Coffee in the Northside

A review of Princess St.’s newest gem, Northside Espresso + Kitchen

Photo: 

Price range: $$$

Coffee cup score: 4.5/5 

High ceilings, lush plants and espresso with a kick — the new Melbourne-inspired café on Princess St. is a breath of fresh, caffeinated air.  

Northside Espresso + Kitchen, sitting on the corner of Princess and Clergy, is nothing if not classy. The white building with baby blue paneling is hard to miss, especially squeezed between a McDonald’s and a bulky red brick complex. 

With a small wooden sign out front and the thin storefront, stepping into Northside feels like stepping into a cleaner, lighter world. 

Sunlight streams in from the front of the store, which is almost entirely windowed. The walls are white and embossed with twirling designs. There are white lantern balls scattered throughout the café in various sizes, hanging from the ceiling next to the plants. Their leaves drape from their pots and create an environment that makes you feel like you can take a deep breath for the first time all day.

The décor mirrors the best of Ikea’s showrooms. Light wood tables and pastel chairs line the side of the café, with small porcelain tins holding raw sugar and table plants in the centre. 

It’s not a traditional coffee shop experience. Where we’re mostly used to running to grab a coffee and running out, Northside staff ask visitors to find a seat anywhere. 

They bring a menu right to you, which showcases a variety of standard espresso drinks — cue the flat white and the chai latte — and a generous helping of some most people have never heard of — a piccolo latte, for example. 

When I first visited, I ordered the one I knew the least about: the Melbourne iced latte. Turns out it’s an iced latte with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The espresso was strong and the bitterness balanced with the ice cream’s sweetness perfectly. Clearly Melbournians have more fun. 

Northside isn’t a café in the student sense of the word. There’s no wifi (yet) and no visible outlets, probably to deter us from planting our laptops and hibernating for hours. 

It’s less of a café and more of a restaurant. Their all-day breakfast items are their speciality, and with choices like the “avo smash” — sashed avocado with feta, mint, lemon and chili on grilled sourdough with an optional poached egg on top — it’s clear why. 

These days, the wait times are pretty high. Each time I’ve been in there, it’s been buzzing with people and a line at the front waiting to be seated.  

It’s not the perfect place if you’re looking for a coffee on the go, but that’s part of the experience. The place is an embodiment of the words on their website: “coffee is not just a caffeine fix, but a way of life.” 

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