Jane Holroyd

A flat white from Ora Specialty Coffee, Kew. Click for more photos

The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 award winners

A flat white from Ora Specialty Coffee, Kew.

Twelve months ago it was rated Melbourne's best new cafe but now – just like the cream in their Jonesy's milk - Richmond's Top Paddock has risen to the top.

The bustling Church Street business has been named eftpos best cafe at the The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 awards, held at Auction Rooms in North Melbourne on Monday night.

So was it the quality of their beans? The sublime mouth feel of Top Paddock's 5 Senses house blend? The ''ooooh'' and ''aaaah'' inducing single origin options? Or does service with a smile still factor in the equation?

Shrooms 'n' truffles at Best New Cafe, Stagger Lee's.
Best New Cafe Stagger Lee's dishes up 'shrooms 'n' truffles'. Photo: Anu Kumar

Guide editor Matt Holden admitted identifying the best cafe in Melbourne was a tricky task but in the end, it came down to a blend of all these: truly top coffee, fabulous food, service and spirit.

Nabbing a seat at Top Paddock is a prize Holden says, because of the "consistently good and inventive food", the quality coffee and because of its fabulous interior, which aids the ambience. Attentive service helps to wash it all down, he says.

"The winners are the places where I get the feeling that everyone cares about what they are doing, and puts their soul into it – it shows in the food and coffee every time," says Holden. "If they care about coffee, food and hospitality more than 'business', you can feel it in the air."

The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014.
The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014.

Holden's team of 29 reviewers canvassed more than 300 cafes and coffee bars across metropolitan Melbourne to find the best all-rounders. This year's best new cafe award went to Fitzroy's Stagger Lee's - its win attributed in part to its ability to stand out on the crowded, fashionable cafe stretch of Brunswick Street, and because of its great people-watching perspective on a corner. Dakdak in Moorabbin took out the local hero award.

The best coffee award went to third-wave veterans Seven Seeds in Carlton, for their ongoing dedication to sourcing direct from growers, and for roasting and brewing "to exacting standards", Holden says.

On the flip-side of the coin, the hall of fame award was this year granted to city stalwart Pellegrini's where a request for a pour-over Colombian gesha would likely be met with a frown, confusion or an icy stare.

The contribution of food to the city's evolving cafe scene was not forgotten, with Kew's Ora being recognised as Melbourne's best food cafe. Holden says the kitchen team dish up original, seasonal fare that surprises "in a good way". Ora's great-tasting house-roasted coffee did not hurt its cause either.

Melbourne's best barista award went to James Kilby of Brunswick East Project - a demonstration of how Lygon Street's cafe culture has crept northwards in recent years.

Other awards went to Collingwood's Everyday Coffee (best brew bar), Guerilla Espresso in Footscray (best small cafe) and Industry Beans, Fitzroy (best boutique roaster).

The Age Good Cafe Guide 2014 will be available for $5 with The Age for Saturday June 21 from participating newsagents, while stocks last. It will also be available in selected bookshops and online at theageshop.com.au for $9.99.