Pedro Espresso review

Go-to dish: Blueberry and coconut flour pancakes.
Go-to dish: Blueberry and coconut flour pancakes. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

608 St Kilda Rd Melbourne, VIC 3004

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Opening hours Mon-Fri 7am-4pm; Sat-Sun 7am-3pm
Features Cheap Eats, Family friendly, Breakfast-brunch
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9521 4538

It wasn't easy to decide which of Phil Gijsbers' venues to review. There are seven, including Hard Pressed in East Melbourne, From on High in Windsor, Saint James in Malvern, Yorkshire Brewhouse in Collingwood, Small Print Pizza in Windsor and Seven Point Espresso which calls Brooklyn, New York home (New York was most appealing but it would have completely blown my budget).

We are instead at Pedro Espresso on a barren section of St Kilda Road where Gijsbers is putting into play some of the tricks he's learnt from the US specialty coffee market.

The promise is Melbourne-style coffee with a Big Apple pace thanks to a shiny machine called a Slayer Steam. Please excuse me while I nerd out for a second: the dry steam wand allows custom settings for individual milk types which means if you're in the skinny/soy/almond camp you're not receiving a substandard brew. Nifty.

The lively interior of Pedro Espresso.
The lively interior of Pedro Espresso. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

Gijsbers' serves espresso from his coffee brand, These Days Roasting, and filter from Maker Fine Coffee with excellent results; a delicate, lightly sweet Guatemalan batch brew is served in a ceramic cup so large you had best use two hands.

The space has a temporary feel: on the ground floor of an ancient office block flatpack-inspired design, not unlike Melbourne's trendy-yet-boxy Flipboard Cafe, and unrenovated flooring give the impression that the whole place could be relocated in an afternoon.

Gijsbers has a staff exchange system (a few lucky ducks are slinging eggs in New York right now) so it's no surprise to find Jay Van Rhee at the pans. Formerly of From on High his all day menu is mod Oz: house-smoked ocean trout with compressed melon and radish, carrot rosti with pulled pork and beetroot hollandaise and lighter fare in the form of breakfast salads and granola.

House smoked ocean trout, compressed rockmelon, radish, pepitas and orange vinaigrette.
House smoked ocean trout, compressed rockmelon, radish, pepitas and orange vinaigrette. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

There are some misses. Beetroot-heavy gnudi looks good on paper but is let down by technique: crunchy onion, a corn reduction with no trace of corn, devastatingly thick slices of pecorino and, worst of all, dense, gluey dumplings. But don't worry too much about that, Van Rhee has just pulled it from the menu because no one ordered it. For the best really.

It's all good from here. Excellent gluten-free bread comes from Precinct (if you're into that kind of thing), topped with a mix of Swiss brown and oyster mushrooms, their woody, buttery scent lifting off the plate through tangy curd and an appropriate amount of micro herbs.

The hero here? Blueberry and coconut flour pancakes with sweet mascarpone, fresh, in-season berries and a sticky drizzle of high-quality syrup.

Perhaps the most unusual element for a cafe in this end of town is the seven day trade, even if weekends are a graveyard – don't overlook it if you live in the area, there aren't many places left where you can have a decent latte in peace on the weekend and Pedro Espresso won't be quiet for long.

Pro Tip: Get three tacos $10 all-day Tuesdays

Go-to Dish: Blueberry and coconut flour pancakes with spiced mascarpone, berries, cacao nibs, and spiced apple and maple syrup