I’m not hipster enough for Melbourne
I’m not hipster enough for Melbourne
By Catherine Ellis
So I recently went to Melbourne.
It is widely known in Sydney that Melbourne has the elusive upper hand in coffee-making. As a non-coffee-drinking Sydneysider, I’ve been harassed for years about the cultural superiority of Melbourne, and more recently, the overwhelming abundance of hipster cafes, man-buns, and beards that us Sydney-folk are rather behind on.
“You’re only going for the man-buns aren’t you?” asked my nosey friend, half-sarcastic, half-genuine.
What began as a joke about my motives for my Melbourne trip, quickly turned into a quest to find the ultimate hipster cafe.
Weaving in and out of the countless intimate alleys and naturally appreciating every display of graffiti that had suddenly become exhibitions of creative geniuses, I made my way around the drizzly, orthogonal city.
As I became more familiar with the cafe etiquette, I began to realise just how many people were free to soak up the coffee culture on a weekday. Do Melbournians not have jobs? Or does the idea of a deconstructed coffee take priority?
Following my phone to a pre-selected spot, I came across many a hidden-away hole in the wall which opened out into cosy rooms of coffee appreciation. As tempting as it was to test the handiwork of all these bearded baristas, I followed the GPS until I found a wooden door in a surprisingly deserted alleyway. I could sense the indie vibes as soon as I walked up a flight of creaky wooden stairs, which led to the café itself.
As my ironic adventure was all somewhat in jest, I was definitely surprised when I swung open the door to the cafe and questioned my GPS skills and general life choices.
Was this it? It was quiet, dimly lit, and very industrial. When I had been doing my research to find the most hipster café, I was basing my spectrum of hipster upon the level of industrial influence.
This was industrial.
It was so industrial that I was unsure whether the trendiness points were really outweighed by its clear lack of functionality. I was so unsure and felt more out of place than I had anticipated. Could they tell I was a Sydney girl coming to take advantage of the Instagram-worthy décor? No. I had my beanie. I was safe and they couldn’t know.
“Hi do you have a menu?” I asked as nonchalantly as possible to the remarkably inhospitable hospitality worker behind the counter. She looked at me. She knew. She pointed towards a big framed board to my right and there sat a list of hand-written lunches.
“Ah thanks, but you have a drinks menu? Teas, coffees, that sort of thing?” I wasn’t after a meal, but a perfectly crafted Melbourne drink.
“No,” she sighed.
I looked at her. She looked at me. What was going on? No drinks menu? Is that even legal? How do I decide on an option if they’re not presented logically?
“You just tell me what you want and I’ll make it,” she said, clearly growing tired of my presence.
What does that even mean? How is that efficient at all? Do I just hope they have what I’m after?
“Can I please have a milkshake?” I asked.
She was not impressed. Was she going to kick me out of her cafe? I promise I’m cultured! I fit in! Did you not see the beanie?
“We don’t make them.”
Yup, she hated me. I panicked for a moment thinking of my next question.
“I can make you an iced chocolate.” She was definitely concerned by my lack of coffee.
I nodded and pulled out my wallet.
What!? No paying?
“You pay later.”
It was bizarre. Nevertheless, I sat in the middle of the room, in prime photo-taking position, waiting for my much-hyped Melbourne iced chocolate.
There was a glass annexe where a man was getting his beard trimmed. Vintage shoes lined the walls, and the tables were platforms for sewing machines. Jackpot
Eventually my iced chocolate arrived. After quickly taking some snapchats to express my cultural value, I put the straw between my lips and consumed the trend-infused drink I’d put so much pressure on.
It was terrible.
It was actually the worst drink I’ve ever had, which is challenging because it’s chocolate-based. It was a hot chocolate with ice cubes at the top – so much so that the bottom 2/3 were lukewarm. I instantly realised this was just a novelty to be endured for the sake of a cafe experience.
No bearded barista, no man-buns, no exquisite milkshake. After sticking it out, taking some photos, and watching the poor waitress have to carry the entire framed board to some seated customers for their lack of printed menus, I paid $4.50 for my watery, warm chocolate milk and left.
Once back in Sydney, I visited a local favourite with a friend. We grabbed menus from the counter and the waitress smiled at us as we sat down at a regular, four-legged table, whose sole purpose was simply to be a humble table.
“So how were the man-buns” my friend joked. I sat for a moment and considered, as my order was brought over.
“Fine,” I replied, shrugging my shoulders, before blissfully tucking into a perfectly conventional chocolate milkshake.