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?
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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