The rain on the day we visited Assembly in Carlton was, in a word, unseasonable. For November it belted down heavy and caught my partner for the day, Rachel, and I out on a few occasions. We had spent a good two hours traversing to various cafes around the inner city of Melbourne only to find that all the ones I had on my hand written list, now damp and lightly fraying from the rain, were all shut.
Except for Assembly.
I almost tripped on the front step as we skipped through the front door on the right after a dash from our car we were greeted with a very carefully curated speciality coffee shop. Assembly operates delightfully though, a little different to a lot of other emerging cafes in Melbourne. It seems to be a coffee store first and a cafe second.
A 2×2 stove with four percolators sits up against at the mirrored wall in the back with a neon sign flickering ‘Coffee & Tea’ that hung over staff compulsively watching the coffees preparation. Milk must be a certain temperature, only a specific number of beans must be used, brew times must be to military efficiency. There’s a mad science going on here that the staff are very proud of.
Three years they have occupied the space in Carlton and inspired by Japanese design, the space is very stark with an excellent combination of black metal and natural timber.
We stepped back outside, hugged the awning and went into the door on the right. A blond haired barista greeted us warmly, his man-bun tied neatly to match his short back and sides. I whispered to Rachel ‘Man, I wished I had the wherewithal to grow my hair long.’ We ordered a flat white, a cappuccino and a blueberry tart. As we were the only ones in the cafe late in the afternoon just before closing time both coffees came out promptly.
The cafe struck me as an after thought. It didn’t have the same level of polish as the retail space next door. The stark dark color palette of the seating area and narrow space struggled to encourage either of us to feel entirely comfortable, especially when it was just the two of us. A steady stream of regulars ordering take outs verified that this place is about good coffee, not a cafe experience. We both agreed that we kind of liked that.
‘I’m really sorry. Was I meant to bring a tart on a plate for you?’ The blond barista tentatively interrupted as we both looked up from reading the variety of magazines that we had picked from the rack. We said yes and he apologised profusely before shortly returning with the tart. ‘Have some filters on the house’ he offered and placed two black coffees either side of the dessert.
They were better than the flat white. Smooth with a fruity mix and probably the best coffee I’ve had since I left Tokyo five months ago.
‘It’s nice to have something in Melbourne to talk about.’ I mentioned to Rachel. She smiled and went back to fawning over the publication she was reading.
© 2017 Carey Ciuro