The Reformatory Caffeine Lab, Surry Hills
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
Much has been written (and doubtless, will continue to be written) about Brewtown Newtown, a great addition to the mostly uninspired caffeine scene in the formerly (and now once again?) cutting edge, albeit somewhat crunchy suburb of Newtown. Taking over the ground floor of the lovingly restored barn-like space on O’Connel Street (formerly Berkelouw books), Simon Triggs of Gnome and Charles Cameron of Single Origin Roasters have put together a cracking cafe.
Just off the main drag seems to be the way to play it these days. Brewtown sits on O’Connell Street, which comes off King street. Having visited a handful of times now, I find the service to be very professional; staff seat you, are attentive, and are eager to tell you all about their offerings, especially when it comes to coffee. This is admirable when you consider the place has been an instant hit and is usually packed out; take a sip of your coffee at 9:59, look up at the doorway at 10:00am and it’s as if a switch has been flicked to signal that brunch has begun.
The menu at Brewtown is well crafted enough to make choosing your meal a kind of delicious annoyance, from fruit salad littered with cronut crumbs to beetroot-cured trout on toast to baked (although I’m sure in a decent dousing of fat) polenta wedges served with portobellos and poached eggs to the delicious-looking duck ravioli, and of course, the famous cronuts, it’s a tough call.
These kids sure know their way around an espresso machine. Each coffee I’ve had, be it macch or espresso (my go-tos) have been singular and impressive in flavour and I haven’t had to wait too long. With their specialty coffee pedigree, Brewtown are currently serving a custom roasted blend from Single Origin Roasters (along with selected Single Origins) but will eventually be roasting themselves.
They’re also doing the third wave thing as well but I have to say, their filters don’t really float my boat. From cold drip to their ‘only-one-in-australia steampunk mod filter brewer’, my chums and I have been pretty unimpressed. I think I’m going to need to go back and find out more about their methods, maybe take some industry peeps along for the ride. Something may be lost in translation; it just doesn’t feel like the filters I’ve had there are showing the coffee in its best light. I’m looking forward to being proved wrong.
Having said that, this is hands down my fave Sydney cafe to open up in 2013. Somewhere with space, somewhere with style, somewhere professional (neither cooler-than-thou nor slacksadasical), somewhere with a substantial, imaginative yet casual menu, and somewhere with excellent coffee. The cherry on the sundae is that my fave gelato place, Cow & Moon, will be pal-ing up with Brewtown for some upstairs-affogato-project-madness. So stay tuned.
6-8 O’Connell Street
Newtown NSW 2042
02 9519 2920
Gumption by Coffee Alchemy, Sydney CBD
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.
So thank you, Hazel and crew, for setting up shop in the CBD. Long may you serve coffee at The Strand, and coffee only.
Gumption by Coffee Alchemy
Shop 11, The Strand Arcade (412-414 George Street)
Sydney, NSW 2000
02 9232 4199
Five Ace Canberra Coffee Joints – with Barrister Barista
My not-so-secret dirty secret is that I was born in Canberra. An unlikely place for a caffeine fiend to develop a love of coffee, maybe, but as a result I’m a frequest visitor, and often asked for a list of coffee recommendations. A friend recently asked me for said list, which I’ve been meaning to write for some time now, and I decided it would better to leave you in the learned hands of my mate and resident Canberra coffee espert, Barrister Barista, a regular contributor to The Canberran. You can also catch her bite-sized reviews on twitter. Here are her 5 picks for Canberra caffeine hits.
1. Lonsdale Street Roasters (and LSR 23)
Lonsdale Street Roasters is arguably where Canberra’s “hipster coffee scene” all started – own-roasted beans, central location, wood-oven toasted paninis, milk crates for chairs, a small and loyal following growing exponentially, and coffee like nothing you’ve ever tasted before in Canberra. Now, you’ll queue patiently in peak times, have your order spelled phonetically by fresh-from-Sydney ANU students, elbow your way into bench seats, and take for granted the sheer flavour of the cup in front of you. And only on Lonsdale Street can you visit two venues of the same name – if the weather’s fine and queues are prohibitively sized, you’ll find a more outdoor-focussed LSR doing the same thing up the street across from the shiny new apartment complex.
Lonsdale Street Roasters
3/7 Lonsdale Street, Braddon ACT 2612
Lonsdale Street Roasters 23
23 Lonsdale Street, Braddon ACT 2612
2. ONA Coffee
These guys are the pros, the ones who will sell you serious equipment for making coffee at home, the peeps who run, enter and win all of the local coffee awards for roasting and barista tech. You can try ONA Coffee in two locations, both southside. The most accessible ONA Coffee is at ‘The Lawns’ in Manuka, the snooty southside suburb you may visit if you’re on government business or meeting relatives. It’s busy in there, and only order food if you’re on a leisurely time schedule. The original ONA Coffeehouse is in Fyshwick, where you may visit if your business relates to furniture, DIY or porn. Less busy, equally excellent.
ONA Coffee House
68 Wollongong Street, Fyshwick ACT 2603
ONA Coffee Manuka
Shop 4, The Lawns, Manuka ACT 2609
3. Lava Espresso
Perhaps the prettiest flat whites in Canberra, in the far from prettiest suburbs (no offence, Phillip). If your business in Canberra relates to cars or requires Westfield, take a small easy-park detour into industrial chic. Lava is a must for black coffee drinkers – the filter coffee is excellent and you’ll often be given a choice of two exotic growing locations. (FYI I normally reply Idunnowhicheverisbetter?). It’s also nice to be a in place where it’s acknowledged on the menu that ‘coffee with milk’ requires different treatment to just ‘coffee’. Bagel-based foods are also well-priced and tasty!
1/38 Townshend St, Phillip, ACT 2606 and
54 Brierly St, Weston Creek ACT 2611
4. Two Before Ten
OK, so your business in Canberra requires you to stay overnight in the soulful (ahem) ‘Civic’, and you’re looking for somewhere to grab a cheeky 8am breakfast? Two Before Ten, requiring some navigational nouse, will deliver friendly service and tasty eats at breakfast and lunchtime. Get yourself to the ‘plaza’ type space between Marcus Clarke St and Moore St, not as far East as the Melbourne Building (northwest corner of London Circuit and Northbourne Ave), take a deep breath, and look for bikes. Worth a visit, especially as the Qantas mag will soon be telling you about a groundbreaking venue called ‘A Baker’, a New Acton work in progress by the same owners.
Two Before Ten
40 Marcus Clarke St, Canberra, ACT 2601
5. Močan and Green Grout
Speaking of the Qantas mag, this esoterically named project is a must-visit for foodie and/or interior architecture geeks. It’s the Canberra cafe with a fit-out so unique you’ll take photos and tell your Sydney friends that you discovered a really interesting little cafe in Canberra: a total hole in the wall, built entirely of woodchip and origami cranes. You’ll have small breakfast dishes that are actually about the right amount of calories for breakfast, and then, because you were expecting to gorge yourself, you’ll probably order a muffin to share afterwards. Your coffee won’t be memorable but it’ll be good.
Močan and Green Grout
19 Marcus Clarke Street, Canberra, ACT 2601
Barrister Barista is a regular contributor to The Canberran. You can also catch her bite-sized reviews on twitter.
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
An Icon for an Icon – Campos comes to The Sydney Opera House
“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
We don’t often have house guests as we live in a 1 bedder, but I always enjoy it when people come to stay. Last weekend I had the pleasure of hosting little bro 1 and his wife, up from Melbourne for a few days, and since little bro 2 lives in my hood now, it’s a weekend I’m dubbing ‘Sydney Quinns’. My mum made an appearance as well, although she’s no Quinn. It’s nice to be surrounded by family, I’m always surprised by how much I miss them. Guess you never grow out of that.
The only thing requested by little bro 1 (besides a trip to the dip, which I thought was open Mondays but was very much mistaken) was a decent breakky. We decided on a Monday morning breakfast and I was thinking Bang Bang, but Le Monde was on the way and had been on my neverending to-try list for almost a year. I’m freaking out a bit now not only at the size of the list but at the number of places that close down before I get to try them. The menu looked good and I’d heard tell of excellent coffee so in we went. Cross that one of the list and add ten more…
We ordered coffee and got perusing. There’s a paper menu and a blackboard specials menu, with plenty to choose from all round. Le Monde have been serving 5 Senses coffee since 2008 and we were all impressed with the depth of flavour our various brews imparted – from my macch to bro’s strong latte to SIL’s skim latte, we couldn’t fault the coffee, and it was pretty busy too. These guys have a well-deserved rep- this coffee is much more than solid – well-rounded flavour, smooth texture, perfect temperature- it wasn’t a cup of coffee your taste buds needed to consider. The flavour just makes sense to your mouth.
There’s a little bench with magazines and bar stools if you’re waiting for a takeaway or a table, and although it’s dimly lit, it’s cleverly lit, resulting in the kind of lazy afternoon light (at 10:00am?) where you can see the little dust particles flit through the air and every meal and drink miraculously becomes photogenic. It’s all warm, dark wood and sophisticated touches, classic rather than trendy or kitch- you can tell this place has been here a while (in Sydney/Surry Hills café time) and will continue to do so.
Little bro gets the bacon an egg sambo, which is generous, and SIL goes for the english muffin with basil scrambled eggs and adds spinach. I go all out and grab the haloumi and zucchini fritters, which are gorgeously soft but not undercooked, with a slightly overdone poached egg, rocket and avocado salsa. Everything is tasty and no one leaves feeling like they can’t face the walk into the city for fear of tripping over their full stomach. But its the coffee that’s really the star here.
Le Monde Café
83 Foveaux Street
Surry Hills NSW 2012
02 9211 3568
Monday to Friday 6:30am – 4pm
Saturday 7:30am – 2pm
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
3 great hole-in-the-wall CBD Cafes
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?
About meSharing easy recipes, hunting down the best coffee. Honest accounts, nothing too serious. Read more...
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- Cubao Street Food, Alexandria
- The Reformatory Caffeine Lab, Surry Hills
- Brewtown Newtown
- Stay caffeinated over Christmas
- Gumption by Coffee Alchemy, Sydney CBD
Popular posts this month…
- The quest for Mex part 1 – Mexican Red Rice posted on December 17, 2010
- Cubao Street Food, Alexandria posted on May 26, 2014
- The quest for Mex part 2 – Feisty Chicken Burritos posted on December 21, 2010
- Café review – Flint and Steel (Coffee Alchemy), Marrickville posted on March 1, 2011
- The Reformatory Caffeine Lab, Surry Hills posted on February 14, 2014
- Kosher Whole Orange Cake posted on July 5, 2011
- Sparkling Long Black posted on May 10, 2011
- Gumption by Coffee Alchemy, Sydney CBD posted on December 13, 2013
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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.