Udom House review

Barista Aum Phithakphon lives above the homely cafe.
Barista Aum Phithakphon lives above the homely cafe. Photo: Penny Stephens

343 Victoria St West Melbourne, VIC 3003

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Opening hours Mon, Wed-Fri 8am-3.30pm, Sat-Sun 8.30am-3.30pm
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Phone 0468 789 851

When people compliment Melbourne's coffee culture, what is it they're really in love with?

There's the fact you can get a decent brew in any postcode. There's the slow but sure movement to beans sourced from fairly paid farmers.

There's the technical side: roasting recipes, engineered water, micro-managed extraction, precisely stretched milk.

Thai toast topped with chilli paste and pork floss.
Thai toast topped with chilli paste and pork floss. Photo: Penny Stephens

And there's the arty end: specced up coffee machines, elaborate latte art, the craftsperson's satisfaction in delivering drinks that delight.

I also love the room for individuality. New paths can always be forged in the caffeinated beverage landscape, as shown in entirely delightful fashion at Udom House.

Aum Phithakphon's cafe opened in April. She lives upstairs so it's also her lounge room and the record player, books, potted plants and mismatched furniture are homely and welcoming.

Steamed bread with kaya.
Steamed bread with kaya. Photo: Penny Stephens

Coffee is Aum's jam; she was head barista at Hardware Societe for six years and, at her own place, she offers more than 20 different coffee drinks. There are black and milk standards, Thai coffee classics and Melbourne-Thai mash-ups, using various brewing techniques and milks.

As well as bean, roast and brew to appreciate, there's the palate-sense and play of the mixologist.

Dirty Coffee is a blurry clash of cold cream and hot ristretto in a frozen glass.

Udom House's coffee menu goes well beyond a latte.
Udom House's coffee menu goes well beyond a latte. Photo: Penny Stephens

Coffee cola is filter coffee brewed with water infused with lime peel, lemongrass and cinnamon. It's served over ice and tastes like the first day of summer.

Hot cha nom is a spin on Thai tea, served hot for Melbourne winter with a foamed head of slightly salty evaporated milk. It's all so exciting!

The food is poised, simple, thoughtful. Thick-cut white bread is steamed or toasted then drowned in kaya (coconut custard). Puff-pastry jaffles are stuffed with chilli paste and pork floss, just like in a Thai 7-11. Pies are filled with spiced jackfruit or chicken curry, both excellent.

Sweet potato biscuit.
Sweet potato biscuit. Photo: Penny Stephens

Thai sweets are arranged like diamonds in a cabinet. A potato biscuit is as mind-bending as Heston Blumenthal's famous mandarin parfait. It's purple with potato-perfect pockmarks but is filled with sweetened potato puree: it's joyous and fun.

Udom House is rich in art, heart, character and care, as well as two dozen ways to caffeinate.

It's a marvellous addition to the Melbourne cafe pantheon.

Rating: Four stars (out of five)