The suburb of Newtown, New Zealand is not far from the thriving city of Wellington; the two are so close it’s like clasped hands and intertwined fingers, with Adelaide Road stretching out towards the Basin Reserve and taking you all the way into Newtown proper. It’s a half hour walk between the two, give or take, or a very short bus ride. Whether you find yourself in Newtown by chance or choice, if you’re after excellent coffee, you are in luck.
Black Coffee on Riddiford Street is here to wake up this sometimes sleepy little town. This small space with wooden floors and bright white walls brings a charming mix of sleekly-minimalist and grungily-scruffy, with an ethos that encompasses a lot more than simply caffeinating the locals—crucial though that is.
Jon Dimery, who started Black Coffee around a year ago, wanted a space where music, art, arcade games, and coffee could be found; the sort of place where your friends could hang out for ages while you simultaneously build up a stream of regulars, after a takeaway coffee on their work break perhaps, or camping with laptops and their own social circle. Dimery, having embarked on some world travel, has since handed the business over to a friend, Carmel Levy, who has kept the place running exactly the same as it started. It’s an ideal place to just sit and watch the world go by, but there are also steady regulars—especially with Wellington’s hospital and medical center nearby—who absolutely make the place, according to Levy.
A monthly rotating lineup of art is on display across the walls, providing a space for local artists to exhibit work, such as Pinky Fang and Grimoire who held an event here for their joint showcase, or the Soul Photography project The Beat Goes On, which features photos of NZ musicians in their element on stage. There is vinyl for sale across the back wall and classic arcade games to lose yourself in (two massive pinball games and Street Fighter, currently). However, if you simply want to read a book or do some quiet work, it caters to you too, with wide black tables and a deliciously squashy couch by the window and—important!—free Wi-Fi. Toasted sandwiches are available with the fillings changing often, from the most old-school comfort of spaghetti and cheese to the more elegant combination of spiced pork, smoked cheddar and tomato.
Havana Coffee is served here; Dimery worked for years at Deluxe, one of the cafes in Wellington affiliated with this roastery, and had their support from the start. Black Coffee is the only cafe in Newtown serving Havana, and they go through bags and bags of the beans daily. You might as well order the drink that the place is named for, especially since a long black—a double shot of espresso made “long” by topping it up with hot water—is perfectly executed, dark and smooth and blanketed in a rich, thick, caramel-tinted crema.
As well as boosting up artists and musicians, Black Coffee also supports and is supported by other businesses in Newtown. The vinyl is supplied by Death Ray Records around the corner—records that are available exclusively at Black Coffee, showing just how real the relationships are between the two places. Moon, a nearby bar and music venue, provides pizza for their customers on Saturdays, and all the food and beverages sold are as local as possible. They serve the Bootleggers range of organic sodas, which Levy herself helped a friend brew. Even the milk they use is local, from a dairy just a few towns over in Lower Hutt.
This collective vibe reflects the nature of Newtown, which is compact and full of family-run businesses. There’s a whole world of art and soul, coffee and photography, and potentially endless pinball to be found within these walls.
This is Laura Vincent’s first feature for Sprudge.