100 Leicester Street Carlton, Victoria 305303 9347 2010
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 7am-5pm, Sat-Sun 8am-5pm|
|Payments||AMEX, Mastercard, Visa, eftpos|
Mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata): it's a deeply signifying houseplant. Nothing is as retro modish at the moment. It's easy to spot: upright green-and-yellow variegated leaves, potted in something minimal that looks far too small for it. The plant is almost impossible to kill by neglect.
So it's no surprise to find this succulent sprouting from some crafty felt-wrapped pots in the middle of the communal table at a New Carlton cafe (New Carlton is the bit south of the old University of Melbourne campus, the bit with the Englishy street names and the new postgrad schools; Stovetop is on the ground floor of the Graduate School of Education).
More of a surprise is the nonna-chic coffee, because Stovetop does what it says on the box, serving Bialetti brews in the pot for two or four, on a tray with Arabic-style cups.
Co-owner George Seoud says the stovetops are inspired by the traditional coffee his family made at home and the pleasure of sharing a four-cup and a lazy chat with the uncles and the aunties and the cousins. The beans are Stovetop's family blend (roasted off-site by George's uncle), a mix of seven Latin Americans that make a dark and sweet pot reminiscent of Sunday afternoons at nonna's.
Also channelling someone's nonna are the waffles with vanilla-bean custard and pomegranate molasses; they're more like home-made Italian pizzelle than the usual Belgian-style waffles, with a crema-pasticcera note from the custard and a subtle Middle-Eastern hint.
Then there's the zuppa: a big cube of caramelised brioche in a cappuccino cup, with a stovetop and some warm milk on the side for pouring and a spoon for slurping it up: so nurturing and sweetly simple it is almost childish, but in a good way.
The rest of the menu toys with cafe brunch classics and decides it wants something more from life. The brioche burger is corned wagyu served on a board with seedy mustard on the side, a thick-cut slab, just-moist and flaky. A baguette of grilled haloumi with zucchini dipped in egg and fried is full of lush Mediterranean flavours.
Don't worry about the stovetop if you can't see the point of going out for something you can get at home: there's a Synesso too, with a 5 Senses house blend and regular single origins, and the Seouds expect to be serving coffee from other local roasters soon, too.
Do … try the zuppa; you know you want to.
Don't … forget the good 5 Senses brews.
Dishes … Cinnamon waffles with pomegranate molasses, vanilla bean custard, agave and house-made almond dukkah.
Vibe … Post-grad students and departmental staff do lunch.