Thursday, August 11, 2005

Worth marketing - Coffea

It would be hard to imagine anyone who finds doing household chores genuinely pleasurable, but if I had to choose one I’d rather do, my first choice by far would be food shopping, not the supermarket kind though, mind you. Limp veggies under fluorescent lights, factory salami, and apples that taste like cardboard have never really been my thing.

I always volunteer to do this chore, pretending that it’s just as painful as vacuuming, while snickering discreetly as I drive out to the Queen Victoria Market, which is my best bet for crisp green beans, fresh salad leaves, honey scented apples, as well as polish sausages, and an infinite variety of cheeses.

As if I need any more motivation to come here, there are places to stop by for a coffee and a lunch too, like the famous Bratwurst shop in the Deli section (hotdog-type rolls with the aforementioned German sausage; if you don’t know where it is, just look for the longest line in the Section), or the humble Coffea on the Elizabeth Street side of the market.

Given its market presence and its name, the fact that Coffea is a coffee merchant as well as a café should be of little surprise. Coffee fanatics will love the brewing accessories for sale on one side if the shop, unless they’d been momentarily transfixed by the commercial roaster at work right in the middle of the room. With equipment and a name like theirs, they would be terribly wrong to dare offer mediocre coffee – and luckily, they couldn’t be more on target. Perfect is not a word I use lightly, but the coffees here are just that. Not too strong yet superbly aromatic and never, I mean never, bitter.

Most mornings Coffea is bustling with CBD workers and perhaps early market-goers, who, either grabbing a takeaway pastry or enjoying a sit-down breakfast, are all here for a stellar coffee.

While sitting inside seemed the obvious choice for me in this weather, at lunchtime, hoards of hungry souls filled the many pavement seats, staying toasty under the outdoor heaters.

Lunch here is a ham and cheese affair. Well, except your “ham” could be prosciutto, pancetta or shaved leg ham, and your “cheese” could be parmesan or provolone – no plastic cheese here, thank you very much. Usually some salad greens like garden-fresh baby spinach or rocket are thrown in too, as well as relishes and sauces. A grilled vegetable ciabatta included artichokes, an interesting choice as a sandwich ingredient, as are salad-like combinations such as green beans and tuna. There are real salads too, as well as soup for those in need of a winter warmer.

My mushroom paté, prosciutto and parmesan ciabatta came toasted and on a warmed plate. Brownie points for attention to detail. The paté was more like a dense mushroom purée, its fragrance resonating in my mouth long after my final bite, rivaling the intensity of a madly expensive truffle purée I bought recently from a French farmer in London. The flavour of this truffle purée is tremendously rich, but hardly overpowering, satisfying one’s oral cavity like flowers blossoming all at once, filling a meadow on a spring morning. This mushroom paté is less exhilarating, but nevertheless an elating employment of this much more modest fungus.

The prosciutto and parmesan on their own are excellent ingredients. The prosciutto was moist and stretchy with that lovely cured flavour, while the parmesan was creamily rich and just pungent enough. The two together though, was less successful, becoming a bit too salty, even with the thick bread around it.

Non-coffee drinkers need not fret, as Coffea also offers a range of other beverages, such as chai, hot chocolate, and Italian bottled soft drinks.

You never know, with a visit to Coffea as a reward for doing chores, you might even see me polishing my roof soon.

Average spending: $5-15 pp.

521 Elizabeth Street
Melbourne 3000
Tel: +613 9326 7388
Open: Mon 7.30am-3.30pm, Tue & Thu 7am-4pm, Fri 7am-5pm, Sat 7.30am-3pm, Sun 9am-4pm