The move from Sydney to Los Angeles is, for the most part, a seamless one. The two cities flow at a similar pace, with life lived mostly in the sun. Yet since the day I arrived in this glorious city I have been desperately trying to navigate my way through one of the only culture shocks I experienced – coffee.
This is where the two cities disagree. Coffee in Sydney is a social ritual, delivered with care and precision and enjoyed as a moment to stop, not as a fuel to keep going. In America, the sheer volume by which coffee is consumed on an hourly basis means that for most, it’s a habit, regardless of how it’s served or even how it tastes.
But coffee in LA is well on its way to changing. Los Angeles is in the middle of what’s been dubbed the 3rd wave coffee movement. More and more people are treating coffee as an artisanal foodstuff, like wine, and paving the way for improvements on all stages of production, from harvesting to roasting to brewing—as our friends at LA Coffee Club recently noted.
It is with impeccable timing then that Australian-inspired café Coffee + Food should arrive on Melrose. Placed unassumingly in the ever growing Larchmont-Melrose intersection, Coffee + Food is the brainchild of Australian ex-pat Mel Cain and Angeleno Cyndi Finlke. As is typically the case with these things, it was a vacancy that lead the two friends to go where neither had gone before and open a coffee shop. Born through Mel’s passion for coffee and dream of owning a café and Cyndi’s local knowledge from successfully curating two art studios and running a craft service business, Coffee + Food is entirely about superb, well bodied coffee and wholesome, quality food made with local produce and love.
There’s a pervasive happy feeling you get upon walking in, largely thanks to the supremely welcoming people behind the counter, which is just what Mel Cain always hoped to achieve. “We wanted it to feel like our home, like we were bringing people into our homes and feeding them,” Meg told LAC.
Industrialized chairs and stools give the café a modern feel while barn wood, chalk boards and photographs dot the walls in perfectly cozy juxtaposition. The counter is where it’s at, the espresso machine at its heart, the deli case full of can’t choose breakfast and lunch options and various sweet and savory delights ornately displayed across the top.
The coffee menu reads like a café wall in Sydney, featuring the Australian originated flat white, which to the Aussie expat is a cup of espresso and nostalgia infamously hard to find Stateside. It’s velvety smooth, with milk and microfoam folded into a double shot of espresso so that the ratio of coffee takes over the milk and the two are blended seamlessly. C+F enlisted the help of fellow Aussie Mark Baird of Longshot Coffee to curate the caffeinated beverage menu and teach the staff the art of espresso, which they gladly and passionately pass on to curious customers.
The food is designed by C+F’s “food guru” and you guessed it, another Aussie, Claire Smith.
Never has a deli counter in Los Angeles looked so tantalizing, rich, and colorful. For breakfast there’s homemade granola with seasonal fruit and yogurt, or Bircher muesli with poached pears or the favorite brekky sandwich of arugula, egg, prosciutto and gruyere cheese tucked into Turkish toast, specially commissioned by C+F and delivered fresh every morning from a local baker. Lunch is a mixture of signature dishes like the much obsessed over kale salad and a rotating menu of sandwiches, frittatas, lasagnas, fritters, salads and so on. It’s all made to-go, but you’re more than welcome to stay if you’d like.
Though, the real joy is the signature Aussie fare that pops up now and again, whether it be a meat pie or the breakfast staple for 21 million Australian’s – Vegemite on toast. In case you’re still wondering WTF Vegemite is, I urge you to ask no questions, order it with blind faith and let the pros do the work, for when properly delivered, Vegemite is the right mix of salty, buttery goodness—not to mention a solid hangover cure.
On high rotation above the counter is a collection of homemade sweet and savory treats, like Anzac and Monte Carlo cookies, which can be found in every house and office pantry across Australia. Mel divulges to LAC that the Monte Carlo is a favorite on the menu among expats and Angelenos alike; both seem to have an insatiable taste for the crumbly cookie filled with vanilla cream and raspberry jam that pairs perfectly with a Dirty Chai.
What’s right about Coffee + Food is simply that it’s about coffee and it’s about food, both in their simplest, purest forms and without complication. It’s become a home away from home for this expat and many more, so if you’ve ever had a moment of wanderlust, a desire to know what it’s like Down Under, or simply a longing for coffee and food that gives you joy, then make Coffee + Food your next stop, it might change your life.
Coffee + Food
630 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90038
Hours: Monday – Saturday, 7am – 3pm
(323) 962 3390