Occasionally, living in Melbourne, I get the chance to travel to Sydney for a mini-jaunt. My schedule only allows two days here or there, so every time I go it’s a bit of a flying visit, trying to see all of the things/places/people in this amazing city in a short period of time.
In these short bursts of time in Sydney, I’ve come to really enjoy the city and all it has to offer, and many a café and bar has found a place in my heart. Sydney is a truly cosmopolitan city with a rich and diverse coffee scene, so trying to capture the totality of the city's coffee zeitgeist is an all but impossible task. Instead, I've put together a list of places that really standout for me personally – the places I always find myself squeezing in time for, no matter how short my stay.
Take this list as a starting point for your own adventure, and be sure to ask your friendly baristas and bartenders for their own recommendations!
Reuben Hills – 61 Albion St, Surry Hills
Located a short, uphill walk from Central Station into the suburb of Surry Hills, Reuben Hills is a gem. It’s a multifaceted, long space that spans a whole block, with store frontage on Albion St and a garage door at the back opening onto the laneway of Albion Way. Owned by Russell Beard (former owner of the coffee bar The Source in Mosman), Reuben Hills is beautifully designed with striking fluorescent light fixtures and some pretty epic metalwork. I'm particularly fond of the curved steel framing the cut-out view onto the second level, where all of the in-house roasting and quality control takes place.
Food is a delicious mix of coffee origin-inspired dishes (baleadas from Honduras, empanadas from Colombia) and ‘dude food’ (fried chicken). Coffee is of course the key attraction here, with a range of delicious filter and espresso beverages on offer. It’s a lovely place to go, eat some great food, drink some tasty coffee, and take in the sights and sounds of Surry Hills.
Salvage Specialty Coffee – 5 Wilkes Ave, Artarmon
Located on the lower North Shore of Sydney, in a humble suburb called Artarmon, lies a tiny hub of activity called Salvage Specialty Coffee. Opened by three lovely coffee fellows named Dan Yee, Matt Goto, and Toby Cutler earlier this year, Salvage has quickly made a name for itself in Sydney’s specialty coffee scene.
Serving coffee from the ever-popular Mecca Espresso as espresso and batch brew, as well as some killer food out of a tiny kitchen, this is definitely where you want to spend your Saturday morning.
Sensory Lab – 75-79 Hall St, Bondi
This newest member of the St. Ali family, headed by prolific Australian coffee do-gooder Emily Oak, has set up shop on the colourful stretch of Hall St in Bondi. It’s a simple and beautiful space, utilising dark, muted tones along with splashes of brilliant copper. They serve espresso through their brand-spanking new La Marzocco Linea PB— and they’ll also fire up the Mahlkönig Ek43 grinder and make you their increasingly famous “coffee shot” creation through a one-group La Marzocco GS3. One of the best parts of this shop: you can follow your coffee time up with some Messina gelato (just a few doors down) and a relaxed walk down to the famous Bondi beach.
Paramount Coffee Project – 80 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills
The brainchild of Russell Beard and Mark Dundon (of Seven Seeds in Melbourne), Paramount is a new establishment that’s found its home in the foyer of the beautiful old Art Deco Paramount Pictures building on Commonwealth street in Surry Hills. Paramount is home to a range of delicious food, drink, and exciting coffee-related projects, including the occasional addition of international coffee folk behind the bar! Most recently it was Klaus Thomsen and Peter DuPont of The Coffee Collective in Denmark, and in March there’ll be Kyle Glanville & Charles Babinski of Los Angeles’ G&B Coffee and Go Get Em Tiger.
You can read more about Paramount, and their hosting of international guests, in my in-depth article here. But rest assured, even when there aren’t international visitors running it, you’re in good hands at PCP.
Coffee Alchemy – 24 Addison Rd, Marrickville
Coffee Alchemy is a bit of a special spot, hidden away on an unassuming street corner in Marrickville. Owned by Hazel de Los Reyes and Clare Lim, Alchemy initially started out as a wholesale coffee roasting operation, until Los Reyes and Lim decided to open up the space for retail operations to share all of their delicious beverages with a wider audience.
Coffee is the only game here, with offerings ranging from simple espressos all the way to epic sparkling filter coffees. All roasting is done on site, and their retail offering is unique in that you’ll often find coffees you may not stumble across in other specialty venues.
(Also check out Gumption, their brand new city store located in the beautiful Strand Arcade in Sydney’s Central Business District).
Mecca Espresso – Multiple Locations
A longstanding player in the Sydney specialty coffee scene, Mecca has cafe locations in Circular Quay, King Street (in the city), and Ultimo. All of their coffee roasting happens at the Mecca Roastworks in Alexandria. Owner Paul Geshos is most often found overseas, catching up with longtime coffee producing partners, as well as finding new and delicious coffees to bring back home.
Brewtown Newtown – 6-8 O’Connell St, Newtown
Opened at the start of December, Brewtown has already become a strong favourite amongst the coffee and food-loving crowd, with a range of brew methods, as well as delicious food and an upstairs retail section offering tasty baked treats. This is a lovely addition to the thriving and eclectic suburb of Newtown, and a sign of good things to come for Sydney’s coffee scene.
Once you’ve had your fill of coffee, Sydney has much to offer in the way of food, drinks, and entertainment. For breakfast, Cornersmith offers one of the best in town; for sweets, you can’t go wrong with Bourke St Bakery and Messina Gelato; for dinner, you have to get the ribs and cocktails in bubble tea cups at Miss G’s.
When you’re ready to get your drink on, Sydney is also home to some spectacular cocktail and whisk(e)y bars, such as Palmer & Co, Bulletin Place, Shady Pines Saloon, Baxter Inn, and Eau De Vie (to mention a few). Then, once you’ve over-indulged adequately, take a wander down to Circular Quay and go to the Museum of Contemporary Art, and once you’re over-cultured, go stare at the dugongs at the Sydney Aquarium (seriously, such a good aquarium).
Eileen P. Kenny (@EileenPK) is a staff writer for Sprudge.com, based in Melbourne. She is the publisher of Birds of Unusual Vitality, specialty coffee’s premiere interview web magazine. Read more Eileen P. Kenny here.