380 Victoria Street Richmond, Victoria 3121
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 7am-3pm; Sat-Sun 8am-4pm|
|Features||Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly, Outdoor seating, Family friendly, Breakfast-brunch, Accepts bookings|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||0423 151 704|
It's a concept that sounds potentially as gimmicky as a cereal cafe. Crompton Coffee is what could be – and already has been by some – branded a "toast cafe". But this new Richmond eatery – down the Ikea end of Tigerland, an area which has been lacking in decent coffee for some time – is no hipster gimmick.
Co-owners Camron Green (a Melbourne hospitality veteran, having worked at the likes of Seven Seeds and Twenty & Six Espresso) and Nick Peters, formerly an energy trader, believe "simple is best" and, taking inspiration from a cafe in San Francisco, their menu's main focus is toast with a range of rotating seasonal toppings. But they're not serving Tip Top with marg and peanut butter (although there is a Vegemite option – $4/$2 with grilled cheese).
Their compact menu features doorstop-sized slices of artisanal Rustica sourdough with creative toppings. It's a changing list but at present options include jam of the day ($4.50), hazelnut cacao butter ($6/$11.50 for two slices), fig, ricotta, honey and black pepper ($8 and the most popular topping so far, although as figs are headed out of season, get in quick), pear, walnut and blue cheese ($8) and prosciutto and spinach pesto ($8). "It's not us having a laugh," says Green. "It's just doing things simply and properly."
Most other cafes, adds Peters, have menus that are 80 per cent toast anyway. "Essentially, we're just not doing the eggs and bacon that everyone else is doing."
Melbourne's hospitality scene, he says, might be booming, but it has got "a little … pretentious in the last two or three years".
"Why can't you just go out for a simple bite with a nice coffee? We're just paring it back. It's about using fresh, seasonal ingredients and changing them all the time."
There are a couple of non-toast choices – a yoghurt and fruit plate (biodynamic yoghurt with sundried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds, $9.50), a fig and coconut muesli ($9/$10 with Coyo) and freshly made baguettes ($10.50), which are proving popular takeaway lunches.
The small space's minimal fit-out also echoes the pair's simplicity mantra – there's not a low-hanging Edison bulb in sight. There are though, a clutch of toasters and a serious grill behind the small counter; no need for a huge commercial kitchen.
And while the coffee is not taken lightly – they're currently serving Small Batch – your choice is limited to what almost seems old-fashioned these days: black, white or filter.
"You need a whole dedicated person to run full filter options so we just do batch brew," says Green. "It tastes just as good as manual filter."
Green says while he hates to admit it, the entire Crompton Coffee concept is somewhat inspired by Steve Jobs.
"He didn't reinvent the wheel, he just created a good 'user experience'. We knew that if we were just selling coffee and toast we needed to have somewhere nice for people to sit and relax and enjoy, and do it well," he says.
"So we spent a lot of time and money making sure the setting was comfortable. You've gotta pay $4 anywhere for a coffee – you might as well pay $4 and sit in a nice environment."