eager to ensure he had selected our coffee venue well, my friend asked me what I thought of the place. “It’s nice, isn’t it? It’s like home!” I couldn’t have put it better myself. Very few cafes dare to be so comfortably familiar yet quirky. Sure, there are a lot of places where furniture is bought especially to appear worn, or old, or antique, or offbeat. However it’s rare to find a spot in the
city centre which looks so lovingly, well, thrown together. It’s as if the staff of the café were all asked to bring an item of furniture on their first day there, and the result is a hotchpotch melange of pieces which form a kitsch yet comfy atmosphere.
Looking over the laminated A4 menu, I opt for my regular skim latte and a peanut caramel slice from the cabinet, while my friend goes for the chocolate caramel slice (among them are other delectable offerings, including chocolate hedgehog slice, which comes highly recommended). Soon after ordering at the counter, the eats and drinks arrive at the table. The wooden giraffe statue in the corner watches on as more and more regulars – both students and locals – fill up the warmly lit room. The coffee is smooth and roasty – not bitter – and compliments the food well. The peanut caramel slice is to die for. The kitchen staff warmed it up before serving, and as my fork cracks the upper chocolate layer, molten chocolate oozes out of the centre of the treat. Working my way through the soft cake base and the nutty, toffee-like filling, I flick back and forth between the intense sweetness and the neutralising effect of the latte.
As we finish up at Café Giraffe, I am suitably impressed. A couple of university students have taken up position opposite us, and I watch on as they are served sandwich wraps, lasagne and chocolate milkshakes in tall, coloured tumblers. One of them is reading a book he grabbed off the shelf, while the other bashes away at his laptop’s keyboard – did I mention that Café Giraffe offers free wireless internet access to all of its patrons? As I head for the door, I make a pledge to return soon. Then, suddenly, it’s back into the real world, and time to begin my journey… home.
Cost: $3.50 each for coffees and slices, sandwiches from $7, lasagne from $8 (but you’re really here for the coffee and cake!)
302 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Monday – Friday: 10am – 6pm
Saturday and Sunday: 10am – 7pm