Carlton duo’s commitment to connection runs through their veins


Among Carlton’s many cafés and coffee hot-spots, you’ll find Michael and Nadeen Kelly’s The Heart of Carlton tucked away on Elgin St.

As you sit down on furniture handcrafted by Michael and enjoy a delicious $5 bowl of pasta or a fresh baguette, it doesn’t take long to understand where The Heart of Carlton gets its name from.

The husband-and-wife duo have been Carlton residents for the past 15 years, opening the café together just over five years ago.

With Nadeen’s Italian background and Michael’s hopes to one day open his own café, the opportunity to take over a vacant shop-front just off Lygon St felt “a little bit like fate.”

“I’ve always had in the back of my mind the thought of opening a café, I like the idea of hospitality in its most genuine sense,” Michael said.

“The world is sort of a crazy place, so we tried to think what we can do that’s meaningful – I guess I’m coming from that point of view.”

A jack-of-all-trades, Michael’s passion for craftsmanship has inspired many of the wooden structures that you’ll find within the café.

The shop next door has also been converted into a workspace to display his art.

Stepping into The Heart of Carlton feels as if you’re stepping into an extension of the Kelly’s home. Photographs, knick-knacks, books, and music surround the space, telling their own story of the pair behind the coffee machine.

While The Heart of Carlton has established itself as a much-loved member of the Carlton business community, the couple’s old-fashioned and honest ethos is what makes the space so unique.

“There’s certainly a business aspect to this, but it’s not the way that I like connecting with people,” Michael said.

“I think that there’s something meaningful in the idea of having a café and having a lot of interaction with people - whether I’m doing that myself or encouraging that by simply creating an environment that is conducive to peaceful things.”

Michael and Nadeen’s non-judgemental approach to life sees everyone welcome at The Heart of Carlton, believing that “there’s plenty of room to connect with people in the good things.”

“It’s not exclusive, there’s no cancel culture or anything like that around here,” Michael said.

Whether you’re a student, family, new to Carlton or a long-term resident, Michael and Nadeen’s ability to connect with people from all walks of life can inspire us all in some way.

Heart of Carlton is located at 189 Elgin St, Carlton. •

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