Venture to a backstreet in an old industrial area of Collingwood and beneath two towering brick smokestacks, you’ll find Proud Mary Cafe. Don’t let the unassuming location deceive you, the always-busy cafe is a Collingwood institution, recognised as one of Melbourne’s favourite places for coffee and brunch.
Step inside to witness a six-group Synesso Hydra pumping out beautiful espresso, an area dedicated to V60 pour overs, two cold drip towers and perhaps even a barista carefully brewing specialty tea. Grab a prime spot at the bar if you can: the baristas will happily talk about the coffee on offer and share the stories behind the beans.
The team knows coffee back-to-front: the Proud Mary team sources and roasts their own coffee just around the corner from the cafe. Led by founder, Nolan Hirte, the approach to coffee here is about engaging the customer with exciting and interesting coffees, particularly highlighting the team’s love of natural processed coffees and Geishas. For years, they have travelled to origin and have invested in farmers, committing to buy their coffee year in and year out.
The house blend is Honeysuckle, offering flavours of strawberry jam, maple syrup and Turkish delight. This adaptable coffee is the perfect house blend, equally at home in milk-based and black coffees. The baristas also dabble in select alternative brews like filter, cold brew and a more innovative nitrogen-infused cold brew on tap.
The ‘Coffee Showcase Menu’ offers a fortnightly rotating selection of three separate coffees, tied together with an underlying theme or story, such as the same varietal but different processing. It’s a chance for customers to connect to the product, knowing that their purchase is supporting the lives of coffee farmers and their families.
Proud Mary’s food offering is equally inspired by the flavours of the world, blurring the line between cafe and restaurant dishes. The kitchen team doesn’t subscribe to brunch trends, so you’ll be treated to inventive, original fare. Executive Chef, Brook Petrie, is the man behind the creative menu. He has introduced sharing plates, offering more dishes to taste and enjoy – why have one dish when you can try everything on the menu?
Inspired and led by Cafe Manager, Tom Gunn, the wait-staff know the provenance of their produce, proudly telling you where their pine mushrooms were foraged this week, or where the free-range chickens were raised. Just like the coffee, Proud Mary’s food lets the simplicity and the integrity of the ingredients shine through.
Half a world away, in Portland, America, Nolan and the Proud Mary team have found themselves bringing their same vision of quality and education over international waters. If the new Portland outpost is anything like Proud Mary, Melbourne, the States is in for a wild ride.