I fear that Canberra, much like Sydney, is in serious danger of burning through its allocation of milk crates. Not because of the popularity of milk, but rather because they serve as seating for the crop of on-trend cafés popping up in old (but not in a retro way) shopfronts all over town. I love/hate this trend for numerous reasons. Milk crates are fine to sit on (with cushioning); they serve as a signal to customers, ‘take this coffee joint seriously’. But while they look incidental, in an ‘oh we were just SO BUSY making GROUNDBREAKING espresso we forgot to buy chairs!’ kind of a way, they are entirely deliberate. This is why there’s a countrywide shortage. I assume.
Red Brick espresso is no exception. Milk crates are scattered plentifully out the front of this Curtin café, and they’ve taken it to another level with the accompanying tables, made of bread crates. I hope there’s not a delivery guy out Fyshwick way somewhere going broke for lack of crates.
We stand at the counter for a while waiting to order, staff seem a little harried so we wait as they hand out the takeaways. We order coffee and seat ourselves in the unmistakeably Canberran, light-filled and cleverly renovated space, which, as we’re in the southside of Canberra, could’ve been anything in a past life- a house, a pharmacy, or a sex shop – all roads lead to rectangular brick structures. The guys behind the espresso machine look like they know what’s what – they roast their own coffee here, and are well and truly the third wave.
The coffee arrives. One of our piccolos is spilled a bit and the young waitress runs and grabs us a serviette. How about a fresh saucer? The spillage is hardly her fault though, the piccolos are almost flat white flat. My macch is cool, as are all the coffees, and nothing about the flavour grabs me. It’s fine, I can’t fault the method on my macch (other than the temperature, and I’m not a hot coffee drinker), so maybe this blend just isn’t for me.
The Red Brick Espresso Hombres were recently quoted in Cafe Culture as saying “We looked at what’s happening elsewhere and said, ‘why can’t we do it here?’ Red Brick ticks all the boxes and, if I lived in this neck of the woods, I’d be here daily. But no matter how many milk crates you give someone to sit on or whether you roast your own beans, it all goes to crap when a teenage girl spills your latte. And for the record, I’ve been back since, the coffee was still lukewarm, and I’ve heard the same from others. But I guess if I was from New York and came to visit my mates in Surry Hills, I’d feel like the café culture here is just a watered down version of what’s going on back home. For all I know the Williamsberg peeps are sitting on upturned shopping trolleys these days. I pray that trend doesn’t make it here.
Red Brick Espresso
4/35 Curtin Place, Curtin ACT 2605
02 6285 1668
Monday-Friday 7:30am – 4:30pm
Saturday 7:30am – 4:00pm
Sundays 7:00am – 2:00pm
3 food bloggers, 3 cafes, 3 great macchs
Food blogging is one area of my life where I can honestly say I find myself perpetually delighted, and that’s mostly down to the people I meet. Food bloggers want to meet you. They want to eat with you. They want to show you around. So that’s how it came to be that on the morning after the eat fest that was Eat Drink Blog 2012, Hayes of Adeladie food blog The Chopping Board (who wasn’t even at the conference) and Sarah (who was) went on a coffee crawl with Perth blogger Ai-Ling (who doesn’t even drink coffee) and I (who most definitely does). We hit three cafés in less than three hours and thoroughly enjoyed every microgram of caffeine imparted on us by this ‘city of churches’.
1. Coffee Branch
Coffee branch is located in the faux-laneway of Leigh street in the CBD proper and has a rep for being one of the best coffee spots in the area. South Australia digital online marketer Sarah Rhodes who was at Eat. Drink. Blog. with us suggested it and joined us for coffee numero uno. When we arrive just after 9:30am its suit-a-rama. The space is tiny and narrow so after ordering I join the other three outside in the humidity for coffee and conversation. Our coffees are quick to arrive and they incorrectly announce Sarah’s as a skim flat white, but it turns out to be the full fat latte we ordered, so no worries.
I would describe the flavour of my macch as very gentle. It is actually more of a picchiatto or a macchollo, who knows. I appreciate the latte art heart, don’t get me wrong, but the coffee itself is underwhelmingly mild. I’d return though, I know I overuse this word but it’s a solid choice in the Adelaide CBD. Friendly staff, coffees came out quickly and I reeeaaallly had to hold myself back from ordering a pastry.
32 Leigh Street Adelaide, SA 5000
0451 661 980
Monday – Friday 7:00am – 5:00pm
Our next stop is Nano as recommended by my mate and former Adelaide-ian (is that a word?) Erin of The Canberran, and she outta know, she blogged 35 Adelaide cafes in 35 days before relocating to The Nation’s Capital. Nano is actually an Italian restaurant and I’d love to come back and try the food. It is also a well-known coffee haunt in what Urbanspoon describes as ‘the Rundle Street area’ but I think might actually be called the east end, a schmick but still uni-student-friendly enclave of eateries, pubs and stores which a continuation of Adelaide’s Rundle Street mall.
Nano’s coffee isn’t particularly photogenic but it does impress. Microfoam notwithstanding, it definitely has a kick to it and I can see why the locals cite it as a consistently good choice. Hayes has no complaints about his flat white and Ai-ling, who doesn’t actually drink coffee, chows down on an omelette. I can’t resist the italian doughnut, a crisp ring dusted with crystals of sugar and a pillowy insides. I happily dunk away in my macchiato, which while not technically perfect froth-wise delivers a strong, balanced and well-rounded flavour. I prefer it to our first coffee.
23 Ebenezer Place Adelaide, SA 5000
08 8227 0468
Monday – Friday 7:15am – 4:00pm
Saturday – Sunday 8:15am – 4:00pm
3. Hey Jupiter
The others leave me to continue my coffee crawl, Hayes is off to work and Ai-Ling to catch a plane home to Perth. I pop in to the teensy Hey Jupiter which is a relatively new addition to the east end and about a ten second walk from Nano. From the outside, with its brightly-coloured cafe chairs and tables and shop-front-style window it looks like nothing special. But inside the walls are lathered a gorgeous green and studded with vintage mirrors, walnut-coloured stools and hutches crouch here and there and spheres of glass hang, pendulum-like from the ceiling, casting a sepia glow. It’s like having your coffee break inside a vintage terrarium.
I order my trusty macch and park myself in the corner where I can drink in the decor. It’s a rich and concentrated shot with just a smidge of foam and milk and it’s a good third coffee. I’m kind of glad I hit this place alone. As I meditate over my macch, complete with paper doily, sure, I feel pretty jittery (that’s the caffeine), but I couldn’t think of a nicer way to end the weekend.
11 Ebenezer Place Adelaide, SA 5000
0416 050 721
Monday – Friday 7:00am – 3:00pm
Saturday 8:00am – 3:00pm
You’ve gotta love a coffee place that bills itself as ‘the second best coffee in Marrickville’ (and the 11th best in Australia). Regardless of the quality of their coffee, its fair to assume they have a sense of humour. At least, that was my logic the first time I tried to go to Whole Bean, on a Saturday, but the joke was on me as at that point, they weren’t open Saturdays (they are now), so I added them to my list for sometime soon.
‘Sometime soon’ came sooner than I thought, as one gorgeous day last week I headed there with my partner in coffee and in life to try the second best coffee in Marrickville. Whole Bean is housed in a Marrickville Warehouse just off Victoria Road, and comprised of a coffee roaster, syphon bar and more edison light bulbs than you can poke a stick at, not to mention recycled coffee sacks and velvet curtains. It’s a cavernous space, and one you can rent out for functions, should you be so inclined. The space is large and there’s plenty of seating, another benefit of many cafes in this part of town.
Our coffee arrives and my macch looks suspiciously like a ristretto. I return it and they make me a macch at lightning speed. Maybe it’s because when I was a kid, my mum used to give me the foam off her cappucino after a morning’s grocery shopping, but I’m a fan of a macch with plenty of foam, and this one doesn’t deliver. However, it’s a good macch. My partner’s picollo impresses the pants off him, thankfully not literally, but it has a the deep, solid and well rounded flavour that stands up to the generous slosh of milk you get in a picollo.
It seems counter intuitive, but there’s more good coffee in Marrickville than there is in somewhere like Newtown. Maybe it has something to do with the abundance of warehouses (and thus coffee roasters), but then how would you explain Surry Hills? Either way, Whole Bean is a solid coffee choice in a solid coffee suburb. We’ll be back.
38 Chapel Street
Marrickville NSW 2204
02 9565 4063
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 3:00pm
Saturday: 8:00am – 3:00pm
I got an email about a month ago with the subject heading ‘Blast from the Buenos Aires past’. It was from a friend I’d made in Argentina nearly four years ago. We’d spent a week together trawling through markets and drinking 1 litre beers. Weirdly, she was from Adelaide, but now she was writing to tell me she’d moved to Sydney. We arranged to meet for (what else) coffee with her delightful beau and Canberra Caffeine-o-phile Barrister Barista (aka @canberrachino).
The four of us met at Surry Hills’ Bang Bang Espresso, which had been on my to-blog list for at least a year. Funnily enough, former DJ Alan Thompson started Bang Bang in 2009, exactly when my pal and I had been traipsing all over BA without a decent coffee in sight. An email from Alan inviting me round to the cafe for a free meal which I, dripping with reluctant integrity, turned down, served as a reminder not to leave Bang Bang on the list for much longer.
I sat outside as inside was full up but I didn’t mind as I prefer quiet and am not much for communal tables. I ordered a macch, which promptly arrived as did water, glasses and napkins. I didn’t identify myself as a blogger, so this was not special treatment.
As I wait for my chums I peruse the menu, which is massive, and about ¾ of it is breakfast. There’s a definite UK spin on things with welsh rarebit, english breakfast, scottish breakfast and a ‘posh fish finger sandwich’ on offer. I’m tempted by the corn fritters (1 kind for breakky, another for lunch) but in the end I settle on a pulled pork sandwich.The other three order a couple of nutso triple cheese burgers (the real name of the burger is is more ridic than that) on wholemeal (WTF?) and a lamb burger, also on wholemeal. Theirs come with crisps and mine comes with nothing, which is excellent because it’s *huge*. I didn’t photograph the food as we were too busy gossiping and stuffing out faces.
We were all happy with the coffee, lattes were a tad flat but that doesn’t phase me as I didn’t order them. The gorgeous flat white, as described by Barrister Barrista was:
Ok, so we went to a breakky joint and ordered sambos. Idiots. They were pretty good, but we all agreed thet were a little heavy handed with the condiments. I think I expected my pulled pork a tad spicy, but I did like the green apple slaw and the sonoma bread was good and fresh. Everything was reasonably priced and generously portioned. I will return to scoff down some breakky, no doubt. Good service, great coffee, solid food, I can see why this place has lasted so long (in Surry Hills fringe years). And Alan was very patient with me photographing the hell out of his cafe after it was technically closed.
Bangbang Espresso Bar and Cafe
113 Reservoir Street
Surry Hills NSW 2012
02 9281 0018
Sydney CBD cafés usually have a very different feel from those on the city fringe. Your Petty Cash Cafés, you Belljars don’t really exude the same frantic, grab-your-latte-and-raisin-toast-and-run vibe that you get at somewhere like, say, Vella Nero. This is changing, or maybe I’m just paying closer attention. In any case the York Street hub, with the likes of the quirky Shirt Bar and the laneway haven York Lane is a pretty awesome place to be grabbing your coffees and lunches these days.
Palomino Espresso is the newest addition to the area. A few blocks south of Wynyard Station, nextdoor to Stitch, I literally walked straight past it on its second day of trading. And I was actually looking for it. It was only because I was looking for number 61 and the numbers were higher than that that I turned around and had a second look.
I ordered my macch and sat looking out onto the street, and almost every person who walked past did a double take. It wasn’t so much a case of ‘wow, a new café’ as it was ‘how long has that place been open?’. That’s because Palomino Espresso looks like it’s been part of the furniture for yonks. And the service wasn’t very ‘we’ve only been open for two days’ either. If they hadn’t mentioned that fact so many times, I doubt anyone would’ve noticed they’re the NKOTB.
As per usual, I just had coffee. It was good, not particularly photogenic but a nutty, vanilla-y sort of flavour. I was tempted by something that looked suspiciously like a butterfly cake, or at any rate, some variety of cupcake heavy with whipped cream. The breakkies are a bit more city fringe than dine-and-dash – I saw house baked beans and eggs benny on offer, and tons of homemade-looking baked treats. These guys serve Morgans Handcrafted Coffee, the day I went they had two choices, one of which was a Brazilian Single Origin, if that’s what floats your boat. They do cold drip and for soy addicts, it’s bonsoy all the way.
The decor is a tad quirky, with wild west themed knick knacks (there’s a horse figurine inside the espresso machine). To me, it looks like the kind of cafe you’d find in Glebe, I’m not sure why. The high ceilings mean plenty of glass street frontage, there’s enough seating and the staff seem really friendly. I am unsure of their opening hours but I am going to find out. I will be back.
1/61 York Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
Monday-Friday 7:00am – 4:00pm
Two things that I think are overrated – puns and pan-fried haloumi. At Seddon Deadly Sins I got both, didn’t mind the first and fell in love with the second.
To be fair though, it was impossible not to fall in love with the haloumi, as it was actually deep fried and beer battered, like a kind of savoury cheesecake donut. This was accompanied by a perfectly poached egg, just-crispy-enough fried bacon and some kind of relish that tasted like figs.
My so-cool-it-hurts Melbournite chum ordered an equally stunning breakfast of herbed polenta, which came with poached eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, grilled haloumi and harissa. This was photogenic to say the least.
Seddon Deadly Sins, located in Seddon (funnily enough) also boasts decent, if a tad too hot coffee and incredibly friendly service. While I waited for my friend to arrive I sat in the front part of the cafe, spellbound by the cakje fridge, as regulars came and went for coffee and breakfast. We soon moved to the relaxing little courtyard out the back to order breakfast from the Little Golden Book encased menus.
Seddon Deadly Sins has one of those menus that makes decision virtually impossible as the choices are varied, creative and yet somehow familiar. I tossed up between the the beer battered haloumi, the sweet potato latkes and the thai pork skewers for a while before making my choice, but to be honest, I was pretty much tossing up between most of the menu. FYI, they also have a decently priced beer/wine list.
The decor is thematic and not really to my taste (a bit Lord of the Rings/Dungeouns and dragons meets the local organic food co op). But that’s pretty much irrelevant. I’m still dreaming of the perfect, gooey cheese encrusted with crispy bgolden beer batter…
Seddon Deadly Sins
148 Victoria Street
Seddon, VIC, 3011
Tuesday to Sunday 8:00am – 5:00pm
I kept thinking Cornersmith was called Cornerstone. I kept meaning to go there and never making it. But I finally made it the morning of the Sydney Food Bloggers Picnic last month, and I wasn’t dissappointed.
Cornersmith is the kind of joint that’s closed for pickling on Mondays. Yes, really, I didn’t get that from some kind of Hipster’s Encyclopaedia of cafe descriptors (remind me to write that, if I ever get a chance). They do all kinds of locavore/DIY things like buying backyard produce and making their own jam. They have a beehive on their roof! Basically, they’re the cafe equivalent of a Portlandia sketch.
All this and more means that I was there with bells on at whatever time it was that Saturday. Cornersmith is right by Marrickville station, which is super convenient for someone like me who hates buses. It’s got great decor, clean white walls, jars of pickles adorning the counter and a good mix of natural timber and understated vintage furniture.
Me and my mate order and pay at the counter and nab the only free table. Our toast/coffee/toast/macch order comes out at $32, and I realise there must be a mistake. That’s the problem with order-and-pay-at-the-counter with somewhere as busy as Cornersmith – mistakes are bound to be made. Our bill gets downgraded to a much more reasonable $19, phew!
I’m a fan of the coffee and I’m a fan of the vibe, although Saturday morning is pretty hectic. I’m enjoying my Mecca macchiatto, apparently my friend’s mocha is no slouch either. The menu is simple, a lot of toast-and-toppings on offer, with many tthings made on site – from honey, to pickles, chutneys and jams. Cornersmith strives to be self-sufficient. They also sell their products, and other peoples’, instore.
The reviews have generally been positive and I can see why, although they’ve also been victim of some pretty harsh graffitti, with ‘yuppy scum’ painted across the storefront and the windows bashed in. All in all I will definitely return if I’m ever in the hood.
314 Illawarra Road
Marrickville NSW 2204
(02) 8065 0844
Tuesday to Friday 6.30am – 3.30pm
Saturday and Sunday 8:00am – 3:00pm
Monday – closed for pickling
So add this to the list of things for Aussies and Kiwis to fight over – the flat white. Along with lamingtons and pavlova we both lay claim this antipodean beverage, something I always took for granted as the most boring of the espresso-based drinks. I never realised the flat white had such controversial origins, nor the fact that it would one day become the coffee of choice for hipsters from New York to London.
But the flat white is not the reason I decided to visit Allpress’s flagship store in trendy Ponsonby, Auckland; frankly, I couldn’t care less about flat whites, miniscule coffees are more my scene. I’d been a fan of Allpress ever since I came accross it’s Sydney Roasterie in Zetland. When I first bloogged about them, I cited them as the Kiwi export I’d most like to call my own. So I was excited to check out their teensy Ponsonby store and see what’s what.
We arrived on a rainy I’m-not-sure-what-day-it-was, as we spent the majority of our trip to NZ drinking and thus time ceased to have much meaning. Ponsonby road is a strip of cafés and restaurants with an up-to-the-minute but kind of upmarket feel – a little bit Balmain with a touch of Paddington. But smaller. And quieter. Allpress is a narrow shop with a few stools inside and outside and a couple of tables. From what I can tell, they only serve coffee and biscuits.
I’m glad I was travelling with our Texan host, who doesn’t drink the coffees Senhor R and I do (a macch and a piccollo, full cream, no sugar if you ever want to shout us). It gave me an entirely different take on the place than I would’ve had if I’d just gone with Senhor R. Ms Texan stepped up to the counter and ordered her standard fare – a large trim (skim) flat white with two equals, in a takeaway cup. Only to be told they don’t have large cups. Or equal. Or trim (skim) milk.
Now, I know there are places with only one size of cups, and places that don’t stock equal. Or maybe they don’t have syrups, or soy milk. But it seems really fricking WEIRD to me to run a cafe that prepares nothing but coffee and not to offer your customers skim milk. I also think it’s weird that the people working there didn’t think this was weird, if you know what I mean. This wasn’t announced anywhere, a la Bar Italia et. al. This wasn’t a voluntary simplicity/freedom from choice philosophy they just…don’t…have…skim. Or soy. Or equal. Or large cups.
My coffee was good, Senhor R’s was too milky. Ms Texan’s? Well, it was too creamy, small and sugary, if you really want to know. I’d go back for sure, but I doubt she will, which is a shame as she live in Auckland.
266 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, Auckland
+64 9 376 4726
Monday to Friday 8.30am – 5.00pm
Saturday 8.30am – 4.00pm
Sunday 9.00am – 3.00pm
I’m not much for standing in queues. Then again, I’m assuming it’s something not many of us look forward to. Let me rephrase that – if I have to line up and wait for a table at a restaurant or café, I won’t. The line turns me off. The hype turns me off. The way I see it, there are plenty of other fish in the sea. And some of those fish might even be salt encrusted Portuguese sardines cooked on hot coals. But I digress.
So it will come as no surprise to anyone that I’m not the least bit interested in checking out the Bourke Street Bakery that is actually on Bourke Street- that line around the block is way too Porteño for me (Haha. Clever double entendre there). Until recently I had been to all their other branches, including their now defunct Broadway branch and their offshoot Central Baking Depot.
But I hadn’t been to their Marrickville store, and I vowed to before they open another branch. Oh wait, they just did. It’s in Potts Point and apparently even bigger. Anyway, I finally went to check out a couple of weeks ago, in what shall be known as ‘Lau and Senhor R’s weekend of bakery madness’, where we checked out Bourke Street Bakery Marrickville, Brasserie Bread in Banksmeadow and Sonoma Alexandria (twice). And when I say ‘checked out’ you of course understand that I mean ‘drank coffee and ate pastries at every single bakery.’
The reason Bourke Street Bakery Marrickville has been on my to-visit list forever is that I heard rumours there’s actually room to sit down. And guess what? The rumours are true. The interior, although hardly spacious, does have sufficient seating and there’s also a clump of tables outside. The large windows give lots of light, which bounces off the chrome industrial-looking stools. There’s a big rack of bread at one end of the shop, a mesmerising fridge of cakes and pastries in the middle and a large communal table at the end. I order two macchiatos and a chocolate croissant and we grab a seat.
Let me make this clear for those of you who don’t know: people RAVE about these guys. Their cookbook is a best seller. Their bread sells out every day. Customers wait with bated breath for the first batch of their legendary pork and fennel sausage rolls (a reliable source tells me this happens around 10:30am). Freaking hell, even David Lebovits loves the place, claiming their bread ‘rivalled anything (he) could get back home in Paris.’
So what did we think? Well, the pain au chocolat, although I’m no David Lebovits, was amazing – the pastry crisp and golden on the outside, puffed and layered in the middle and buttery all the way through. The coffee was lovely as well and I managed to (mostly) resist dunking the pastry in it. Stay tuned in the coming weeks to hear what I think of their sourdough, but I’ll give you a hint – we’ve bought three loaves in the last couple of weeks.
What about you? Do lines outside restaurants turn you on or turn you off?
Bourke Street Bakery, Marrickville
2 Mitchell Street
Marrickville NSW 2204
You may not know this about me, but I’m a sucker for a striped awning. Anyone clever enough to attach one to the outside of their cake shop/patisserie/boulangerie/espresso bar (because that’s where you always seem to find them) has a good chance of piquing my interest. And if it’s a sunny Saturday morning and I’ve ‘forgotten’ to have breakfast before Senhor R and I go out for coffee, your chances increase exponentially.
Thus ‘La Banette’ has always been referred to by me as ‘the place in Glebe with the yellow striped awning’. I don’t spend much time in Glebe because I find the coffee to be as it is in Newtown – a few brilliant places dotted here and there, but you gotta know where to look. And while in Newtown I have a fairly good idea (Campos, Vargabar Espresso, The Old Fish Cafe, Berkelouw Books), in Glebe I have no clue. And I’m usually too damned lazy to find out.
So I never realised it was a patisserie, boulangerie and café, let alone the second in a series (the other is in Avalon). After visiting, a quick Google reveals that the owners, Vince Luong and Uyen Le, have garnered acclaim all over for their interpretations of French classics. And it’s no surprise.
The interior is small but artfully arranged with bench seats and tables down one side and pastries, cakes and breads wherever they will fit. The selection is impressive and, to my mind, not at all on the expensive side. On our first visit we pick up a rustic sourdough baguette for something like $3 and grab our standard coffees to have in. The baguette isn’t as sourdough-y as I like it, but it have terrific crunch factor. The coffee is good. Very good. Good, rich crema, latte art which I can take or leave in real life but can’t get enough of for blogging. On our next visit we order croissant and a danish and they are divine; so buttery, rich and flaky I could eat ten.
The procedure is to order and pay at the counter before you sit down and the staff will bring your order out to you, or you can get it to go. They purport to be a bakery, not a cafe and thus although all the coffee comes with real saucers, cups and spoons the food comes in bags, boxes and on doilies. They request that you dispose of them yourself (they have bins) and I take no issue with this but if I have one criticism it’s that this policy seems wasteful. However, in the face of some of the best pastries I’ve had in my life and golden delicious coffee, this seems a small thing.
So, what less-than-subtle sign is guaranteed to pique you interest in a place?
18 Glebe Point Road, Glebe 2037
(02) 8095 9688
7:00am – 6:00pm Monday – Friday
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Disclaimer:All opinions in this blog are mine, an everyday, real-life person. I do not accept payment for reviews and nor do I write sponsored posts. I do not endorse the content of the comments herein.