279 – A delightful haven close to town

279 – Coffee and Japanese snacks

279 is situated slightly out of town at 279 Victoria Street just a few blocks along from Victoria Market. We seem to call in here for coffee or breakfast or a light lunch, or all three, every time we visit Melbourne (and sometimes more than once).

279 is a partnership between Austin Allen and Kantaro Okada with Austin providing the coffee expertise and Kantaro the Japanese food influence. Kantaro is also the force behind three other Melbourne venues that are receiving a lot of interest, namely Le Bajo (which is quite close to 279 one block back towards the market in Howard Street) and Hareruya Pantry and Leonie Upstairs both opposite the Lincoln Square South park.

279 in Victoria Street was the first of these venues that we started visiting. You will often find us having an early morning coffee or grazing on delicious musubi where the rice balls are perfectly cooked and then enhanced with additional flavourings such as shiso leaf, salted kelp, grilled mackerel or ume plum.

279 opens at 7am during the week and 8am at the weekend. However you need to be aware that opening time is for coffee tragics who need their early morning fix. Food is only served after 8:30.

So to the coffee first. We mention above that part-owner Austin Allen provides the coffee expertise, however every staff member we talk to here seems to be imbued with an enthusiasm for and knowledge of coffee.

One of the things we like about this venue is that they always have a range of coffee beans available. You can buy packets of beans to take away as well as sample them on site. We also like the fact that they are not afraid of beans that have been processed naturally. We find that coffee professionals often display similar symptoms to wine professionals who look for “clean” flavours exhibited in “washed” beans at the expense of “interesting” flavours that are obtained through “natural” processing.

They tend to like beans that have undergone a washed process where they have had the fruit stripped off the beans through the use of lots of water. This approach is particularly problematic in countries such as Ethiopia where water is quite scarce.

We find that the alternative natural process produces much more interesting flavours associated with alternative fermentation processes. You can read about these approaches in our article about coffee on this site entitled “Coffee – A Fascinating Story“.

We like to order an espresso to get an early morning caffeine fix and then follow it with a pour over or filter coffee which is a gentler drink where you can appreciate the skill of the barista and the skill of the farmers and roasters as you sip the fruits of their labour.

After we have enjoyed the coffee we move on to the beautiful rice dishes such as the one shown below which is a rice ball topped with wakame and surrounded by an intense broth.

There are many dishes available here and many variations of the rice balls, so that you can go for lunch day after day and have a different dining experience. And don’t forget that you can also order take away dishes online so that you can take your lunch back to work or back home if you are a lucky local resident.

Additional information

Name: 279

Street: 279 Victoria Street

Suburb: West Melbourne, 3003

Opening hours: Open Mon – Fri 7am – 2pm, Weekend 8am – 3pm

You can read more about 279 here. We have also included it in our story about good places to eat in Melbourne here, as this venue is well worth a diversion!

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