Corinthians' version of 'coco pops' with vanilla-bean milk.
Corinthians' version of 'coco pops' with vanilla-bean milk. Photo: Pat Scala

37 Old Geelong Road Hoppers Crossing, Victoria 3029

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Opening hours Mon-Fri 7am-3pm; Sat-Sun 8am-4pm
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Melissa Rajic
Payments Mastercard, Visa, eftpos
Phone 03 8742 4009

Without love, we are nothing: that's the message from St Paul in the 13th chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, and it's painted on the wall at this cafe that bears the name of his famous love letter: "Love is patient, love is kind, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs … love never fails."

It must have cost local brothers George and Sakis Fares a lot of love, and plenty of faith and hope, the other virtues urged by St Paul, to open a cafe like Corinthians in a far-flung suburb like Hoppers Crossing.

But that's Melbourne: good cafes and great coffee are our birthright, wherever we were born.

There is an inner-north aesthetic to Corinthians' fitout.
There is an inner-north aesthetic to Corinthians' fitout. Photo: Pat Scala

When you walk through the door of this shopfront at the end of a row of Indian grocers and fish 'n' chippers on Old Geelong Road, you immediately feel the love, and it's two-way love judging by the happy buzz of locals setting about brunch and some very good coffee.

It's not a bright space, and the brothers' handmade fitout has gone with the moody potential – dark-hued timber, warm-toned Edison lights, chunky wooden shelving and a brown-and-white tiled bar. Another wall is painted with a large world map showing the countries of origin of the 5 Senses coffee in the grinders.

Also drawing on reserves of love is chef Melissa Rajic, who commutes from Brunswick. Her menu works with the Melbourne cafe classics, sometimes faithfully, sometimes in a crazy-good riff. So there's free-range eggs on La Madre sourdough, 24-hour baked beans with poached eggs and shanklish-smeared sourdough, and a couple of big breakfasts (one vego, one not) that pile up various combinations of eggs, sourdough toast, chorizo, kaiserfleisch, sauteed spinach, mushrooms and haloumi, with nice touches like beetroot hummus in the vego version.

Red velvet hotcakes with stewed berries, rhubarb and cream cheese.
Red velvet hotcakes with stewed berries, rhubarb and cream cheese. Photo: Pat Scala

In the crazy-good column are "coco pops" of puffed brown rice dusted with Mörk chocolate and splashed with vanilla-bean milk (cow, almond, coconut or soy) and the red velvet hotcakes, a couple of deep-magenta things under a pile of stewed berries, rhubarb batons and a big splodge of vanilla-scented cream cheese.

There's some comfort food, too: a toss-up between pulled barbecued pork, lime aioli and Asian-style coleslaw on a charcoal bun with a side of beer-battered chips, and a grown-up's mac 'n' cheese, which the mac 'n' cheese won this time around: a metal ramekin of cheesy-saucy baked macaroni with a nice gremolata crumb sprinkled on top and a micro-leafy salad on the board alongside.

More of a classic is a chunk of plum-cured salmon, pan-fried to tender juiciness and served with a salad of mixed leaves and finely shaved radish.

The 5 Senses Crompton Road blend is delicious in milk and something to chew on in a short black, while the single origins do well filter-style from a Marco batch brewer if you want to linger over your caffeine – and soak up the love.

Do … come by train for a tour of the industrial west
Don't … get out your old King James version –  it translates "agape" as charity, not love
Dish … Red velvet hotcakes
Vibe: Cafe buzz