Dead Man Espresso

Posted on September 12, 2011


Admit it, you’ve harboured a morbid fascination with death or the dead at some point in your life. It may be a gross generalisation on my part, but doesn’t everyone go through a phase at least in their teenage years? It can range from the serious (suicidal thoughts) to the fashionable (emo culture) to the down right fun (murder mysteries, forensic crime shows, vampire romance, zombie shooting games etc). I for one, find the understanding and portrayal of death in popular culture quite beguiling and thought provoking. And yes, I must confess that I will probably always love shooting zombies for leisure. Therefore it will come as no surprise that Dead Man Espresso (35 Market Street, South Melbourne VIC) tickled my interest.

When you come to think about it, it is actually quite a polarising name. I can imagine some people being put off by it; not everyone will be enticed by the thought of food and drinks being associated with a dead man. Surely that must be a fail on marketing 101: to keep as broad appeal as possible? But then again, that probably doesn’t apply in the 21st century world where irony is the new black and niche markets are where the money’s at. In any case, Dead Man Espresso certainly isn’t in any dire need to recruit more customers.

We happened to visit on a Sunday morning, and for a place located outside the immediate realm of South Melbourne Market (the hub of most activity in this suburb), it was still pretty busy – about 70% full. The venue itself is rather striking. Wooden paneling line the exterior where there is not only a spacious balcony but curb side seating as well

The interior is light and airy thanks to the large floor to ceiling windows, and aside from the undertaker tools sentcilled onto the entry door, there are little clues hinting at death. Chemist glassware filled with bunches of foliage fill the counter space and the wooden look is continued through to their tableware.

On weekends, they only serve breakfast (also no bookings on weekend) but lunch is available if you can make it on a weekday. We chose the more filling options, both priced reasonably at $17.50. First up was the rosti with poached egg, avocado and a choice of smoked salmon or bacon. A good combination of flavours and textures. The delicate flesh of the salmon worked really well with the crunch of the potato fritter.

Next up was the panmolle, an Italian salad of tomatoes and bread. Dead Man’s version was served with a poached egg and Italian sausage. The green leaves and bright reds of the tomatoes made this dish particularly photogenic. Rest assured that it was a lot more than just good looks; it was tasty as well.

The service was slightly strange in that we felt rushed by our waiter even though there wasn’t any need for it (no waits for tables). It wasn’t bad, just not as relaxing as it could have been. Seems like the punters sitting outside had a more chilled experience though. Another slight area of disappointment was that our waiter couldn’t tell us what panmolle meant (yes there was a description of the dish on the menu, but I wanted to know what the word actually means and it would have been nice to have staff who understand the food they were helping serve), we had to look up that on google. In concluding, I like Dead Man Espresso, their coffee was as good as their food. So cast your superstitions aside and give the Dead a go.