Aucuba Coffee Roasters – siphon brews and a quirky plant-based menu in South Melbourne 

Pull a stool up to the siphon bar at South Melbourne’s Aucuba Coffee Roasters for a taste of Mark Knapp’s distinctive house roasts and Japanese-accented take on cafe food.

Aucuba Coffee Roasters

Blue pineapple wallpaper and siphon brews – yeah. Photo: the Coffee Cities Project

“The siphon is a visually wonderful way to get people interested in coffee,” says Mark Knapp.  “It gets people excited. And I love to drink siphon coffee.”

Knapp was a partner in Port Melbourne’s Balderdash for four years, before selling out his share in the middle of 2014.

“The dream was always to be able to roast coffee, design a menu and create an atmosphere,” says Knapp. That’s exactly what he’s done at Aucuba Coffee Roasters.

The atmosphere comes from the cool whites of the interior, beautiful table settings and the funky accents of pineapple-themed wallpaper.

The menu is the work of chef Andrew Grantham (who’s cooked at Becco and Bistro d’Orsay in Melbourne and The Green Room in Dorset in the UK). It’s a Japanesey take on sort-of-plant-based brunch with dishes like umami omelette (with wild mushrooms, pickled enoki, sesame seeds and pea sprouts), a green-tea soba noodle salad given a twist with beetroot gazpacho, and a black rice salad with crispy seaweed.

Aucuba Coffee Roasters

Kenya Ichimara – stewed stone fruit sweetness. Photo: the Coffee Cities Project

The hero comfort dish is a truffled mac ’n’ three-cheesy toastie on delicious white bread, while the peanut butter salt-and-pepper tofu roll with wasabi mayo is quirky.

Coffee, which Knapp roasts out back, comes as single origin espresso, (in May 2016 a Brazil Bom Jesus for milk and a choice of Rwanda Maraba Somu or Brazil Sitio Cascata for black); a batch brew (maybe El Salvador Los Planes); and single origins for V60 and siphon – Knapp recommends the brew method he thinks is best.

From the filter menu a siphon of Ethiopia Bifdu Gudina has a fruity lemonade tang and an almost hoppy bitterness; a pourover of Rwanda Gitega is chewy with a savoury umami quality; and a Kenya Ichimara is rich with stewed, almost caramelised stone fruit flavours.

“We’re trying to bridge the education gap with the filter bar,” he says. “It’s a good spot for talking coffee.”

Aucuba Coffee Roasters

Where 108 Bank Street, South Melbourne, 03 9041 3904
When Mon-Fri 8am–4pm; Sat–Sun 8am–4pm
Food ★★★★☆
Coffee ★★★★☆

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