For just under a year, I attended Swinburne University in Prahran for my, now completed, course in commercial cookery. Apart from providing me with new friendships, a somewhat better fashion sense – thanks to Chapel Street – and a qualification in cooking, I was also introduced to Dukes.
I have been blessed with access to this delightful café, as it backed onto my University, and although I have finished my course, I continue to go here regularly and will always recommend it to others.
The thing that brings me back is the reliably good coffee and delicious food. With their in-house coffee-roasting mill, coffee beans are fresh and you can always pick some up totake home with you. In my opinion, the baristas are some of the best in Melbourne, with all of them producing a hot, strong coffee that isconsistent.
Despite looking quite small from the outside, it is quite an open space on the inside. It has a warehouse type feel with high ceilings, rustic brick walls and a big glass window overlooking Chapel Street (so one can sit and view the hipsters and always observed passing yoga enthusiasts). But if you don’t sit there or on the walkway out front, plenty of tables run down one side of the room and there is a large communal table scattered with the day’s newspapers or latest broadsheet.
My only disappointment would be a recent change they have made in the coffee machine they use. The older machine, a shinny Mistral, was a point of difference from other cafes that really made Dukes stand out. Now, when entering, you’re faced with the all-familiar La Marzocco, which sort of dulls and merges into the room in its gunmetal grey getup.
On this last particular visit, I stopped off here with my boyfriend for a quick mid-afternoon coffee on our way to Coles to get some supplies for lunch. Thinking it would only be the usual flat white and LB, when placing the orders at the cash register our eyes were drawn to the delectable looking food displayed in the glass cabinet. Immediately I said we “We’re eating here!” and as I turned to look at my boyfriend, fortunately he was already scanning the menu.
Sitting at the big window, looking out onto the busy street filled with every type of person you can possibly get, we discussed all of the previous meals we had eaten at Dukes. We also realized we had come here a lot more than we thought and agreed that due to its foolproof menu and friendly staff, it’s a place for almost anyone – from work colleagues, fussy eaters and picky coffee drinkers (those ‘weak, skinny, warm, decaf latte’ types).
Then arrived our perfect coffees followed closely by lunch. With everything looking fresh, colourful and smelling incredible, we tucked in and hardly spoke for the next 7 or 8 minutes.
With the first bite of my cauliflower, pomegranate and hazelnut salad I took in all of the flavours of my dish and mentally wrote them down in order to replicate it at home. It was so much more than what I was expecting, and for only $10, I would have paid even closer to $18-$20 for it.
As for him, his fresh sandwich ($10) came on thick sourdough bread with quite a generous serving of haloumi, some salad components and a thick, creamy chili mayonnaise. He was happy to say he was satisfied, but felt quite guilty for the amount of cheese he has just consumed in such little time.
Sadly, it was only after he had eaten it that I realized I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of it, as I was too interested and eager to eat my own lunch!
I highly recommend giving this café a visit and if not for the food, at least for the coffee. You will not be disappointed, I promise. And the best part? One of their baristas looks incredibly like Charlie Pickering from ‘The Project’ on channel 10. It’s uncanny, so keep an eye out!
Dukes Coffee Roasters – Prahran, 169 Chapel St, Windsor, VIC, 3181