The seriousness with which Melbourne approaches its caffeine intake can be both admired and mocked, but the fact that it's harder than ever to find a dodgy coffee can only be a good thing.
The most fanatical places, like Market Lane (Shop 13, Prahran Market, 163 Commercial Rd, South Yarra, 03 9804 7434; 176 Faraday St, Carlton; 109-111 Therry St, Melbourne; Shop 73-76, Dairy Produce Hall, Queen Victoria Market; 8 Collins St, Melbourne), Brother Baba Budan (359 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, 03 9606 0449), Dukes Coffee Roasters (247 Flinders La, Melbourne, 03 9417 5578), Traveller (2/14 Crossley St, Melbourne, 03 9347 8664) and Patricia (cnr Little Bourke & Williams sts, Melbourne 03 9642 2237), keep food to afterthought status at best, the attention going to the beans and brewing.
But there's plenty for those in need of both sustenance and caffeination. The team behind Top Paddock (658 Church St, Richmond, 03 9429 4332) and The Kettle Black (50 Albert Rd, South Melbourne, 03 9088 0721), two of the city's most innovative cafés in terms of both food and design, have added Higher Ground (650 Little Bourke St, Melbourne), a 160-seater in a beautifully renovated former power station, that blurs the line between restaurant- and café-food while keeping an eye on the coffee.
Design and food are also given equal billing in places like the lovely and airy Mammoth (736 Malvern Rd, Armadale, 03 9824 5239), which has ex-Hammer & Tong chef Emma Jeffrey in the kitchen, South of Johnston (46 Oxford St, Collingwood, 03 9417 2741), Crabapple Kitchen (659 Glenferrie Rd, Hawthorn, 03 9078 5492), and Small Victories (617 Rathdowne St, Carlton North, 03 9347 4064), where the pared-back aesthetic is a perfect match for a kitchen that churns its own butter and make its own sausages.
Those after a Japanese hit should head for Cibi (45 Keele St, Collingwood, 03 9077 3941), where deliciously clean, light food makes eating seem virtuous, and you can shop for Japanese homewares. Find great Middle Eastern flavours at Brunswick Foodstore (29 Weston St, Brunswick, 03 9388 8738) and modern Greek tastes (and great coffee, wine and ouzo) at Demitri's Feast (141 Swan St, Richmond, 03 9428 8659). In the west, places like Rudimentary (16-20 Leeds St, Footscray, 0497 058 173), a good-looking venue fashioned from three shipping containers, keep this area's café-hotspot status on the boil.