The Vertue of the Coffee Drink
8 Raffa Place Carlton, Melbourne
So, rumour had it this place could do a decent muffuletta, a sandwich particularly close to my heart; it was the first thing I ate in New Orleans, at Central Grocery. Theirs are reputed to be the biggest and best not only in New Orleans, but the entire universe. Never heard of them? You’re not alone; neither had I until I started researching this trip. You’re also going to hear a bit more about them tomorrow and see what their muffuletta looks like.. But first things first. The Vertue.
It’s tucked away behind a Shell petrol station around the corner of Lygon and Elgin streets, and it’s a gorgeous space; wooden floorboards, big open space with heaps of natural light, and gorgeous little touches like the little jars of flowers set on the tables and bench tops…
The next thing that stood out was the level of service; we were greeted as we rounded the corner off the street and into their little restaurant nook space. We were seated, handed menus, poured glasses of water, all with a real smile and a bit of a chat. I’ve said it before, but truly happy and genuine staff make the biggest difference in the highly competitive world of Melbourne’s cafes and restaurants. Top marks to the gentlemen who looked after us while we were there, you guys are awesome!
We went in assuming we’d just get a muffuletta each, but then we spotted the meatball sub on the menu and decided to get one of each and share them so we could try a bit of everything. The meatball sub ($18.00) was a little pile of delicious; pork meatballs in a brioche roll, with napoli sauce, jalapenos, provolone cheese and pancetta, with a side of golden onion rings, apple slaw and crispy sage leaves. Fantastic decision to get this one; the meatballs were perfectly cooked and had a great flavour, really well matched with the buttery brioche and the melted provolone. The onion rings were remarkable, and I loved the creamy slaw with the crispy sage leaves. Would more than happily go back for this again!
And then, the muffuletta ($16.00). Other than a few variations in the meat/cheese department and the bread (Central Grocery’s came on a round bun rather than rectangular, roughly the size of a car tire and sprinkled with sesame seeds instead of herbs; that said, I actually really enjoyed the herbed bread and thought it complimented to fillings particularly well), it was pretty good! Piled high with salami, smoked ham, capicola, provolone, gouda and olive salad, it was the filling, delicious sandwich that it should be. The only other big difference we noticed was that the olive salad was no where near as oily as the NoLa versions – you’ll see in the photo tomorrow how much the oil soaks through the bread at Central Grocery, which makes it a bit more of a “moist”/not as dry sandwich. Not saying one way is better than the other, they were both good, just different!
Yeah, it was a little different to the original, but as far as I know it’s also the only one in Melbourne, and a damn good sandwich. It took us right back to New Orleans, the little differences weren’t that big a deal because it still tasted right, and we both agreed we’d go back for more, especially when we feel a little nostalgic about our favourite city.
I wish I could say we were done, but we weren’t. With a few travel brochures and books we’d taken along to lunch, we decided to hunker down for a little longer, grab a coffee and tea, and start researching a new adventure. Also, the dessert window was calling to me. How could it not be?!
One of those incredibly lovely and very helpful staff I was talking about earlier saw me standing in front of the pastries looking a little unsure, and recommended his favourite – the salted caramel donut. Husband and I also love a good almost croissant, and these looked way too good to pass up, so we got one of those too. Great decision – the croissant was buttery and soft, amazing filling. And the donut. Well. That almost burnt salted caramel was the stuff sugar dreams are made of. This is why you should listen to the guys that work there – they know what’s worth spending your money and calories on!
I’ll be back for more, without a doubt; the food was absolutely on point, the prices were very reasonable for the quality and serving sizes, and the staff just made it. Get off the main drags in Carlton this week and hit up The Vertue of the Coffee Drink instead – even if it’s just for a coffee and a donut!
We also took a quick stop through Gertrude Street on the last day of CJ Hendry’s gorgeous 50 Foods in 50 Days exhibition; this extremely talented artist took inspiration from an article about what prison inmates requested for their final meals, and then proceeded to draw 50 foods in 50 days on 50 Hermès plates with just a felt tip pen. Seriously. The attention to detail is beyond incredible – I’d never consider myself as someone with an appreciation for art galleries, but her work really blew me away. If you weren’t able to get to the exhibition, check out her work on Instagram – she actually documented her work day by day as she drew each piece, and it’s AMAZING!