Coffices of the Yarra Valley
Michael Veitch has published six books with another on the way, but the acclaimed actor/author spends much of his time avoiding his desk at his Yarra Valley home. Instead, he hunts for coffices – cafes with good coffee and wifi – to research and write. Lovely spaces like Warburton’s Little Joe (right).
“Of course, this is as easy as chips in the city, but in slightly more rural areas, such as my haunt in the Yarra Valley, not quite so easy,” Michael says.
“I’m not fussy. Good coffee, decent wi-fi and a friendly atmosphere is all I ask, and the following five come up trumps in all these and more. Yes, many can attest to my recently plonking myself down for hours on end under their roofs as I polished my latest effort (44 Days – 75 Squadron and the Fight for Australia) telling the story of the our classic David and Goliath air defence of Port Moresby in early 1942. At no stage – bless ‘em – did I ever get the sense that I’d outstayed my welcome. Actually, let me think about that one…”
177-179 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville, (03) 5962 7677
Big city chic hit old Healesville big time when Herd opened its doors last year. Don’t be put off by the semi-subterranean concrete bunker. It’s hard to imagine the venue’s previous incarnations. Was a factory? An office? Secret nuclear research station? Bond villain lair? Today, Herd is a friendly, welcoming bar and restaurant with great meals, a full Yarra Valley wine list and top-notch bar snacks. The deep-fried eggplant chips are (I promise) to die for. There are enough beers on tap to keep me happy, great wi-fi of course, and owners John and Sean have done a great job in making Herd special for both in – and out-of-towners.
3/2460 Warburton Hwy, Yarra Junction, (03) 5967 1593
Founded by the eponymous Amanda, this gorgeous little café is an example of how a charming, well-run eatery can transform a little mountain town such as Yarra Junction. Here, tucked into the main street, you’ll find great coffee, a full menu of both quick and deliciously slow-cooked dishes, a constantly revolving specials board and an always-buzzing atmosphere of locals and tourists. There’s a lovely outdoor garden area for the hot days, making it a great spot to refresh and coffee up before tackling a Yarra Valley mountain walk or winery.
3. Little Joe
3416 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, (03) 5966 5635
Warburton is just about the end of the line for the upper Yarra Valley, and Little Joe’s makes a great last stop. The view through the big picture window up to Mount Victoria and Donna Buang is spectacular enough without the brilliant wood-fired pizza menu (there’s a big oven, right there), great service and, okay, I’ll give you a local’s secret… zucchini pizza. Not to be missed. Promise. Greg and Maddie cut their teeth on some very classy inner city venues back in the day and have brought that same buzz to Little Joe’s. But no rush – hey, this is the Valley. Take it easy with a local pinot and soak up the mountain atmosphere. When you’re done, wander down the main street of Warbie. Believe me, for a small town, there’s heaps to see.
4. Giant Steps
336 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville, (03) 5962 6111
Healesville sometimes seems to revolve around Giant Steps – and for good reason. It’s a big, bustling and restless café, restaurant, bakery and cellar door, but without the feeling of a barn. Friendly local staff are on the go to make you feel welcome, whether you’re nestled into a big long table with myriad kids (always welcome) or getting cosy on some of the big comfy couches or booths by the window. It’s associated with one of the Yarra Valley’s finest vineyards so you can stock up your cellar with some great wine deals too. Good, open wi-fi, tasty food and fine coffee, but most important, a people-watching Mecca… or is that just me?
5. Round Bird
170 Main St, Lilydale, (03) 9735 9724
Lilydale! Who knew? Well everyone actually, after Round Bird landed with a thump across from the pub in the main street a year or so back. Since then, this bird’s taken flight with a dynamic old/new menu and a wondrous array of made-on-the-spot pastries. Founder Evan has recently expanded Round Bird into an outlet for local produce and has given over his white walls to an ever-changing exhibition of local artists and photographers, making it something of a daytime destination, especially on weekends. Who said round bird’s don’t fly?