Auction Rooms and Small Batch Roasting Co are two arms of a top operation. Small Batch sources and roasts some of Melbourne’s best specialty coffee; Auction Rooms brews and serves it with really good food in a space that feels like the coffeehouse from central casting.
Small Batch buys green coffee directly from farmers in in El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala and Costa Rica, while African coffee comes from brokers who share the Small Batch philosophy. Then it’s roasted to bring out each coffee’s particular flavours.
Candyman is the standard for milk-based espresso, a blend of different origins (depending on what’s fresh) that makes a sweet, malty, fruity flat white.
Black espresso comes as a single origin of the day. “Blackberry and toffee,” is how the barista describes a Kenya Kihuyo. In a double shot there’s plenty of fruit, juicy acidity and a complex, savoury finish. It has a big, creamy body, but is still quite clean, with a hint of smoky, syrupy Ribena.
The filter coffee menu features three or four single origins: maybe an Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, a Kenya Ruthagati and a Pompilio Ramos from the Santa Barbara project in Honduras, a region where the coffee has more in common with Kenya than Central America, says Small Batch’s Andrew Kelly.
A coffee from Victor Ibarra in Huila is a typical Colombian, says barista Michael Sinclair: “balanced, long, herbal in a good way.” It has toffee-like sweetness, some sweet citrus acidity and delicate floral aromas.
Filter brews at Auction Rooms are served in glass cups, not wine tumblers, which we reckon makes a big difference to how the flavours and aromas develop.
Food has always been an Auction Rooms drawcard. The menu is big on all-day brunch-style dishes like the flavour-packed pressed pork shoulder with white bean puree, morcilla sausage, pickled carrots and sweet potato crisps, or the lentil tagine with dukkah-rolled feta and smoked hummus.
It’s on the pricey side for a cafe – $13 for house-made granola is the breakfast entry point, but the $20 breakfast board is loaded up with grilled house-made sausage, trout croquette, avocado puree and a soft-boiled egg with rye soldiers.
The cost doesn’t deter the crowds, though – expect to wait for a table on weekends, and we’ve seen queues on Thursdays and Fridays, too.
Where 103–107 Errol Street, North Melbourne, phone (03) 9326 7749
When Mon–Fri 7am–5pm, Sat–Sun 7.30am–5pm