‘Food for the weary traveller.’ So reads the chalkboard in the laneway leading to the oh-so-groovy Monk Bodhi Dharma. If we’re honest, there’s a weary traveller in each of us, so it’s hard to resist walking up that laneway into the concrete square where the Monk is located (next to the Safeway loading dock, to be precise).
In what was a 1920s bakehouse, this very small and very serious coffee shop boasts specialty coffee and tea, and healing vegetarian (and often vegan) food. Decked out with lots of rustic timber, exposed beams, paint-stripped brick walls and hanging light bulbs, the inviting space has a mini warehouse feel.
The long, wooden communal table is a great spot to share some all-day breakfast with fellow travellers, such as generous serves of muesli with rhubarb and yoghurt, or the Madagascan French toast with banana and a dreamy dollop of mascarpone. Lunch changes daily; when we visited we tried the Mexican black bean, sweet potato and pumpkin stew with rice, chilli jam, avocado and tortilla chips.
The star of this place, though, is the coffee. Any type. Any bean. Best coffee south side we say. The Monk coffee nerds test the beans every day using the trusty but lo-fi technique of pouring hot water over the beans and tasting the water after it has soaked up the flavours. Not something you see every day.
With steam rising off the South Indian–inspired stews and the Ethiopian coffee brews, Monk has an otherworldliness that transports you far from the loading dock you’re in.
You may be weary when you arrive here, but you’ll leave feeling nurtured, rested and nourished.
Rear, 202 Carlisle St, Balaclava
(03) 9534 7250
Open Mon–Fri 6.30am–5pm, Sat–Sun 8am–5pm