There’s No Place Like: Three Bags Full cafe in Melbourne

There’s No Place Like: Three Bags Full cafe in Melbourne

Written by Heather

Topics: Life in Oz

This is the second post in the new “No Place Like” series in which I highlight places that have blessed me a feeling of “home”.

As I write, I’m sitting in a beach cottage at North Carolina’s Outer Banks (OBX), waiting for coffee to finish brewing and the griddle to be free so I can make gluten free pancakes for me and my mom. The smells of breakfast and the sight of family gathering around the table reminds me of meals at Three Bags Full cafe in Melbourne.

I only spent a month of my year-long stay in the city that is said to be Australia’s cultural and foodie capital. And it wasn’t until my last few months in Oz that I stepped through the doors of Three Bags Full in the suburb of Abbotsford. But from the first bite of my first meal, I knew this place was something special.

The coffee

Three Bags Full

When I first arrived in Australia, I didn’t care for the coffee. They tasted overly milky and on the weak side. Then a friend suggested I order the smaller of the two sizes and I started enjoying coffees a little more! Unlike what I was used to at Starbucks at home, the number of shots of espresso don’t increase with the size of the drink unless you order a second shot. Taller drinks simply equal more milk. My mistake!

Once I was introduced to the piccolo latte, I knew I’d found my coffee of choice — a single shot of espresso with just a few ounces of milk. THEN, here comes the magic, a Melbourne creation — two shots of espresso and milk served in a cup that is a size between a piccolo latte and regular latte glass (see above). Perfection.

I had my first magic at Three Bags Full. Their baristas take such care in their craft and produce one quality cup after another. On one visit, we sat on bar stools just beside the espresso machine and watched the baristas work tirelessly to fill the orders of loyal regulars and weekend visitors.

On another visit, Adam took the photo above and shot at several angles to get it. Two women also seated at the communal style table kept looking at us and whispering — and at the guy at the other end of the table who was also taking photos of his coffee! Finally one of the women looked at us and politely asked why everyone was taking photos of their coffees. “I mean, it is a pretty coffee,” she added with a smile.

The food

What to order on the first visit?! I prefer sweet to savory and opted for the house made fig and raspberry bread (toasted) with vanilla bean mascarpone, strawberries, and passionfruit. With one bite my eyes opened wide and I eagerly pushed the plate toward Adam and Nicole for them to taste as well. The flavors created one of the best bite fulls of ANYTHING I’d ever had. I cannot describe how fresh the passionfruit sauce tasted. I could drink a cup of it right now.

On subsequent visits, Three Bags Full chefs continued to blow me away.

Like the ricotta hot cakes with poached fruit and orange infused ricotta (that day it was quince, rhubarb and berry coulis).

Taken by Adam

And the baked french toast with creme patissiere, pistachio, and rhubarb. This was the BEST french toast I’d ever had — perfect thickness to the bread, a wonderfully moist interior (not soggy but just right), and just enough crunch for the toast on the outside.

Both food photos by Adam
Taken by Adam

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the:
– baked french toast with blueberry mascarpone, pistachio, and fresh figs
– the Baghdad Omelette (potato, avocado, yoghurt, and middle eastern spices)
– braised lamb sandwich
– pumpkin and sage fritters with grilled haloumi, feta & prosciutto

The decor

Three Bags Full has multiple themes and styles throughout.

First, there’s the title itself, taken from the nursery rhyme Baa Baa Black Sheep. A single sheep is featured as part of the cafe’s logo but in no other way throughout the cafe.

Some of the seats featured recycled road signs.

Three Bags Full

I loved the upside down coffee cups as light fixtures.

Three Bags Full

I REALLY loved the various levels of seating and types of tables throughout the cafe. A long, tall table stood in the larger of two rooms, surrounded by shorter circular and square tables, as well as booths. Every time I visited the cafe, I had a different view and experience.

The staff

The staff at Three Bags Full make you feel like you’re at home. Of course maybe some of this was because I was dining with Adam, who was a regular when he lived in Melbourne. Even so, the staff always greeted us warmly and found time for a bit of a chat during service. A few staff members are also owners (so obviously care about the business), but the “all hands on deck” attitude and passion for the cafe really stood out to me from everyone that worked there.

One staff member in particular was fantastic, and she’s part of the front of house team. Her energy and enthusiasm were genuine and contagious, and she moved around the cafe faster than anyone else. When I had a problem with a dish, she addressed it with humor. After two visits, she had figured out my tastes and offered suggestions on what to order. When she realized Adam and I were going to split an omelette and french toast, she brought each of us an extra set of cutlery — “you don’t want eggy french toast” she explained. When Adam and I wore the same colors one day without meaning to, she greeted us with a big smile and a “loving the green today guys!” I don’t know why I didn’t ask for her name, but I’ll never forget her. She’s such an asset to the cafe and I hope the owners know it!

The atmosphere

All of the elements above combine to create an atmosphere I’ve only found a glimpse of at other places.

Three Bags Full was cool and popular without being pretentious. Energetic without being chaotic.

Many eateries probably survive on coffee, food, or vibe/ambiance alone but Three Bags Full wins on all accounts. The menu uses familiar ingredients but the execution is far superior to the average cafe.

There’s no place like Three Bags Full

Three Bags Full delivered some of the top meals I had in Australia. The atmosphere significantly added to the coffee and food — I could have sat there for hours simply soaking up the experience. If Zumbo was to sponsor a 1-week trip for Macaron Day, I would fly to Melbourne for a day simply to eat at Three Bags Full before returning to Sydney.

If you’re in Oz, follow the cafe @3bagsfullcafe and check out the official website.

Three Bags Full on Urbanspoon

25 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Gav says:

    Wow, I’m sold. When I go to Oz, I’ll be eating at Three Bags Full – Although by the sound of it I my tummy will be three bags full after feasting there for a few meals! :-)

  2. mhhhh I miss Melbourne restaurants. That place looks amazing!

    • Heather says:

      I’m so glad I was able to go 6 or 7 times at the beginning and end of the road trip, but it’s sad it’s half a world away now.

  3. Allison says:

    Wow. Sounds and looks delicious! I want to go so bad I’m going to send Dan in my stead.

  4. Claire says:

    Awww… posts like this make me homesick! I’ve found places in Toronto that do good coffee, but I’ve found it really hard in North America to find the combination of good coffee and good food in the same place… And long live the flat white!

    • Heather says:

      I don’t find cafes at home that are like those in Oz. If they make coffee, they have baked goods like cookies, muffins and scones but not proper meals. Alas :-)

  5. Adam @ SitDownDisco says:

    I’d kill for some good French toast right now and a magic. Instead I’ll be having koko krunch, uht milk and some water. Great post!

  6. Nicole says:

    What a great tribute to Three Bags Full! Your writing, along with the pictures from you & Adam, paint a vivid picture of this amazing cafe. I don’t know why, but I never tried the “magic” while I was in Melbourne & honestly I didn’t even realize exactly what it was until reading your post just now! That’s interesting what you said about larger coffees in Australia just having more milk – at Ghermez we use 1 shot in our regular size coffee & 2 shots in our large (& my barista training course also taught me to up the amount of coffee as the size gets larger). Of course piccolos also only have 1 shot, so I see what you mean about the piccolo vs. a regular size coffee. I’ve been finding a lot of coffee rather milky lately myself . . . hmmmm, I may have to switch to either the piccolo or a double shot! ;)

    • Adam @ SitDownDisco says:

      @Nicole – Sounds like you’ve got the coffee drinkers’ curse. Always have to go stronger to get more of a coffee taste. Soon you’ll be onto black coffee. :)

    • Heather says:

      I could be wrong — I thought someone said there was only one shot. Regardless, the taller ones are still more milky. Can’t wait for you to make a coffee for me ;-)

  7. Jaime says:

    Oh wow this place looks amazing and sounds delicious!!! I love love love the upside down cup fixtures. That is so awesome and cool. Ill have to check it out when I make it down there!

  8. Dad says:

    Now hoping you’ll had a post on “Front Porch Cafe” on the Outer Banks. I thought the White Chocolate Raspberry Mocha and filled croissants were worthy of an article! Cheers :o)

  9. Megan says:

    I have been thinking about a trip to Melbourne when I get back to Australia in October…this really helps sell it :D The last time I was there my entire weekend itinerary revolved around eating – I had places planned for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks and snacks in between. It really does beat Sydney for quality and variety (but shhhh….don’t tell anyone I said that!)

    • Heather says:

      How much do I LOVE that your weekend revolved around eating?! I have a list of places to revisit or try or the first time next time I’m back on that side of the world. Looking forward to seeing what you eat!

  10. Chris says:

    Your food posts always make me so hungry! Move back to Australia so we can eat fantastic food together already!

    • Heather says:

      Aww thank you :-)!!

      I’m slowly but surely working on the getting back to Australia thing. Would be fun to go out to eat together again!

  11. Annie says:

    I just love your food posts and Australia posts. They make ME feel at home and I wasn’t there!

    By the time I get through your list of must-visit places, I’ll be out of time to find my own!!! haha. Love these tips, wish you were still here to sample them with me (again)!

    • Heather says:

      I wish I could be there too! Would be so much fun to revisit them all with friends who are making their way to Oz in the coming year.

      I’d love to hear what you think of the places I enjoyed (the good, the bad, the ugly) when you go :-)

  12. Audrey says:

    I think I just drooled a little over that rhubarb French toast… :)

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