Friday, June 09, 2006

The Taming of the Brew

Friends and family of caffeine addicts beware. Letting your coffee lover near Icoco is like releasing a five year-old in a toy store.

First, they’ll stand staring wide-eyed at the shelves, transfixed by the sight of espresso cups, shiny stainless steel milk frothing jugs and bags of coffee beans roasted on site. Then, they’ll see the scintillating silver espresso machine and the coffee menu on the wall behind the counter, and they’ll tug you gingerly by the sleeve with a smirk on their face that tells you that they want to take all this home. To really get them jigging, whisper to your five year-old that if they ask the lovely ladies behind the counter politely, they might be able to get a glimpse of the almighty roaster out the back. While they’re jumping up and down like a veritable preschooler, sit yourself down on one of the humble black tables and have a read of the coffee menu on the wall. It’ll tell you a single shot of espresso is made with 7-8 grams of ground coffee that is extracted for 25 seconds to give you 25 millilitres of their heavenly brew, and that your latte has a double shot of espresso (40 millilitres of extraction from 14-15 grams of coffee in 30 seconds) in a large glass with textured milk. No wonder it’s called a coffee ‘menu’. By now, even the occasional coffee drinker should be excited.

Only a coffee aficionado confident in their baristas would be bold enough to write in such detail without being labelled pretentious, so I decided have a go at their macchiato (“single shot in a traditional espresso cup with a ‘touch’ of textured milk” though I ordered a long macchiato, so I imagine it would have had a double shot). The coffee came, as promised, with no more than a dash of milk – purists would protest that milk is utter blasphemy, so by all means have yourself an espresso or a long black, because the coffee here is so heartbreakingly good, you won’t taste an ounce of unwanted bitterness; it just rolls around on your tongue like velvet with a fullness and complexity of taste akin to a good cognac.

To go with your coffee, there are several cakes, which are rumoured to be as great as the coffee, on which I unfortunately had to give up in place of a proper lunch, which wasn’t bad either. They have a range of panini and some specials, such as homemade pizza, soup and a healthy roasted vegetable lasagne. The Moroccan lamb panini came toasted with slightly spicy lamb mince, roasted eggplant, squash and baby spinach. An interesting and pleasing combination that breaks away from the café staples of roast veg and bococcini, roast beef and the like. If you happen to walk in wanting breakfast, they also have the usual suspects such as scrambled eggs on toast.

Coffee has often been reserved for adults, but for real kids (i.e. not the one begging you to buy the coffee machine), there are storybooks and puzzles, as well as a children’s menu, so mum and dad can enjoy their food and coffee in relative peace. Alternatively, soak in the sun on the pavement tables (if you’re lucky enough to see the sun in the gloomy Melbourne winter).

The star here is undoubtedly the coffee. The baristas are incredibly friendly, skilful and knowledgeable, and the coffees they make are sure to have even the most doubtful and unadventurous drinker excited.

Their beans are also being distributed in other cafés under the 'Woven' brand.

Average spending: AUD$5-15 p.p.

Icoco café and foodstore
143 Victoria Ave
Albert Park VIC 3207
Tel: +613 9690 7638
Open: Daily 8am-5pm

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