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
I must admit to being super jealous of the worker bees who dwell up York Street way. It’s a coffee bonanza in that part of town, and even though I’m not far away, crossing those few major roads seems to take forever for a quick coffee break. No doubt a smart Lau would grab a leisurely coffee on her way to work. She should also desist from talking about herself in the third person. So that’s what I did sometime last week when my honey and I headed to Double Barrel for a cheeky coffee.
Double Barrel Coffee is between York St and York Lane (the lane, not the small bar of the same name), not even a full block south of Wynyard train station, near the newly-opened Palomino Espresso you’ve all heard so much about.
It’s cute, it’s popular, it’s on trend, it’s everything you kinda get annoyed by and yet are inexplicably drawn to. They’ve got rueben and a pulled pork sandwiches, tasty little bakery treats on offer and they use Melbourne’s 7 Seeds coffee.
Trucking coffee from Melbourne to Sydney makes zero sense to me, but my picture-perfect macch and my sweetheart’s picollo make all the sens in the world. I slather some sourdough with jam for a breakfast I am quite reluctant to describe as old school – I prefer to call it ‘toast with jam’.
I’m happy with the coffee, the toast, the service, the aesthetic (don’t act like it doesn’t matter) and the fact that we’re the only ones not getting takeaways (because we’re such rebels – 8:30am and we ain’t even thinking about rushing off to work). I’d be likely to return if York Street and surrounds weren’t so packed with ace little coffee joints just begging for me to taste their wares. But it is, no doubt I’ll be blogging them soon.
Double Barrel Coffee
33 York Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Monday – Friday
6:30 am – 5:00pm
A recommendation from a friend is always handy to have, but sometimes a recommendation from a stranger is even better. Since I started Corridor Kitchen I’ve had so many great suggestions from friends, co-bloggers and readers as to where to find great coffee and food, I can’t keep up! My urbanspoon wishlist currently totals 197 to-try places! But keep ‘em coming, I say.
Kaye emailed me a while ago and suggested I check out PS Cafe in Dulwich Hill. It’s right by the train station, which is always a good thing for a non-driver like myself, but my sweet Signor R chauffeured me nonetheless. It’s an unassuming little corner place, like many in the inner west, part of a clump of local shops near a train station. A bit like Paper Cup in Stanmore or Cornersmith in Marrickville.
We arrive bright and early one Saturday morning at this cute little corner cafe with equally cute staff, who take our coffee order while we wait for the other half of our party. If a bicycle on the wall signals a coffee mecca, Senhor R muses, this place must do pretty good coffee- there’s vintage scooter parked inside! It’s secondhand furniture wall-to-wall (pro tip – cheaper in Dulwich than Surry Hills) and quirky knick knacks abound. It’s a little chilly with the doors left open, but there you go.
A glance at the menu reveals the usual breakky and lunch fare, but with a greek twist, loukanikos (Greek pork sausages), vanilla submarines and haloumi being examples. I hear almost everything is made in house, from the cakes to the jams and sauces to the sausages. Impressive.
Our chums arrive and we get ordering. Today’s house-made chipolatas are described as ‘quite spicy’, so that gets ordered, along with a bacon and egg roll with aioli and various combos of eggs, toast and sides, including the kumera and basil hash, which is more like mashed kumera which is then pan fried, but who’s complaining?
What I like about the breakfast is they’ve set it up very design-your-own – the guts of the breakky menu is free range eggs with your choice of toast (sourdough, soy and linseed or rye) and then there are 12 different sides to choose from. It’s all very reasonably priced. None of the food blows anyone’s mind, but the servings are generous and the service is good.
Man, this place is strong on coffee. It is strong a dark-tasting, but not overwhelming- it feels like the flavour coats your whole tongue. I’d describe the flavour as very solid and cohesive, if that makes sense – there are layers, but they are tightly grouped. I like it so much I order a second macch. Caffé deluca, who would’ve thunk?
245 Wardell Road
Dulwich Hill NSW 2203
0403 412 860
Open 7 Days for breakfast and lunch
Now it’s May, I think I’m safe to tell you what you already know – what’s hot in food from where I sit – smack bang in the middle of inner-city Sydney. There are zero surprises and as many predictions. Read on to find out what’s hot right now.
From brewing your own beer and cider to from-scratch sourdough to a beehive on the roof, to pickling, canning and preserving, diy (do it yourself) and dit (do it together) food sprung up post-GFC as part of a wider trend including knitting, gardening and squeezing all your soap remnants into one big ball (ok, maybe not so much).
It’s now cool to act like a Granny and no one will laugh at you for growing your own kale. It’s kinda like how we used to take the piss out of people who ate squid, or garlic, or other ‘weird’ foods in the 70s and 80s, and now you can’t walk into a pub without someone shoving a plate of calamari and aioli in your face. We’re all guerilla gardeners and apprentice artisan bakers these days, but even so, this trend has spawned a whole market of people who would quite like to pickle their own cumquats, but simply haven’t the time. This is why ‘homestyle cooking’ is everywhere in cafes right now. Call me crazy, but if I want ‘homestyle food’, I’ll go to…my house?
2. Every kind of non-espresso coffee (except instant)
Cold drip, siphon/syphon, filter/pourover, french press, stovetop – we’re still loving our fresh ground beans, but espresso just doesn’t have the novelty these other methods do. Add to this the fact that an espresso machine is a pretty pricey (and huge) piece of gear, and low-tech gadgetry becomes a lot more attractive.
People are tasting coffees the way they once tasted wines, and the less milk and sugar the better. It’s fashionable to want to taste the coffee all by its lonesome (well, with water) and all else is considered additive – sugar, milk, cut that shit out right now. We’re all about purity, simplicity
Right now it is suddenly *so important* where your food comes from. Locavore is the organic of 5 years ago, with people growing truss tomatoes on their teensy apartment balconies. We hate Colesworths ‘cause of the pressure they put on food prices, farmers and the waste that results when less-than-picturesque produce is rejected (and yet Aldi is apparently fine?) so we’re jumping on the Farmer’s Market bandwagon like there’s no tomorrow. Which is fair enough, as food security is one of the single biggest issues we face; there may *be* no tomorrow if we don’t sort this shit the fuck *out*. Oh, and heirloom tomatoes. We like those.
4. cocktails and other concoctions
From the old fashioned to the walrus slime parfait (yes, I made that up), cocktails are hot, and the bars that serve them even more so. Signature drinks, mixologists, ‘freestyle’ bars with no menus- it’s all happening. Ok, so a Caipirinha will set you back 16 rather than 6 dollars, but it’s worth it to pretend you’re in Brasil, or Cuba, or an episode of Mad Men, or a Marylin Monroe film or… a really expensive bar. Wake up and smell the spiced rum.
5. ‘Americana’ is still going strong
Anywhere that does a half decent take on South American, Central American, Mexican, southern US or just plain junk food is the place to be seen instagramming on your iphone right now. Hotdogs and Ice cream sandwiches are everywhere, tacos are the word du jour, Brasilian, Peruvian and Argentinean food is more and more common. You can get Chicken and waffles at the Jazz City Diner and burger joints are still going strong. Food bloggers are baking up American candy-flavoured-treats like there’s no tomorrow. Dive bar food and deep fried everything is well and truly on the menu – from The Dip’s Deep fried birthday cake to The Norfolk’s deep fried pickles to the Abercrombie’s deep fried pizza, pubs and bars are dishing up what everyone in the rest of the world thinks Americans eat.
Anyway…you tell me. What’s hot right now in your books? And where can we get it?
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
Taste of Sydney is held each year in Centennial Park, and until this year I’d never been. This for two reasons; firstly, you have to buy a ticket to attend (and then pay to be fed) and two I figured fancy restaurants are a bit out of my league. Oh yeah, and crowns. 1 crown = 1 dollar, that is bullshit. But this year all that changed as friends offered Senhor R and I free tickets to come along with them. Huzzah!
It was a picturesque scene as we made our way through Centennial Park (the long, slightly muddy way).
Our silhouettes would be a little wider when the night drew to a close.
Although it was quite muddy, the lights made things feel festive.
Hipsters be chillin’…
Gorgeously crispy Fried Hawkesbury School Prawns from Quarter 21.
Posicles are all the rage these days – the Fresh Pops cart.
Quarter 21 again with Slow Cooked and Caremelised Short Rib. Divine.
Pat & Stick’s Cramel Pecan Ice Cream Sanwich – I couldn’t finish it by myself!
The black label juice bar/cocktail/popup/thingummy. Weird.
Kopperburg cider. Kicks Rekorderlig’s Arse. No contest.
McLaren Vale Ale. I’m a fan.
Charlie & Co teensy Burger. It’s the first time I’d tried Charlie & Co. it was fine, overpriced though.
The Suckling Pig at Four in Hand was less than crispy.
The Beach Bar- best value (anything) in the place.
A delectable mojito. 8 bucks/crowns! We were in this weird parallel universe where cocktails are cheaper than wine. Or food. I think it’s called Brasil.
Waiting for pasta at A Tavola. A delicious 3 kinds of meat ragu, to be precise.
It’s really time to go now. But what about our leftover crowns?
Back to Quarter 21 for dessert – Hokey Pokey Ice cream Sandwich.
A lot of people I spoke to said they were less impressed with this year’s line-up than they were in previous years. They stopped serving booze at 9:30pm, and so many people found themselves with a pocketful of crowns and not much to spend them on. On leaving the park, it was pitch black, verging on dangerous as we scrambled for ANZAC parade. But overall it was a fun, if expensive night. I’d go again. With free tix (hint hint).
When I say coffee, I mean espresso. So it’s easy to forget that there’s more than one way to brew a bean. Luckily, the Black Coffee Pop-up is in Sydney this week showing off the ins and outs of non-espresso coffee methods, brewing pour-over, siphon and the aero-press coffees from 19-22 April at Outré Gallery in Surry Hills.
Black Coffee is exactly what it sounds like. The brainchild of Seven Seeds barista Mark W Free (the one in the hat), Black Coffee has appeared at Somewhere Store Gallery in Melbourne and serves nothing but black coffee – no milk, no sugar, no espresso, and, according to their website, ‘no bullshit’.
The focus on the coffee part of coffee makes sense to me. And I have to admit it’s nice to savour more than a thimblefull and really drink in that aroma. We tried the Market Lane Boa Vista from Brazil (pourover), its heady aroma of roasting chestnuts drawing us in. The taste is far mellower than the smell, far from the concentrated hit I’m used to, but it grows on you.
Recently there’s been a growing trend towards coffee geekery and gadgetry (in fact, towards geekery and gadgetry in general), but also a renewed interest in no-fuss food and drink. The time is right for something like the ‘pay what you you feel’ Black Coffee pop up, proving that anyone can make coffee, you don’t need a fuck off espresso machine, a commercial grinder or a crash course in barista basics.
It’s a good time to be a caffeine addict, however you take your coffee.
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?
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
Weekends 7:00am – 3:00pm
The early Sydney small bars were ultra-trendy, with high price tags on drinks. I won’t name names, but their simple formula left me cold – fancy cocktails + retro furniture + no windows + overpriced bear and wine + overcrowding + nowhere to sit = not a great night out. How, I wondered, could anyone afford to go to these places and have more than one drink? Thus I became a smallbar cynic. I wouldn’t have, for lack of a better pun, a bar of them. Until Freda’s.
Freda’s isn’t small, it’s large. But it doesn’t feel large because it employs this revolutionary idea I like to call hospitality. That’s what happens when the staff can be bothered to say hello. It’s where there are chairs to sit on and music that ranges from a hum to upbeat background noise – on Saturday night, you’re just short of shouting but you probably won’t notice. It’s where the food comes out quickly and the bread comes with it, where you can order at the bar or have table service, your choice. It’s where every person that serves you treats you like a person, not a nuisance at the end of a woolworth’s deli-style queue, and you treat them like a person right back.
How to get there
Freda’s is on Regent street, just north of Cleveland. Look out for a giant red tongue of the PR agency nearby. It’s is in an alleyway, right by the dance studio, opposite the servo where all the taxis refuel. You know the place.
When you walk into Freda’s, most likely someone will greet you. If it’s early, maybe several people will. It’s an exposed brick warehouse that has been sympathetically restored, with a pared-back aesthetic, bare light bulbs, a daily blackboard menu and wooden finishes.
I recommend Happy Hour if you’re skint. They always have a $5 beer and a $5 wine and some crazy oyster deal. Around 5pm they put up their shareplate menu, it’s mostly cold stuff, things that are pickled and braised and delicious. Everything seems to come with free bread and go well with drinking. The food menu changes daily and they are renowned for their pickled octopus- sounds weird but delicious. I’ve tried their eggplant and tahini (amazing), and one weekend I think we tried everything on the menu except the sujuk, beetroot yogurt and the oysters. Everything was smashing – vinegary, charred, complex, textural. The wine list is impressive as well, and of course there are cocktails. Also, they serve lunch sandwiches. And lunch coffee.
Freda’s has its finger on the pulse, but the pulse of someone who’s just had a leisurely latte and a pumpkin scone rather than a $20 glass of champagne and a handful of speed. And it shows. It’s about to be blogged to death and recently received a favourable review in the SMH. It’s the kind of place that’s impossible not to like, like that kid in high school who was unrealistically good looking, got good marks, was great at sport and, to top it all off, nice as pie. But cooler. And with pickled octopus on the menu.
109 Cleveland Street
Chippendale, NSW, 2008
(02) 8971 7336
Monday-Friday 11:00am – Midnight
Saturday 4:00pm – Midnight
- Aerpress means no more shit #travelcoffee and #workcoffee
- Why I write and four ace bloggers who do it better
- The five best things I ate in London
- Shoreditch is awesome, airports are not
- 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
Popular posts this month…
- Amaretti – The no-fuss treat posted on November 18, 2010
- 5 tips for perfect espresso posted on November 23, 2010
- Rich Portuguese Custard posted on November 29, 2010
- Desert Island Potatos posted on December 3, 2010
- Sri Lankan Spinach with Coconut posted on December 10, 2010
- Mousse Chocolate and other peoples’ families posted on December 15, 2010
- 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
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 Australia License.
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.