Port Phillip Arcade, 228 Flinders Street, city, Mon-Fri, 7.30am-4pm
Down the Port Phillip Arcade rabbit hole - retro home to one of Melbourne's largest philatelists and one of Australia's largest cake-decorating supplies shops - you'll find this bright new spot where Janet Wong indulges a love for baked treats, coffee, tea and sandwiches. The cakes - maybe a gluten-free Venetian carrot cake (the recipe was passed down by the chef's mum) or a Tiffany-blue vanilla-bean cup cake - are baked on site in the tiny kitchen. For a change, there's tea: how about an iced Storm in a Teacup Earl Grey infused with rosebuds and manuka honey to wash down one of those hazelnut macarons?
Go-to coffee The sharp Pony blend from South Melbourne's Clement Coffee Roasters - excellent with milk.
A Little Bird Told Me
29 Little La Trobe Street, city, Mon-Fri, 7am-4.30pm
This new bolt-hole in a side street near RMIT's fantastical Building 80 is the baby of Caleb Heaney, one-time barista and roaster at Seven Seeds. The space has been dressed with furniture and fittings by local designers with a focus on stylish crafting (Kate Stokes pendant light fittings, a communal table by Darius Design, locally made stools by Every Inch); Heaney's partner Rebecca Notley is the designer behind the fitout. The same sense of craft flows to the coffee.
Go-to coffee The simple pleasure of a Seven Seeds short black, with lovely citrus hints at the moment, and a bite of something sweet from Matt Forbes or one of Melbourne's newest small patisseries, Lune Croissanterie.
Code Black Coffee
15-17 Weston Street, Brunswick, daily, 7am-5pm
New northside coffee house-roastery? Yes, another one … but Code Black is a thing apart, with a fitout in high industrial Euro-style: epic amounts of black - tables, walls, the ceiling - relieved only by expanses of polished concrete, rusty steel girders and chrome and stainless-steel coffee apparatuses. The brunch-til-3 menu is a mash-up of French-toasted gingerbread and baked silken tofu and breakfast couscous steamed in fruit juice. Then there's Australia's Best Toasted Sandwich - chef Laura Neville won a competition with this - a slab of crisp-outside, creamy-inside polenta filled with molten provolone sitting on a superfluous slice of toasted sourdough (it's not a sandwich without bread, right?) A fried egg perches atop, mustard cress and truffled mushrooms scatter on the plate. No surprise to learn Code Black is part of the Cafenatics empire, the flip-side of Melbourne's specialty coffee scene (the side that doesn't do ironic beards and single-speed). Coffee is sourced at origin and roasted here.
Go-to coffee A Guatemala Los Caballitos single origin's berry fruit shines through the milk in a piccolo - served, babycino-style, with love-heart art in an espresso cup.
301 Wattletree Road, Malvern East, Mon-Fri, 7am-4pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-4pm
This friendly little shopfront with its cheeky Lichtenstein print of a teary heroine and cute astroturf courtyard has been an instant hit on Wattletree Road. Locals love the broad bean and goat's curd smash with poached eggs, the sweet pumpkin pancakes drizzled with maple syrup and coffee cream, the pulled pork and cabbage slaw sandwiches. Coffee is a Maling Room blend roasted for Fergus (Honduras, El Salvador, Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Ethiopia) called Milksmith - which develops almost winey fruit notes in a piccolo latte - plus a variety of daily Maling Room single origins.
Go-to coffee The long communal table sports a cold-drip set-up where barista-owner Patrick Horan experiments with single origins to produce cold coffee shots. It could be a Costa Rica, it could be a Panama Emporium Estate - you'll have to drop by to see.
176 Faraday Street, Carlton, Tues-Sat, 7am-3pm; Sun, 8am-3pm
Another Market Lane offshoot has popped up beside Baker D.Chirico in Faraday Street, Carlton, in the rather large shadow of Brunetti. It's a tiny room with an espresso machine and some pourover gear, which is well put to use but you can go an extra flavour yard if you duck next door to grab something from D.Chirico - the bombolone filled with lemony custard is hard to beat. This is scheduled to keep trading until the middle of April, though it could continue; get in quick, anyway.
Go-to coffee An El Salvador Miravalle pourover (served in a handcrafted Samantha Robinson cup) with hints of cherry and orange.
200 Through Road, Camberwell, daily, 7am-5pm
Melbourne's east is in the middle of a cafe boom, with cool little latte-and-brunch spots popping up in high street shopping villages and on backstreet corners all over the leafy suburbs. Exemplum: Miss Frank, which nestles in a sleepy stretch of Camberwell just off Riversdale Road. It's an airy set-up with various spaces and levels, cool grey concrete and neutral white walls and a mix of communal tables, four-seaters and a bar-stoolish bit for single laptoppers. The menu, on butcher's paper and rolled into the tabletop cutlery holders, offers brunch surprises such as breakfast ratatouille with a parmesan-crumbed egg on buttered toast, house-made pies with chips or a classic cafe steak sandwich of Tasmanian scotch minute with a fried egg and onion jam.
Go-to coffee Has to be a creamy latte of Veneziano's Estate blend with a Rustica Danish or one of the other treats baked in-house. There's also rotating single origins and guest blends from other roasters.
St Ali North
Rear 815 Nicholson Street, Carlton North, daily, 7am-6pm; coffee window 6am-6pm
The park and the bike track, Chris Hamburger's food and Shaun Quade's cakes combine with summery weather to make St Ali North a busy hub, with mums, kids, single-speedsters, lycranauts and off-duty baristas parking their various conveyances and hitting the lawns, the window benches and the tables for a plate of this, a slice of that and a cup of something roasted. Matt Perger runs the coffee with attention, knowledge and a sense of adventure. Perger uses a commercial batch brewer to make filter coffee in quantity (and for only $3.50 a cup).
Go-to coffee We love the take on iced coffee, the cappuccino con freddo: a double-shot of St Ali espresso blend whizzed with skim milk and sugar to make a summer coffee treat.
113 Victoria Avenue, Albert Park, 9686 3000, daily, 7am-4pm
You can smell the coffee and the sea at this smart, airy corner perch on Victoria Avenue. The sea aroma is the good old Port Phillip variety, the coffee is Hawthorn specialty roaster Axil: the PO is a joint venture by Axil's owners Dave Makin and Zoe Delany, former Axil manager Adam Mariani and Matt Lewin (Coin Laundry and one-time Axil roaster). This corner of the skinny-latte belt may not be ready for a specialty coffee blitz but the menu offers plenty to keep bayside brunchers happy, from a creamy yoghurt pannacotta with fresh stone fruit and crumbles of toasted granola to bready things stuffed with herb-roasted free-range chicken or braised beef short rib and coleslaw.
Go-to coffee Put that skinny down: this is a place to linger over a filter brew, maybe an Ethiopia Sidamo Guji via the Clever Dripper, with wafts of blueberry and dark chocolate.
Station Street Trading Co
166 Station Street, Port Melbourne, Mon-Fri, 7.30am-4.30pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-4.30pm
Station Street, Port Melbourne, is notable for its idiosyncratic street numbering scheme - with houses on one side and the light rail on the other, odds and evens alternate in little blocks: 95, 97, 99 might be followed by 100, 102 and 104. Which makes finding the street's other notable feature, Station Street Trading Co, mildly tricky. The boys from Armadale's Coin Laundry have transferred their winning moves to this bright corner space in a pretty pocket of the Borough: tasty and inventive brunch offers (maybe ''tabbouleh'' of puffed quinoa, seasonal fruit and strawberry labne or a tasty Caesar salad sandwich, all tender white roast chicken, ripe avocado, a tomato sauce-spiked mayo and slices of crisp bacon on moist pumpkin sourdough).
Go-to coffee The Allpress Supremo blend is nutty and toasty in a short black and stands up in milk, while a rotating single origin offers an excursion into more adventurous territory.
658 Church Street, Richmond, Mon-Thurs, 7am-5pm; Fri, 7am-9pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-4pm
If you're feeling the brunch-crowd pinch at South Yarra's Two Birds One Stone and think you could hop across the creek to the Birds' new little sister, Top Paddock - well, it's just as busy (though it also has twice as many seats and a deck-full of outdoor tables). There's the same grown-up feel in the warm timber and cool white tiles, and a like-minded menu full of cafe-luxe ingredients - white anchovies and jamon serrano; soft-shell Queensland mud crab on a brioche roll; a heap of lush pulled pork on toasted MoVida rye with a hit of sweet (prunes) and tart (yoghurt sauce).
Go-to coffee A house blend by Five Senses (nice nutty nose, a lick of fruit and a toasty finish, spot-on, without sugar, in a short black) and various single origins for pourover: lately, a Market Lane Guatemala Santa Isabel, very clean in the mouth, with chocolate hints.