Proud Mary: the good, the bad and the noisy at a Collingwood classic

Proud Mary in Collingwood is one of Melbourne’s original cool specialty cafes.

Proud Mary

One of the original apartment-basement cafes, Proud Mary is on the ground floor of a converted textile mill. Photo: Nola James.

There was a time when we still got all fizzed up about avocado on toast and single origin from Guatemala, a time before Instagram – when we were all on Twitter – and when Proud Mary was the hip new thing, really pushing brunch culture in Melbourne towards saturation point (and a one-hour-plus wait for a table). 

Trendsetting, we’d call that. 

Proud Mary opened in 2009. Seven years on you can drink Proud Mary coffee all over the country. You can go to their second venue, Stagger Lee’s on Brunswick Street, and drink it there, or their newish Wellington Street brew bar, Aunty Peg’s, where they roast and do the educational stuff too.

The house blend, Honeysuckle, gives a figgy-cakey sweetness in milk coffee. Photo: Nola James.

The house blend, Honeysuckle, gives a figgy-cakey sweetness in milk coffee. Photo: Nola James.

The original cafe in Collingwood still attracts a queue; if you arrive solo you might get to skip it for a bench seat in the window: a good deal, even if that seat is right next to the loos. But avoid the communal table – the chairs are a bit low and you’ll feel like you’re eating with your arms up in the air.

Full or empty, it’s got to be the noisiest cafe in Melbourne: don’t show up hungover. Otherwise it’s a smart space and the decor is holding up – Mid Century Modern-inspired stools, floor-to-ceiling wood-trimmed windows, the original cafe-in-a-converted-textile-mill vibe.

The menu is looking tired, though: a 15-minute power nap would pick up the pace. Potato hash was a loose bundle of shredded potato (too crispy – cafes seem to have trouble getting hash right), double smoked bacon (not crispy enough), and advertised with asparagus that turned out to be a handful of oily snow peas – all floating in a pool of anchovy-cream sauce that would have loved a pasta to cling to. It’s alright. But it’s not as good as the coffee.

Proud Mary. A V60 of a bourbon-variety washed Colombia Tolima from Santa Isabel Farm. Photo: Nola James.

A V60 of a bourbon-variety washed Colombia Tolima from Santa Isabel Farm. Photo: Nola James.

A menu board behind the syphon bar runs you through seasonal singles – maybe a V60 of a bourbon-variety washed Colombia Tolima from Santa Isabel Farm, which had a light strawberry/orange quality.

For something milky the Honeysuckle blend will do the job (Honduras, Guatemala and Ethiopia). Sort of a figgy-cakey sweetness, and worth ordering to check out a six-group custom-made Synesso that’s the size of a tall man’s coffin (OK. We’re not the first people to say that. But it does kind of look like one).

IMG_9536

A six-group custom-made Synesso in the central brew-station. Photo: Nola James.

Coffee-wise there isn’t anything they can’t do and they do it well – siphon, Aeropress, espresso, filter, french press – that’s what’s going to keep these guys on the map.

Proud Mary Coffee

Where 172 Oxford Street, Collingwood, 03 9417 5930
When Mon–Fri 7am–4pm, Sat–Sun 8am–4pm
Food ★★★☆☆
Coffee ★★★★☆

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