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.

Whole Bean
38 Chapel Street
Marrickville NSW 2204
02 9565 4063
http://www.wholebean.com.au/
Monday to Friday: 7:00am – 3:00pm
Saturday: 8:00am – 3:00pm
Closed Sundays

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When I was 12, I picked out our new house. Well, that’s how it felt to me anyway. Yes, I know it was really my mum who made the decision and handed over the cash. But the second I entered the place, with its rambling, north facing garden, wooden floors and loads of light, I felt at home. Looking back, I think it was that discovery of home that made my adolescence a time of relative sanity. It was also that feeling of having a home that made it so easy, 7 years later, to strike out with no real plan and very little money, enrol myself in art school, and force myself into a place where I would do something productive and wind my way to my own true home. I’m still looking for that home, both metaphorically and literally.

15 Years later and the house is to be sold, at a time when the so-south-other-Canberrans-barely-know-them-suburbs nearby are just starting to furnish themselves with the hip cafés I so cherish so in my new home, inner-city Sydney. It would be trite to say I’m sad to see my home soon go to strangers because now there’s finally somewhere to get a decent macch, but it does add insult to injury. Tuggeranong (or thereabouts), you finally have something to recommend you to those who don’t call you home. Great timing.

Bread Nerds is so new it’s on a street that doesn’t exist on google maps yet. Run by Shane and Sharon Peart of ‘That Bagel Place’ fame, the retail/cafe space is compact, with an industrial-chic aesthetic. They serve sandwiches, pastries, bagels, pizza slices, pies, sausage rolls and coffee and of course, they sell bread. Unfortunately for anyone who doesn’t live in the area, they’re only open Monday to Friday, but they also sell their bread and bagels at farmer’s markets and supply restaurants and cafes.

I can’t go past the Italian dougnut. It’s a delicious, solid morsel and I split it with my mum. Dougnuts never have enough cinnamon in my opinion but this one does. I dunk it in my (weirdly enormous) macchiatto- the smallest cup size they seem to do here is about 250ml. I should’ve taken note of the barista’s slightly puzzled expression when I ordered a macch, a picollo and a cap. Senhor R fares even worse with his picollo, which is basically a slightly strong flat white. He has better luck with his poppyseed bagel with smoked salmon though. I reeeeaaaallly want a sausage roll, but I contain myself. The pies look great too.

There’s a lot of blue-collar business for a Monday morning in an industrial wasteland, and the quality is obviously right up there. I’d love to come back and grab a loaf of bread or a sausage roll to take away, and the cafe is industrial but small enough to be considered cute and cosy – I feel right at home. The price seems right, the staff are friendly, my only criticism is the size of the coffee cups.
What kind of things make you feel at home?

Bread Nerds
4/92 Sawmill Circuit
Hume ACT 2620
02 6260 2062
Monday-Friday
7:00am – 3:00pm

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There’s something in the water in Alexandria. One by one, disused warehouses are being converted into cafes and bars. Sympathetic renovations abound – think Allpress Espresso, Kitchen by Mike, Don Campos, Bread and Circus or Sonomo HQ. Further afield you’ve got the likes of Brasserie Bread and Freda’s Bar and Canteen taking up residence. Add The Grounds to the list of cavernous and ultra modern spaces slightly off the beaten path of the inner southwest.

The Grounds is situated on the corner of Huntley street and Bourke Road. It’s is in the same ‘complex’ as 4143 at The James Barnes. It felt like this place would never open, but open it did for the first time yesterday, so this morning I went to check it out.

When we arrive, I count ten staff. We order our coffees and are told since we’re having them in, to take a seat and then order. The coffee takes a while, which is odd considering the gaggle of waiters clustered around the till and the small number of customers. To be fair, we did arrive at 7:15am on their second day of trade, and I know from experience that a POS system can be a pain in the arse to get going. When it arrives, the coffee is good. Well-rounded flavour, and well presented.

The Grounds is an amazing space. Imagine a kind of barn (well, former pie factory), all rustic wooden finishes and concrete floors (drool), lit with tungsten lights and dotted with industrial touches like exposed copper pipe. This space cries out to be described in cliches – rustic, post-industrial, but above all, beautiful. You can view the coffee roasters through glass panels and on the wall behind neon yellow letters spell out ‘Research Facility’.

The ‘barn’ opens out onto a large garden/courtyard and there’s plenty of seating to while away the hours. There you’ll find a micro-garden of herbs, fruit and veggies, with chickens no less, giving Cornersmith a run for its money in the made-from-scratch stakes. They also bake their own bread and roast their own beans, and plan to hold cupping and coffee making classes. If you take a quick squiz at Katie Quinn Davies’ (no relation) shoot for The Grounds, I think you’ll agree their home style food (could they BE any more on trend) looks pretty bloody scrumptious. I for one can’t wait to try it.

All in all I’m delighted to have these guys in my backyard. And I plan to spend a lot of time in theirs.

The Grounds of Alexandria
7a/2 Huntly Street (corner Bourke Road)
Alexandria NSW 2015
http://groundsroasters.com/
Monday-Friday 7:00am-4:00pm
Weekends 7:00am – 3:00pm

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Weekend breakky used to be one of my favourite rituals. I had my places, I had my fave orders. But lately, it’s kind of fallen off the radar. So a couple of weeks ago, Senhor R and I jumped in the car and went to one of our all-time best breakky haunts, only to be greeted by sad, overpriced food and lacklustre service. We vowed never again to set out on a breakfast quest without a place in mind.

Having heard good things about Sonoma Bakery Café, the relatively new Sonoma HQ, we decided to head southwards for something new. We were greeted by a huge warehouse space, Allpress-like in its interior. An order-and-pay-at-counter affair, said counter was laden with delicious looking sandwiches and pastry. As we stood surveying the offerings, a barista offered us the breakky menu. Easy to see it was out first visit.

sonoma corridor kitchen

Obviously there wouldn’t be much point in ordering a Sonoma breakky if it didn’t include toast. I went for the kind of thing I usually choose – toast and poached eggs with a side of avocado. I noticed, weirdly that the blackboard menu worked out a couple of dollars cheaper than the paper menu, who knows, may have been a glitch. Senhor R ordered the Turkish eggs, described as eggs with ricotta, olives, tomato, dukkah and toast.

sonoma corridor kitchen

We help ourselves to water from a handy tap imbedded in the bench and grab some salt and pepper shakers as well. Our coffees arrived, soon followed by our breakfasts. I could tell straight away that my eggs were near-perfect, the butter on the side, which I appreciated, especially as I ordered avo. I’m a bit surprised they’ve mashed the avo though, since its texture is kind of the point. I spread my sourdough (I think it’s rye spelt) with butter and avo, whack and egg on top and pierce the yolk. Perfect. Liquid. Centre. Senhor R’s breakky is very salty, luckily he loves salt. It’s not quite what we expected – a mash of soft boiled egg, ricotta, chopped olives, fresh tomato and dukkah spread on double thick toast. I’m not sure what we imagined, definitely whole (rather than slightly mashed) eggs, something more akin to baked eggs I guess (that’s also on their menu). Senhor R admits he didn’t really read the description properly.

Sonoma has their own blend roasted by Surry Hills hipsters Single Origin Roasters, I’m not a huge fan, nor am I a huge detractor. The coffee was smooth, chocolatey and well made. The staff were all really friendly, so much so that when the barista cleared away our coffee cups, he asked if we’d like another round ‘On the house, I’m pretty bored.’ Maybe it was me snapping away, maybe he really was bored, either way, can’t say no to a free coffee.

Overall, we were very impressed with Sonoma, so much so that we returned the following day for coffee and to share a sandwich (Moroccan Chicken – amazing). I loved the space – high ceilings, plenty of tables, polished concrete floors, bare light bulbs. It’s kind of hard to find, but definitely worth the trek.


Sonoma Bakery Café
32-44 Birmingham Street
Alexandria NSW 2015
02 8338 1051
7:00 am – 4:00 pm

Sonoma Bakery Café on Urbanspoon

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