Lately I feel like the CBD cafe scene is really opening up, at least in terms of coffee. The little cluster of espresso bars in the CBD has been drawing me in of late, they’re the perfect pitstop on my way to work.
Yet another stop on the Clarence/Kent Street trail is Vella Nero, originally Velluto Nero. It may be the branding that put me off (I don’t generally associate a black/aqua colour combo with coffee) or maybe it’s the fact that they’re always packed with business people, but I never got around to checking this place out. But now I have an office job, I figure its ok for me to hang out in a business-person café.
The decor here is nothing to write home about but on the flipside, the place is packed with enough coffee gadgetry to fill my Christmas stocking for at least the next 5 years. When I get to the counter (it’s an order-and-pay-at-the-counter deal) the girl who serves me is incredibly friendly. When I pay, she stamps a card for me, asks me my name and writes it on my card, along with my coffee order.
Don’t be fooled by a quick glance inside – there’s plenty of seating upstairs and that’s where I decide to sit. I don’t have to wait long for my macch and they even bring a little glass of water which is always dandy. The coffee is good, nice and short and visually appealing – I’m very easily impressed by a coffee with striations.
Overall, in spite of how busy the place is the service and coffee are top notch. I would definitely visit again. Pity they’re not open on weekends.
Vella Nero Coffee Couture
259 Clarence Street,
Sydney NSW 2000
It seems a little hub of coffee goodness is developing around the Clarence/Kent Street area. Maybe it’s Clover Moore’s laneway project, maybe it’s the hipster vibe radiating from the likes of Grandma’s Bar and Stitch, maybe it’s the I- don’t-have-time-for-crap-coffee-can’t-you-see-I’m-a-businessman ambiance of the CBD. I suspect it’s some combination of all three. Either way, it can only be a good thing for someone like me. That is, as long as it’s not a weekend.
Kent Street Specialty Coffee is obviously on Kent Street, between Druitt and Market Streets in what has traditionally been a bit of a coffee desert. Recently though solid coffee options like Klink and Le Grand Cafe have changed all that, although the area unfortunately still shuts down on the weekends.
I arrive early one morning and it’s freezing cold. Just for something different, I order a macchiatto. It takes a little while considering I’m one of three customers, but they bring me a glass of water which I appreciate. The macch has a good crema and is a tad longer than I like, but this is more of a personal preference than a criticism. Maybe I’ve gotten too used to the short shots that are all the rage these days.
The place is cavernous, all exposed brick, pillars and wooden floorboards. I’m a fan of the aesthetic but it’s a bit cold in winter. All in all I’d say it’s a good place to throw back a coffee and dash off to get on with your day, so it fits right in to the area.
Kent Street Specialty Coffee
414 Kent Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
If there were ever a reason to block off a main road, it’s food. Every year, the City of Campsie and various sponsors close down Beamish Street and Anzac mall, turning it into a bustling marketplace. Local businesses whack tables out the front of their stores to sell their wares and food stalls line the streets.
Of course there are your usual suspects – your gozlëme, your profitjes, your primary school sausage sizzle. But there are also Colombian, Korean, Malaysian and Sanegalese stalls. The variety was fantastic and the streets were packed.
We were starving when we arrived and couldn’t get past s bit of deep-fried starchy goodness. We grabbed a couple of glutinous fried balls filled with chicken from Prospect Dim Sim and Bakery. Yum! Cold, but delicious. So much so that we grabbed a couple more for the ride home…
I just couldn’t go past the Colombian stall selling arepas with delicious slow-cooked beef and a spicy salsa not dissimilar to Chilean pebre. I’d only ever had arepas made of white corn meal and filled with cheese, but this larger yellow corn arepa topped with tender meat was so juicy it was difficult to eat without getting it everywhere! So worth it though.
Next stop for Senhor R was a Korean pancake. It was tasty but quite greasy, I think they were cooked in too much oil. Then (after about 15 minutes of waiting to be served), we grabbed a Senegalese peanut-based curry with broken rice. Yummy!
For those of you who like to do more than just stuff your faces, there were also rides, workshops, cooking demonstrations (the hand-made noodle demonstration was cool), special guests, music and a fruit and vegetable carving stall, along with locals trying in vain to do their weekly grocery shop. All in all it was a fun (but very crowded) morning and I would definitely recommend checking it out.
When I moved into my first sharehouse, it was advertised in the paper as ‘Surry Hills’. I knew this wasn’t true, because when I looked at a map, it was right by Redfern Station. However Redfern had a bad rep and Surry Hills was highly coveted, so over the years Surry Hills has been spreading like mould, at least in the real estate pages.
Then there are the suburbs that are completely made up – I’m looking at you, ‘Redfern East’. No, I’m sorry, you just plain don’t exist. And then there’s Darlington, its 2008 postcode made up almost entirely of Sydney Uni (and
invented specifically so Sydney Uni would enjoy, shall we say, less rigid planning laws than the surrounding suburbs). To me this is kind of a suburb. It’s the one you say you live in when you’re trying to sell your house but you really live in Chippendale.
‘The Shortlist’ is in the semi-made-up suburb of Darlington on the lemming-walk to Sydney Uni stretch of Abercrombie St. There have been two pretty respectable café options on this drag for ages – the laid back Tripod, serving coffee roaster coffee and the incredibly popular but slightly grumpily staffed Café Ella which is never open Sundays.
But for some reason, no one had a thing to say about this stretch of road until The Shortlist came to town. It’s true that it’s a lot busier on weekends now and the breakfast crowd seem to be getting younger. Many new businesses have opened up and, like all of Redfern, gentrification is full steam ahead.
So while I would love to make a pun about The Shortlist having been on my shortlist for a while now, it sort of hasn’t. True, it’s always crowded and it serves Little Marrionette coffee, something that coffee guides seem to universally agree can only be a good thing. But I’ve always gone by and it’s been packed out the front by people crouching uncomfortably on tiny stools, trying to be seen. It’s a tad too Redfern East for Darlington, if you get my drift.
One thing I didn’t know until I had a look at a place a day is that they have a courtyard out the back. Yes, I’m a dunderheaded fool, I thought that doorway was a mirror. That and its proximity to my house clinched it for me so one weekend we trecked on over. We ordered some coffees and an Earl Grey Tea muffin, which sounds like a load of wank but was absolutely scrummy. The coffee was rich and syrupy, short the way I like it. They serve standard cafe fare and the prices seem reasonable. I can’t say for sure if I’ll be back, but that’s only because I’m so spoiled for choice. Overall I’d say give it a go, especially if you can grab a seat out the back, which is pretty easy to do as the seat out the front seem to be the favoured ones.
258 Abercrombie Street
Darlington NSW 2008
As far as I’m concerned, there are only two really worthwhile hangover cures: a sickly sweet Sydney Pad Thai or a huge fuck-off burger. A juicy beef patty, fresh, soft bun and a side of perfect fries just cannot be beaten. In fact, I don’t even need the hangover as an excuse to chow down.
So when Peter and Marian from Beautiful Burgers contacted me and asked if I’d like to come and check out their cafe, I just couldn’t say no.* The reason is that I’ve ‘checked out’ Beautiful Burgers on many a Saturday arvo, to soak up last night’s alcohol or just because there’s nothing in the fridge.
It seems like lately, Sydney has been all about the gourmet burgers (along with Latin American street food, go figure). Wagyu beef, chorizo, sourdough, duck, arugula, aioli, truffle fries, various kinds of relish…the whole thing makes my head spin. Too much choice, too much wank. And don’t get me (well, Rui) started on why on earth you’d want to shove wagyu beef through a mincer. Maybe some people just have more money than sense.
Ok, the rant ends here. Beautiful Burgers is getting more and more popular so when Rui and I arrive it’s so crowded that we consider going somewhere else. The fact that all we want is burgers is what sways us. He orders the Yankee burger with iceberg lettuce, mayo, tomato, bacon, cheese, dill pickle, ketchup and American mustard. You get a choice of a beef or chicken patty and he elects beef. I go for the beef burger which I admit is slathered with a fancy onion and tomato basil relish but other than that it’s just iceberg lettuce, mayo, tomato and caramelised onion. I add beetroot as always. ‘Cause I’m Aussie like that.
What I like about the menu is there’s something for everyone. You can get your Moroccan-inspired Lamb, your Thai chicken, a couple of veggie burgers (one is tofu, the other eggplant) and enough condiments to open a deli. But you can also go for a basic burger and not be left wanting. There’s the option of adding pretty much whatever you like at minimal charge and there’s a feature burger each week. And although the burgers are definitely the focus, there are other options available such as wraps, sandwiches and pies. The burgers are huge but the fries are delicious too- fresh, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, so we always face a dilemma when we come here. Should we order fries as well? This time we manage to forgo them.
This place just keeps getting better and better. The bread is always fresh, the patties are deliciously juicy, and the staff are incredibly friendly and always ready to suggest something if you’re at a loss. The prices are good – more expensive than your dodgy local takeaway, cheaper than a burger at a café or pub (but fries cost extra). You order and pay at the counter, you can come in the back via Queen Street or the front via regent Street and they even serve beer. And did I mention their burgers are delicious?
What’s your ultimate hangover cure?
5/87-97 Regent Street
Chippendale NSW 2008
(02) 9319 3132
7.00am-3.00pm Monday to Friday
*All food and drink were paid for by us. Oh, ok fine, by Rui. You got me.
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Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not claim to be an expert on anything. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. From time to time I give away products and experiences to my readers, all competitions have completely arbitrary rules, all decisions are final and all prizes awarded as I see fit.