ISSY Shaked is tight-lipped. No way is he going to reveal what's in his coffee. Basically, it's top-secret. He laughs, he smiles but no details are forthcoming. All he is willing to say is that there are beans from four different regions - which really isn't telling anything at all.
Shaked and partner Nir Kalif believe they have fine-tuned the perfect coffee for their new cafe, Manchester Press, in the city. The secret blend, which is roasted in Queensland, is flown down twice a week.
There's something about good coffee that seems to be contagious and the pair are newcomers to what is becoming a coffee hot-spot. On Little Bourke Street, Brother Baba Budan has become a holy grail for coffee aficionados. Around the corner, on Somerset Place, is the Little Mule cafe, and three weeks ago Manchester Press opened on the narrow, undeveloped Rankins Lane.
Housed in a former print building, the spacious cafe has a trendy-but-comfortable feel.
Furniture made from recycled machinery gives it an industrial edge, softened by eclectic art work and large drawings by local artist William Montgomery.
Shaked and Kalif, both experienced baristas, run the popular Loco Cafe in Elsternwick but this is their first foray into the city centre. ''There's something very special about Melbourne's lanes and we want to put life into this lane,'' Shaked says. Coffee is made on a La Marzocco Linea by baristas trained by the pair. ''It's not the most expensive but it's a nice machine to work with.''
Their custom blend is called 8oz (a standard coffee size) and they plan to supply other cafes down the track.
''For 12 years we've been running different coffee shops and we wanted to take it to a different level by producing our own blend,'' Shaked says.
First I try a flat white, which comes with a tricky piece of latte art. Luckily, it tastes as good as it looks - a full-bodied, creamy coffee with sweet caramel overtones. The medium-roast blend also works as an espresso (the pair wanted something to appeal to all palates) and is a well-balanced, delicate brew.
The place is already buzzing with well-dressed trendy and business types, even though there is no sign at the top of the lane. A few benches, cut into the wall outside, are nice on a warm day.
The highlight of the menu - on perspex with printed labels - is the open bagels, from NY Bagels, with toppings such as salmon, pastrami, chorizo and goat's cheese ($12). Judging by the surrounding tables, the soft-boiled egg seems a big hit in the mornings.
Shaked believes the standard of Melbourne coffee has increased hugely during the past decade. ''Melbourne coffee drinkers know exactly what they want; you can't fool them,'' he says.
- 03 9600 4054
- Prices - Espresso: $3, Regular coffee: $3.50
- Opening Hours - Mon-Fri, 7am-5pm; Sat, 9am-5pm
- Author - Mary O'Brien