October 1, 2011 Nathan

Melbourne Cafe Review: Axil Coffee

What do you get when you cross two of the highest Australian finishers in the World Barista Championships, with a big budget, a crack kitchen team, and a showroom style set up in suburban Hawthorn? The best cafe experience I’ve ever had. Seriously. I think I’ve vaguely mentioned in the past that it seems to be hard to simultaneously do great food and great coffee… but wow. Axil smashes it out of the park.

Sometimes it must seem like I’m incapable of giving bad reviews – that’s mostly because I just ignore cafes where I expect to be disappointed. I have pretty high standards, a cafe has to have a level of buzz, or demonstrate a level of commitment to coffee before I’ll darken its doors. I’m worried now that no cafe will live up to this experience…

Lets talk about the coffee… I started with my stock standard double shot flat white – I go with this because while I’m not adverse to a little bit of milk in my coffee I like throwing the ratio a little bit further towards the coffee side, and piccolos are a little bit too small, it’s like two piccolos for the price of one…

Neither of the luminary lights of the barista competition were behind the machine – Matt Perger, who I recognise because I watched his heat at the WBC online, and David Makin, who I recognise because I google imaged him, were in the house. But they were doing little odd jobs. The girl behind the machine didn’t miss a beat though, and their signature blend was rich and tasty, and it had a great lingering aftertaste. Happily I didn’t enjoy this aftertaste for too long… because wow. Did I mention their food… The all day breakfast menu looked pretty extravagant, but we’d already had brekkie at St Ali. And I find it almost impossible to go past a delicious slab of pork belly. Sadly, wifey was reluctant for us to both order the same thing… so she ordered a lamb wrap. Being a pretty dutiful and loving husband, I agreed to go halvies. But boy did I regret that. The pork belly with truffle infused mashed potato was possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten. It was certainly the best pork belly I’ve ever had. And it was a bargain at $20. A steal.

The lamb wrap was pretty good too. Don’t get me wrong.

But boy did I score some husband points… I mean… just look at it (again).

I followed the pork belly up with a piccolo on Ethiopian Sidamo, which is one of my favourite single origins. It’s just so fruity, tasting notes say blueberry – I reckon with milk you get this amazingly clear burst of strawberry. It’s amazing stuff.

But then it was time for dessert. I’m a bit of a sweet-tooth, so I ordered the nougat parfait, which came with lemon sorbet, smashed honeycomb, turkish fairy floss, and passionfruit… the parfait itself was an icecream slab stacked with nuts and fruit, and packed with flavour.

It was, again, probably the best dessert I’ve ever eaten. The honeycomb and fairy floss did this amazing explosion in your mouth, it wasn’t just that the flavours popped. There was actually a physical expansion going on, it felt like eating those shock rock lollies you get as a kid, but actually tasted sophisticated.

So the coffee and the food were top notch. The staff were friendly, chatty, and really welcoming and accommodating, we were there past closing time and they looked like they were having heaps of fun together. They even offered to sell me a couple of Barista Championship trophies from their coffee store – at the right price… I ended up buying a couple of bags of beans from the Axil Shop – which is pretty well stocked, and seems to be rotated based on seasonality. The word cloud tasting note labels (on each bag, as well as on the signs) are a great touch.

The fit out is funky with lots of black, and dashes of white and yellow to add some contrast.

Axil wasn’t just the highlight of our trip around Melbourne’s cafes, it was the highlight of our trip to Melbourne. Well, for me anyway, and the shared pork belly must put it near the top of the list for wifey.


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About the Author

Nathan Nathan is a coffee lover, home roaster, amateur barista and coffee tinkerer. He's married, has two kids, one turtle, and for a day job works for Creek Road Presbyterian Church. He previously worked in PR. This blog is his attempt to make coffee tax deductible.