Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Caffe Romeo – (Melbourne)

From its naming alone, one can easily derive that Caffé Romeo is born to be of Italian heritage,  because almost all other cafés in town are spelt in the French/Portuguese/Modern English spelling with only a single ‘f’ in Café !  A missing alphabet or two can sometimes provide you the biggest clue as to which intended coffee style you’ll end up receiving!     This is not entirely surprising,  since coffee in Australia runs the gamut and is clearly demarcated between the traditional Southern Italian Napoli style,  Modern Australian-Italian or currently trendy World Wide 3rd Waver coffee reflecting and respecting the original beans cultivar and terroir that it is grown in,  or anywhere in between.   Caffe Romeo personally is quite Australian-Italian, lying somewhere between 2nd to 3rd Wave style. (If you’d asked me a few years ago, I couldn’t even tell the difference!  But I’m finally opening up my mind to learn about the macro differences!)   Here it is not entirely old school but it doesn’t try too hard to fix what’s not broken either!    Owner Stefano Romeo has worked in Italy for many years before returning to Melbourne and has for the past 10 years roasted his own coffee beans on site for the benefit of Melbourne.  Caffe Romeo to me offers one of the most unique coffee style and caffé experience (Italian spelling).    It’s artisanal coffee roasting done to their own Italian influence.



Are they really artisanal as they claim to be? 
We’ll rediscover here again and find out!



Self Roasting Machine -
To me personally,  when I’m in Melbourne I 95% of times only go to Indie Roaster shops,  only because there are so many here.  But commercial grade coffee in Melbourne is actually quite good as well overall.   But the price is the same,  so why not choose the Artisanal type?


Romeo’s own roasted Coffee Beans for sale -
He also supplies to a few local cafes.


*Barista -
This barista only works 3 days a week nowadays,  yet he has been for many years one of my most favourite baristi in Melbourne and secretly without his knowledge,  he was my mentor as I strived to make coffee as good as he does.   Many people probably underestimate him locally,  but he used to stretch the best micro-foam in a milk coffee,  and always poured the most symmetrically perfect Rosetta latte art and more.      The coincidence is that during the last 2 years I was absent from Melbourne,  he has also taken a hiatus and traveled to Costa Rica to learn more about coffee, and it was a good reunion!   By default,  he no longer pours any free hand latte art (despite him being an expert on it),  as he must have been enlightened and realised that such things are becoming trivial – it is only the taste which matters in the end : )    To the right of the picture,  is his new apprentice who is pressured to fill in his shoes.


Strong Cappuccino #1 -
Made from a house blend of 2 Central/Southern American beans,  this has always been one of my favourite Australian-Italian style artisanal coffee.   The taste seems to have shifted slightly however as it is slightly less roasty than before.  It carries a mostly mocha chocolate,  malt,  earthy zing as well as animal fur/sweat in the background.  Although the tasting note might sound generic,  the described flavours are very well pronounced and aromatic,  although not as great as before a few years ago.   Note the very well done ‘latte art’ and smoothness.  And even then,  the barista is not happy himself -  as he thinks the machine has been tampered with during his time away and producing too much wet steam to his liking.  Talk about an expert!   ~   9/10


Normal Cappuccino #2 -
Made by the same barista with a pretty latte art as above,  believe it or not!   As mentioned,  he is so good at pouring latte art,  he must have gotten sick of it.   I only got the above latte art picture when he recognised me as being a regular customer and I told him I wanted to take some pictures : )    This Cappuccino has choco powder added on top,  and is equally as tasty as the above,  but with slightly less smooth foam.   ~  8/10

Strong Caffe Latte -
Made by the apprentice,  who is under pressure to maintain the standards set by his mentor and also the owner roaster,  according to his own words!   It is quite good and nearly upto the master’s standards,  except the milk foam could be just a tad smoother and less bubbly.  Taste wise ~  8/10


Portuguese Tart -
The dark blob in the upper corner is not a burnt part,  it is actually Nutella!   This portuguese tart is very different from the ones served in Macau.  It is slightly custardy and gooey like authentic Portugal versions, just with hazelnut-chocolate ganache added in but minus the Cinnamon powder.   This was very good,  but would be immensely better if served slightly warmed up !   ~  8/10


House Blend Espresso -
Without the milk, this really did tasted like you would find in Italy.  It is rustic and bold,  with just a hint of detectable but acceptable bitterness,  the mouth feel is slightly coarse and it is nutty, slightly spiced and sweaty,  with just the right amount of dark fruit sweetness.   A pretty good shot,  though not a god shot.  ~  8/10


Aranciata soda drink -
A refreshing carbonated orangey drink…  from Italy. 


The Drinks Menu is Italian in spelling -


Found in Balwyn,  and not easily accessible by everyone unless you’re a regular. 
This Caffé to me is slightly less ‘perfect’ than before.  The roasting taste profile has changed,  and so has the milk being used.  But it is still very good on a relative basis.  Back in the days I would have given here a perfect 6 out of 6 score especially with the above barista taking helm at the bar.  But it is still very good by all measures,  even if I wish it was back to its past glorious days.


Price: AUD $10 - 20 per person
Coffee:  ♕♕♕♕♕

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri  -      8am - 6pm
Sat         -      8am - 5pm

Address: 319 Doncaster Rd, Balwyn North, Victoria, Australia.
Phone: (03) 9857 6444

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