“Notre français n’est pas très bon, mais notre café l’est…”

So reads the sandwich board outside Café Melbourne. The chalked dictum, speckled white from this winters’ endless snowfall, is a cheeky little jab from Down Under—a nod, perhaps, to the complicated history of The Main. All told, it’s a punchline that seems to sum up this joint to a tee.

melbourne_1Melbourne, a recent arrival on St-Laurent (4615, just north of Mont-Royal Avenue), is a modest, if not self-effacing, locale opened by Australians Xavier Martinelli and Angus Castran.

Armed with a sparkling La Marzocco machine and a few homemade trays of fruit-packed muffin-cakes, Café Melbourne comes across as bare bones, but it’s got more under the hood than meets the eye.

Boasting “third wave” beans thanks to Proud Mary (one of Australia’s highly-touted roasters), Martinelli and Castran also make Aussie comfort food that—oddly—feels right at home halfway across the hemisphere.

If you’re going to go, you should probably try a jaffle—essentially a sealed sandwich, the final effect of which (considering the fillings) lies somewhere between grilled cheese and calzone. If you think about what the structure implies, you can see the appeal: an increased ability to retain juiciness, (sauce, fat) all while boasting that slight greasy grilled-cheese sear on the exteriour.

It’s a hard concept to argue with, really, and chowing down on a Mac Daddy or Bada Bing amidst the owners’ razor-sharp wit and no-frills décor can’t help but make you want to hang in there a bit.

Seating is scarce, but if you’re serious about espresso, the wall-mounted counter vibe is actually a benefit, almost forcing you to stick with espressos—and drink it hot. This because, if you’re not standing, you’re pretty much staring at the wall by default. So you have no distractions but to focus on the beans in an en passant kind of way, without lingering and letting it die of cold. This is, after all, the proper tradition of espresso, as you’ll see in Rome or Paris or basically anywhere else that filter coffee is blasphemous.

I haven’t been to the real Melbourne, but if this is the way they do things in Australian cities, maybe they have an edge up on Montreal in some aspects of Europeanness. Don’t go telling all our tourists!


Having tried an espresso, americano and latte, I can say that all were excellent to taste and reasonably priced. Meanwhile the footie pies (more akin to baby tourtières) loomed mysteriously in a cafeteria-style display oven. I’ll let you go try those out…and compare them to the Melbourne’s older sister down the block, Tourtière Australienne. Report back!

Or just trek up St-Laurent to Melbourne and order a jaffle sandwich in your thickest joual. After all, if we want these addictive goodies to stick around in this Drainvillian world of ours, we need to make sure these guys get fluent in French au plus tôt possible !

* photos by Valeria Bismar


cafe bloom

Pointe St-Charles is a neighbourhood known for its community spirit, mobilization for social justice, and commitment to equal and affordable housing.

These are all great things. So is espresso. Unfortunately, The Pointe has not been known for its Joe.

To be specific, there were, before the opening of Centre St.’s Café Bloom last year, three types of establishment one could rustle up a morning coffee: a diner, a casse-croûte or a dépanneur. I know this because, as a neighbourhood resident, I tried them all. It wasn’t pretty. 

For the uninitiated, Pointe St-Charles is demarcated by the Lachine Canal (to the north), the St. Lawrence river and train tracks (to the south), the 15/Décarie (to the west) and the Bonaventure expressway (to the east). If this sounds, on paper, like a forlorn little island-within-an-island, it’s because it pretty much is. But oddly, it’s also why most residents hold it in such tender regard.


If I’ve gleaned one spiritual lesson from living in the Pointe, it’s that all things are impermanent. The neighbourhood’s collective unconscious is both vital and mutable (if the two can be separated)–tangibly cohesive yet continually twisting and contorting to grapple with surrounding forces. Some local militants even aspire to a Sovereign Pointe!

In the Pointe, buildings seem to persist for centuries and yet remain in constant flux. Most historic buildings have enjoyed umpteen lives—one day marked for demolition, the next day saved, and the day after that partially-reconstructed…only to be aborted, put back on the market, then ultimately reclaimed by the community.

So I was half-expecting, half-shocked that the Pointe should sprout its first upwardly mobile café. In many ways, the forces have been at play for years.

To this end, most locals seem very supportive of the caffeine joint, which also serves nicely thought-out breakfasts with a Belgian bent, themed salads and bowls (last week was Scandinavia) and decent pastries. The fact that they’ve created a low-key, welcoming community space certainly goes a long way toward ingratiating themselves in the ‘hood. But that space is also warm, wide and bright, with quality allongés and stark yet introspective photographs on display–the perfect excuse to trek out to our fair neighbourhood. Service is friendly and communal (you might have one person take your order, another bring it, and yet another drop by to ask you if everything is okay), and you’re never rushed out the door.

I’d like to say the Pointe has many qualities that warrant a visit–but most are eccentric enough as to warrant a bit more prose. Café Bloom, on the other hand, makes the Pointe an easy sell. Which worries me, because we all know what happens to neighbourhoods once too many espresso-drinkers “buy in.”

Bloom has set a cautious precedent for trendiness in the long-neglected Pointe. Let’s just hope that future businesses pay close attention to their tastefully-caffeinated model.

Café Bloom is located at 1940 rue du Centre. Getting there:

Photos by Joshua Davidson