Traveller is one of Melbourne’s smartest specialty brew bars.
Early morning in Melbourne and you can still hear birdsong over the rising hum and roar of a city waking up. The grinders are already whirring at Traveller in Crossley Street and the first of the day’s Fetco brews is ready to drink.
Across the way a woman in the kitchen at Pellegrini’s raises her voice, in Italian, to a man who raises his shoulders, in a shrug.
Paul Pinetta, a Pellegrini’s barista for as long as anyone can remember, steps into Crossley Street for a cigarette and a striped mug of something. His once baby face has fleshed out and creased in the 30-odd years he’s been pulling espressos at the top end of Bourke Street. Wearing an unzipped black windbreaker, white shirt and wire-framed spectacles he looks like a village priest clinging to his faith.
At Traveller, Seven Seeds’ east-end espresso bar, the attraction is new school, not old – espresso and filter brews from one of the pioneers of third-wave coffee in Australia.
The standing-room-only space is fitted out with lovely timber, red vinyl benchtops and a mirror wall that give it a timeless air. On weekday mornings the laneway out front is a coffee catch-up site, with local workers waiting for their takeaways and others enjoying brews on streetside stools.
Inside, the narrow bar is an intimate space where conversation with the baristas and other patrons is impossible to avoid: maybe that’s the point.
Seven Seeds espresso roasting favours flavour over texture, so a short black of the seasonal blend has a milky rather than creamy mouthfeel. The flavour is bright up front, clean, with a citrus-pith bitterness that is more about alkaloids than Maillard reaction.
If you prefer milk, try a magic: the Melbourne version of Wellington’s double-shot flat white was supposedly named (and perfected) by Seven Seeds founder Mark Dundon at his first cafe, Ray in Brunswick.
The batch brew might be an Ethiopia Haro Sana, coffee from a co-op in Jinna. The heirloom varietals that make up Haro Sana’s coffee are farmed at 1800 to 2000 metres. It’s a clean, washed coffee, with gentle floral aromas, lovely apricot-nectar sweetness and a complex, savoury finish.
Food includes 5 & Dime bagels, toasted and spread with cream cheese and smoked salmon or ham and honey mustard; cookies from baker Cobb Lane; and cakes – including the signature lamington – from Little Bertha.
Where 2/14 Crossley Street, Melbourne, phone (03) 9347 8664
When Mon–Fri 7am–5pm