If you like your coffee geeked-out with a side of cartoons, Reformatory’s mad professor vibe may just be for you. Owner and head roaster (and fourth generation coffee farmer) Simon Jaramillo is a man possessed when it comes to coffee, serving up all the brews you could ever need from first to third-wave to everything in between.
The cafe is stand-and-drink only, so no chairs, just a few benches attached to the comic-adorned walls. The focus here is on the coffee, but there’s also same cakey things and killer empanadas if you’re feeling peckish.
The guys here are a little intense and are bound ask you how you heard about the place; I just tell them Raff sent me. They deliver your coffee two ways; as you ordered it (espresso, syphon, however) and as ground beans, so you can get a good sniff of the pre-brewed, roasted and ground product. Between that, a glass of water, the serving board and whatever sweet treat you couldn’t resist, there’s no room left on your coffee drinking bench. Just go with it.
The Reformatory Caffeine Lab
Shop 7B, 17-51 Foveaux St
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Monday – Friday: 6:30am – 4:00pm
Saturday: 8:00am – 2:00pm
Serving coffee and coffee only, no brownies, no banana bread, no toast and nary a canelé in sight, Coffee Alchemy’s ‘Gumption’ launched last week with little fanfare and much positive word of mouth. You’ll find it on the ground floor or the iconic Strand Arcade on Sydney’s Pitt and George Streets.
Browse through writeup after writeup after writeup featuring the ever-humble Alchemy co-owner Hazel de los Reyes and you won’t be surprised by this lack of self-promotion. Although de los Reyes and Alchemy have won a slew of awards and are generally regarded as pilgrims of specialty coffee in New South Wales, they’re eager to let their coffee speak for itself.
Here’s what to expect at a place that serves coffee and coffee only. Expect to pay at least $4. Order and pay at the counter. Ask for a glass of water. Take a seat at one of turquoise benches. You may have to wait a while. One of the staff will bring you your brew. They will tell you what it is, and, whatever it may be, they will sound absurdly enthusiastic about it. Drink your coffee. Sit in the lovely Strand arcade (or, if there’s no room there, cram yourself into the standing room only section inside) and scrape out every. last. dab. of caffeine with that perfectly shaped spoon they have helpfully provided you. Have a lovely day.
In case you can’t tell, the large handful of visits I’ve had at Gumption have left me pretty impressed. They just really care about their coffee so damn much, and they know what on earth they’re supposed to do with it. I was always an Alchemy fan, but Addison Road is a long way from home, and this little nook is right on my way to work. And I love a place where ‘I’m just having a coffee’ is the only option for ordering, rather than a statement that causes the waiter to give me the side-eye.
Gumption by Coffee Alchemy
Shop 11, The Strand Arcade (412-414 George Street)
Sydney, NSW 2000
02 9232 4199
When someone, anyone, waxes lyrical about cafes in Melbourne, their raving can generally be taken with a grain of salt. But mention Patricia Coffee Brewers and your barista’s eyes will take on a dreamy sheen. It’s the kind of place that every coffee pro dreams of opening.
Patricia sits on the eastern side of Melbourne’s CBD, a stone’s thrown from Flagstaff and Southern Cross stations. You’ll find it down Little William Street, on the corner of Little Bourke.
Standing room only, Patricia is all about the coffee. With expertly trained staff and discerning customers – Patricia is a cosy little haven in from Melbourne’s mercurial weather that knows exactly what the hell it’s on about. It was started by St Ali/Seven Seeds vetaran Bowen Holden, read his story here and try not to fall in love with his passionate, commonsense approach.
Patricia sources, serves and beautifully repackages (for take home) coffee from Melbourne’s cream of the crop; the likes of Small Batch, Proud Mary, Market Lane et. al. are well represented here. Since its standing room only, you may as well order your coffee in a ceramic cup (black or filter $3.50, white $3.80), stand at one of the bars that line the narrow room and sip away.
For those who absolutely must sit, there are a few milk crates strewn around the laneway outside. There are a few pastries, cookies and the baked-treat-of-the-moment, caneles, but other than that, it’s coffee or bust. For me, it’s rare not to included Patricia in a visit to Melbourne.
Patricia Coffee Brewers
Cnr Little Bourke & Little William St.
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
Monday – Friday 7:00am – 4:00pm
03 9642 2237
When it comes to coffee, the Sydney CBD is a great place to grab-and-go. Following on from my list of 3 great hole-in-the-wall cafés, I thought I’d share a few places in the city where you can sit down and savour your caffeine hit, rather than slamming it down on the way to another of your high-flying business meetings. Here are three cafés that, in the midst of the rat race, are more than happy bring you your coffee in a ceramic cup.
1. Double Barrel Coffee Merchants
The Double Barrel crew take their coffee extremely seriously, sourcing beans from Melbourne’s Seven Seeds and Code Black and Byron’s Marvell Street Coffee Roasters, among others. They always have at least a blend and a single O on the go. For those of the black coffee persuasion, they batch brew filter coffee, but they’ll also happily do you a pourover or an aeropress to order at their not-quite-up-and-running filter bar. It’s not just coffee, either; these guys make everything from scratch, from the slow-cooked meat subs to the salted caramel tarts to the muffins. Sean and the team are happy to talk shop, so order and pay at the counter, pull up a seat and sip your brew and talk the ins and outs of coffee flavour profiles or play video games.
Double Barrel Coffee Merchants
33 York Street, Sydney NSW 2000
0413 683 949
2. Marlowe’s Way
Marlowe’s may be a teensy place but if you time your visit right, you can nab a seat in this alleyway gem. Coffees seem ridiculously good value (a macch was $2.50 at the time of writing) and staff are super friendly. Each week one of their vintage teaspoons is chosen as ‘the magic spoon’, and whoever gets that spoon with their have-in coffee receives their second coffee for free, just one more reason to take 5 and have a real coffee break and drink out of a real cup. Marlowe’s uses a custom blend by The Little Marrionette, ‘the Banksian blend’, a fitting name for a café in the financial district. There’s usually a rotating single origin on offer, as well as artisanal teas and a basic Italian-inspired menu.
Cnr Tank Stream Way And Bridge Lane, Sydney NSW 2000
0432 487 598
3. Cabrito Coffee Traders
A cosy cafe in the Circular Quay area is surprisingly hard to come by, but Cabrito, the Spanish/Portuguese word for ‘little goat’ or ‘kid’, fits the bill. The menu may be bare bones (nu-wave lamingtons, sandwiches, toast) but if you can get an inside seat in this cozy little establishment you’re in for attentive service and solid coffee. These guys are hoping to start roasting their own coffee in future (they’re in a heritage listed building) but for now its a custom-roasted 4 Rascals blend. Bonus: they’re open Saturdays, somewhat of a rarity in the Sydney CBD.
Cabrito Coffee Traders
10-14 Bulletin Place, Sydney NSW 2000
02 8065 8895
Where’s your fave sit-and-sip café?
So apparently there’s a rumour going around that I’m multiple people, I *think* this might be because if you follow me on instagram I’m all over the place lately. Fear not, chums, I am the one and only Lauren Quinn of Corridor Kitchen, I’m just *ahem* between projects right now, and that gives me ample time to drink coffee all over. In the last two months I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Newcastle and surrounds, Canberra, Bendigo/Castlemaine/Daylesford, the Great Ocean Road, and even good old Melbourne town. And I bet you wanna know my go-to for espresso magic (and no, I don’t mean that bullshit flat white concoction) in Melbourne. ‘Cause good coffee in melbs is so hard to find.
The last couple of times I was in the Melbourne CBD, I made a beeline for Naked Espresso, a cute and well known place on Little Bourke Street. These guys use naked portafilters for their espresso (hence their name) but they also tick the specialty coffee box with their selection of ‘new brew’ techniques such as aeropress and pourover.
This place is a coffee nerd’s paradise; their blackboards list the day’s brews complete with tasting notes, and they sell enough different beans, gadgets and paraphernalia to keep the caffeine-obsessed happy for yonks. The coffee menu changes often, with appearances from the likes of Market Lane, Axil Coffee Roasters and even Naked’s own house blend. On my most recent visit, there were couple of Market lane single O’s on offer for syphon/pourover/aeropress, the house blend for espresso-based coffees and an Axil single origin as their guest coffee.
I sample the market lane Juan Ticona brewed as an Aeropress, it has a lovely chocolatey flavour, mild and delicious. My companion and I also go macch-wild on the house blend – vibrant, vivid, deep and bittersweet, it is an absolute pleasure to savour. Even the aftertaste is sublime.
The menu is a simple affair. There are a a few brekky things- toast and its cousins, baked eggs, porridge and an array of jaffles. They charge 50 cents for swapping/changing ingredients, which I think is fair enough. But this place is really about the coffee. Our house of worship, we are devotees at the caffeine alter. Freshly ground beans are our processional incense. I could sit here forever.
390 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000
03 9670 3569
“To find our newest Campos Coffee espresso bar, head to the Sydney Opera House, go to the top of the stairs, and at the box office, and turn left.” So the Campos crew wrote a few days ago, and by gum I was there to check it out.
When I arrive around 4:30pm in their soft opening week, there’s not a customer in sight, but I can see they’ve been busy that day. I order my macch, take a seat and its there in a flash. It’s a true Campos macch, creamy and frothy the way I like it, and I linger over it in the mostly empty cafe.
The space is small and cave-like, but there’s not much you can do about the concrete interior of this part of the iconic Sydney landmark. Campos branding is scarce, which I find interesting; I was expecting the solid wood furniture and smattering of coffee paraphernalia of their sister stores. No matter, I enjoy my ‘Roy’s special’ as the boys call it and they let me happily snap away as they talk cafe processes and procedures in hushed tones. I think it was working in coffee shops that made me realise the extent of my process-driven pedantry.
For a brand of such success, Campos has opened precious few stores in its short lifetime; by my count this will be their fifth store. But these guys have always understood that the key to coffee is consistency: quality control = branding.
Putting a store in the Sydney Opera House makes sense from every possible angle, its too perfect. The new store started trading on September 5th from 10:00am – 6:00pm, but from next Monday (September 10th) they will be trading 8:00am to 6:00pm, 7 days a week.
Campos Coffee Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House (near the box office)
Sydney, NSW 2000
The idea of a small bar crawl has been brewing for a while, but it really came to be after a conversation with some food bloggers at a dinner I was at a few months ago. The conversation went sort of like this:
Me: “Ok, well what about a bar crawl, hashtag small bar crawl.”
Other food bloggers: “Yes/yeah/ok/great/I’m in!”
And so it was that finally, on Monday August 6th a group of 8 food bloggers and drinkers assembled to crawl the bars of York St. Below is a sampling of the bars we crawled, with a bonus bar thrown in for good measure – 5 bars in total.
Thanks to the bloggers of Sydney Feed Me, Love Swah, CookSuck, Alanabread and I Can’t Believe it’s not a Food blog, as well as the two non-blogger chums who shall not be named (unless they want to be) for making my #smallbarcrawl dreams a reality. Read on!
1. York Lane, York Lane (behind Wynyard Station)
This teensy recycled and upcycled laneway hidey-hole is such a well designed space, you wouldn’t think it, but it can fit 30 people. Even better, these guys are open Monday to Saturday from 6:00am serving coffee, breakfast, lunch and snacks all day for the nine to fivers, and share plates, boutique beers and wine by the glass at night. York Lane makes almost everything on site; case in point, when we arrive they’re whipping up tomorrow’s brownies. They even let us lick the beaters.
The highlight for me is the complete lack of attitude; friendly, attentive staff with a sense of humour to boot. The prices are more than reasonable and I enjoy my first taste of Pink Lady apple cider. We nibble on some yummy dips and muffin-shaped portions of baked polenta- everything here is cooked and assembled in their teensy milk-crate-framed kitchen. The decor is right, the mood is right, the essence of the place is right – can’t lose.
Monday to Wednesday 6:00am – 10:00pm
Thursday to Friday 6:00am – midnight
Saturday 6:00pm – midnight
2. Uncle Ming’s, LG 49 York St
Formerly a community hall for Chinese expats, Uncle Ming’s is a small bar so new you can still smell the lacquer on their mid-century armchairs. Chinese pinups adorn the walls and the space is large, warmly and dimly lit.
If you can find this place, treat yourself to a beer as a reward. Friendly staff are eager to make recommendations from their large selection of asian beers. There’s also a cocktail list and some dumplings. They opened their doors on August 7th and word is spreading fast. Hint: look for the Roman Daniels sign.
Monday –Saturday 4:00pm – Midnight
3. Stitch, 61 York Street
One of the earliest small bars in the area, Stitch is pretty small, pretty popular and can be tricky to get in to. As such it’s run like a restaurant, with table service and shared bills. Cocktails are the drink du jour and they’re renowned for their hotdogs. Everything is sewing themed, from the vintage singer sewing machines to the spools of thread and fabric patterns lining the walls.
I order a boring glass of prosecco, figuring it’ll come fast, but everything comes out at once so I have to wait like the rest of the fancy-pants cocktail crowd I’m with. The food looks good and in between bites, my chums attest that this is indeed the case.
This was my third visit to Stitch and my opinion remains unchanged. The staff are perfectly nice but not overly friendly, there is something a bit awkward about the service. Drinks take a long time and the fact that you’re seated, as in a restaurant, makes it feel sort of…not like a bar, in contrast to somewhere like Freda’s, which also has table service but feels natural and friendly.
Monday to Wednesday 4pm – 12am
Thurs – Fri 12pm til 2am
Saturday 4pm til 2am
4. Mojo Record Bar, 73 York Street
The story goes that after a day’s work, a bunch of music addicts would meet at Mojo’s and then go for a beer. Eventually a bar was built behind the record store so now they need never leave. Music is obviously a feature but it’s not so loud that you can’t hear yourself think. These guys specialise in Australian Craft Beers, with a few music-inspired, masculine cocktails thrown in for good measure, names like ‘smells like gin spirit’ and ‘lemon cohen’. They’ve been out of 4 pines Kolsch two of the three times I’ve been in, which is kind of annoying as I always prefer a tap beer to a bottle.
Mojo feels like a place where everybody should be smoking. Grab a beer, a coveted red vinyl booth, or, second prize, a bar stool and sit mesmerised by the Edison bulbs while you munch on free pork rinds. This is the bar Nick Hornby’s characters wish they were cool enough to dream up.
Monday – Friday 4:00pm – Midnight
Saturdays 6:00pm – midnight
5. The SG (formerly Spooning Goats), 32 York Street
Spooning Goats has had to change its name to The SG as it has been deemed ‘too suggestive’ by the liquor board. Fair enough, I may be missing some double entendre but I never got the name anyway – they have a massive collection of spoons, but where are the goats?
The SG is different from most other small bars in that it is visible from the street. It has a uni-sharehouse-retro-furniture vibe, but strangely bare walls. The lighting’s a bit brighter than most other basement level bars as well. They seems to do a bit of everything – cocktails, beers and wine. You can get a cheese plate or one of their famous house made pies, which I’m yet to try. It’s actually a tad uncomfortable to sit around what feels like someone’s drafty living room on a cold winter’s night, but the staff are friendly and there’s plenty of space to hang out. I feel like this place is still finding its feet.
Monday –Saturday 4:00pm – Midnight
Corridor Kitchen will continue #smallbarcrawl-ing in the months to come. Which is your fave small bar?
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
Ideally, we’d always have the time- and space- for a relaxed sit-down coffee in the morning sun. But in the fast-paced Sydney CBD where space is at a premium, it’s just not always possible. Luckily, limitations often breed great ideas and with these three teensy espresso bars, there’s definitely no need to compromise on quality. Here, in no particular order, are my picks for the three best Sydney CBD hole-in-the-wall coffee spots.
1. Joe Black X, 70 King Street
Not to be confused with Joe Black, Joe Black X is housed in a teensy alcove, squished up against the new Louise Vuitton store. There’s only one seat so it’s takeaway only, with menus scrawled on cardboard signs and delicious Little Pudding cakes peeking out of the display fridge. When I order my macch the barista has me watch him pour it and say ‘when’. Always a good sign.
Bean: Their own blend, roasted by Toby’s estate.
Food: Sandwiches, cakes and breakky treats abound. These guys are very diy, poaching chicken and making meusli and yogurt onsite.
Joe Black X
70 King Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
2. The Lab Cafe, 109 Pitt Street
The Lab is situated at the Pitt Street end of the Hunter Connection. They now have five stores in total. Their cakes and muffins are housed in bell jars with a bunch bagged up to go. My friend (not as much of a caffeine head as I) wanted something sweet so grabbed a muffin, which she said was delicious. And the staff are friendly too.
Bean: Di Lorenzo.
Price: $3 for a small, $3.60 for a large.
Food: Muffins, friands and biscuits.
The Lab Cafe
9/109 Pitt Street
Sydney, NSW 2000
0451 038 795
3. Workshop Espresso, 500 George Street
Workshop has been doing a roaring trade since it opened in 2009, and it’s easy to see why. There’s always a glut of people outside – I was there early one Thursday morning and all seats were taken, with 6 people waiting for takeaways ahead of me. But never fear, these guys are efficient, friendly and know their stuff. You can also purchase their signature blend to take home.
Bean: Workshop blend by Toby’s estate, a variety of single origins.
Price: My takeaway macch was $3
Food: Word on the street is they have great breakky and lunch selections – they use Sonoma bread, a lot of toast-based things, sambos and cakes.
Shop RG01A, 500 George Street, (The Galleries Victoria)
Sydney, NSW 200
02 9264 8836
Do you have a favourite hole-in-the-wall coffe place?
Coffee kindred spirit John over at he needs food sent me this recommendation a while back and it’s taken me this long to get to it, but this week I finally made it to York Lane, a new-ish laneway café/bar located, funnily enough, on York Lane. It’s right by Wynyard station (convenient) and was one of the recipients of the City of Sydney grants to spruce up our dingy laneways. It’s definitely done that.
Senhor R and I arrived to find York Lane littered with just the right amount of milk crates. It’s a cosy place with recycled floorboards, pops of colour in the form of red stools and milk crate shelving, menus scrawled on walls and windows with whiteboard pen and upcycled everything else. It definitely had the look, but there’s more to a good café than thoughtful, trendy aesthetics. And I don’t just mean great food or coffee.
Let me digress. Lately I’ve been thinking about what we mean by hospitality and, more to the point, what we mean by good hospitality. The hospitality industry is a strange space where you sell goods like food and drinks, but also more intangible things like experiences, ambiance and making people feel welcome. This is tricky territory to navigate; you’re selling something that’s difficult to quantify and usually comes for free, thus making transactions highly emotionally charged. I think this is why when we have negative experiences in bars or cafés, we take it so personally. On the other hand, getting it right can win you glowing praise and loyal customers for years to come.
It seems like York Lane gets it right, being on trend, yet friendly. The two guys running the place were chatty but genuine. They got a fair bit of custom, mostly takeaways, and most of them seemed to be regular customers, which is a good sign. We felt comfortable and welcome, not distracted or intimidated by the decor, music or excessive sprinkling of micro herbs. No one used the phrase ‘it’s a Melbourne thing’. Not once did someone sneer at me or feel the need to wax their moustache. The guys behind the counter even exchanged a bit of banter with us, and I for one am not much for banter with strangers.
$3.50 for a teensy coffee is a tad steep in my books, but I’m a cheapskate through and through. The coffee was good- mild, dark and fullbodied without a lingering aftertaste…a one dimensional but rich flavour. I would’ve like a tad less milk in my macch. Is this a trend now? picchiatos? Then again I didn’t say so and we ordered a second round. I will be back for sure to try their ‘tapas style’ offerings and have a few drinks.
Sydney, NSW 2000
02 9299 1676
Monday to Wednesday 6:00am – 10:00pm
Thursday to Friday 6:00am – midnight
Saturday 6:00pm – midnight
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- I quit sugar? Do I bollocks.
- Cubao Street Food, Alexandria
- The Reformatory Caffeine Lab, Surry Hills
- Brewtown Newtown
- Stay caffeinated over Christmas
- Gumption by Coffee Alchemy, Sydney CBD
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- The quest for Mex part 1 – Mexican Red Rice posted on December 17, 2010
- The quest for Mex part 2 – Feisty Chicken Burritos posted on December 21, 2010
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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.