Ho Ho's Canteen
Owner/head chef Fabian Calabrese returned to university expecting a ''little less pressure'' but since he opened his canteen last year, the masses haven't stopped coming. Formerly of Sarti and Embrasse and trained under Pierre Garnaire in London, Calabrese may be working in a more casual environment but his standards remain high. He often sources local ingredients at markets well before dawn. The simple menu usually consists of salads and soups influenced by both sides of the Mediterranean and pastrami baguettes with sauerkraut.
Details: Union Square, University of Melbourne, Parkville; facebook.com/HoHosCanteen. 7.30-5pm daily.
Pearson & Murphy's
Located inside the heritage-listed Francis Ormond Building and named after the university's forefathers, Pearson & Murphy's is an elegant space resembling a warehouse inside with a dash of Shakespearean playhouse outside. The menu includes gourmet wraps (try the chorizo with red capsicum and pesto) and lunch boxes (pita/sandwich, fruit salad and drink).
Details: RMIT city campus; 9639 2777; pearsonmurphy.com.au. Open breakfast and lunch on weekdays.
The Reading Room
When a cafe in a somewhat isolated campus is full on a Sunday even before semester has started, you know they're doing something right. Popular with students and walkers on the nearby Maribyrnong River track, this is one of the area's go-to brunch spots. Hang out at the communal tables outside or flick through the Encyclopaedia Britannica indoors while waiting for the Simple Simon - smoked salmon croquettes, smashed avocado and herbs, poached eggs, aioli and beetroot relish.
Details: Building P, Victoria University/88 Ballarat Road, Footscray; 9919 4091; readingroomcafe.com.au. 7.30-5pm Mon-Fri, 8am-4pm Sat-Sun.
The Writer's Block
Yes it's in the library, but manager Daniel La Rosa assures us you'll be allowed to talk. And the coffee is reputed to be the best on campus. They bake their own Swiss pastries, croissants and macarons.
Details: Borchardt Library, La Trobe University, Bundoora; 9470 1674; writersblockcafe.com.au. Mon-Fri, 8am-8pm; Sat-Sun, 11am-3pm.
St Georges Restaurant
As part of the School Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships Program at NMIT, food is prepared and served by high school students completing a Certificate III in Patisserie. Highly regarded as a training institution and boasting such chefs as Shane Delia as alumni, the menu is contemporary with produce mainly sourced from the TAFE's own farms. Portions are large and prices are low; try crispy coconut prawns with a mango, chilli and lime sambal.
Details: Building K, NMIT, Preston Campus; 9269 1577. Open for lunch and dinner on weekdays.
Students, what's your favourite study break spot?