Okay, fine. I admit. I’m a nerd. Letting me loose in a library or a bookshop is like dropping a strawberry into a chocolate fondue: you’ll literally have to fork me out; and simple conversations with me can lead to full-blown discussions about whether the concept of a truly global organisation is a myth.
Journal, a café on the corner of Flinders Lane and Degraves Street, tucked neatly into the City Library inside the CAE, is the perfect place for us nerds, ahem, intellectuals. And you needn’t worry about being glued to your book (and hence your seat) or have begun a never-ending debate, because fortunately, they’re open until late on weekdays, a rare sight for cafés in the CBD.
The timber bookshelves hanging above the communal tables complete the literary atmosphere without the stuffiness of an old bookshop thanks to the large windows opening up to the view of boho Flinders Lane and the equally chic Library.
In the evening they serve antipasto as well as a range of small dishes, such as salads, bruschetta and soup, and have ‘construct your own roll’ offerings greatly anticipated by the hungry CBD hoards at lunchtime.
My chickpea and vegetable soup was a tomato-based broth with small hunks of potato and carrot along with a generous handful (or two) of chickpeas, making it a very pleasant and comforting soup to have on that cold, rainy (aka typical Melbourne) night. It came with a slice of toast drizzled in olive oil, as do their salads, like the witlof, pear and ricotta salad, or the more traditional Italian rocket and tomato.
The roast pumpkin and fetta bruschetta was excellent. Thick, sweetly roasted golden wedges of pumpkin lay atop a large slice of toasted sourdough, the whole thing finished off with a generous slice of fetta and a sprinkling of spices.
As for sweets, they have several danishes as well as Portuguese egg tarts and little bars of rocky roads. They’re all displayed up front, so leave your debating opponent to conjure up new arguments for a minute and wander up for a glimpse. They act more as an accompaniment to the coffee (which is superb, so why you would want anything else to steal the show?), rather than shine on their own, but my pear danish was pleasing nonetheless.
The service is friendly enough, though timing could be better. Having arrived early in the evening with the place not exactly buzzing, we weren’t expecting to be asked every three seconds whether we were ready to order yet. We had made it clear we were to order food, so giving us a couple more minutes to study the menu (especially when written on a chalkboard a fair way from our table) would only seem natural. When we were ready to order however, staff attention seemed to have diverted from us.
Everything at Journal, the lighting, the surroundings, the general hum of the place, the food and the coffee (oh my goodness, did I mention the coffee?) is almost faultless, and it exudes that kind of welcoming sensation that you get when you arrive home and know you can just curl up with a book and forget about the trivial things in life like who’s going to do the dishes. I mean, when did you last hear of Sartre or Confucius worrying about chores?
253 Flinders Lane (corner Degraves Street)
Tel: +613 9650 4399
Open: Mon-Fri 6.30am-late, Sat 8am-6pm