Posts Tagged ‘Sydney cafes’

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Cafe E61


Another, slightly lower-profile option in Crows Nest, is Cafe E61, up Willoughby Road and just around the corner from Wrapido.

The Faema E61 was the name of a famous and ground-breaking commercial espresso machine, launched [not co-incidentally] in 1961. Therefore, we would expect a large part of its focus to be its coffee and using Toby’s Estate, on the coffee front,  Cafe E61 did not disappoint.

However, it’s also an interesting Crows Nest option on the food front. Because it’s small and fairly narrow, it wouldn’t be a suitable option for work lunches or large groups, however although simple, the food was good and extremely good value.

Menu items consisted mainly of sandwiches, such as Panfried pancetta, fetta, tomato and rocket [$7]; Rare roast beef, horseradish, beetroot, tomato, swiss cheese and lettuce [$7.70]; Brown rice & lentil pattie, avocado, plum sauce and lettuce [$6.20], and the Thai tuna pattie, with avocado, sweet chilli, tomato and lettuce [$7.20]. E61 also serves a range of breakfast items – I tried the Pesto Scrambled Eggs, which were delicious. They also have wraps, and a selection of cakes and slices, which were all home-made and were excellent.

A low-key alternative to some of the flashier cafes down Willoughby Road, E61 comes highly recommended, especially for the coffee!

20 Burlington Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Phone: (02) 9966 9906

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009


Wrapped_tiny(3)For a suburb with a plethora of great restaurants, it can be surprisingly hard to find a good coffee in Crows Nest. The cafes that are there tend to serve the surrounding business community from Crows Nest up to St Leonards, and are mainly lunch-based operations.

One option that looks the part is Wrapido, and in fact the coffee [depending on who is the barista at the time] isn’t bad at all.

They have a great selection of food, including delicious freshly-baked muffins, along with the usual cakes and brownies. However, what is a little surprising about Wrapido, given the name, is their wraps!

The options seem fantastic at first glance: Taj – chargrilled tandoori chicken, mango chutney, cucumber and yoghurt raita on aromatic rice, all wrapped in a tomato tortilla; Thai Spice – marinated spicy prime beef served rare with grilled eggplant and a fresh herb, cucumber and green leaf salad in a soy chilli & kaffir lime leaf dressing, wrapped in a red salsa tortilla, and Veggie Roast – char grilled mediterranean vegetables in a balsalmic vinaigrette topped with humus and leafy greens on a bed of couscous, wrapped in a pesto tortilla…

At $8.80 that’s good value and the selection seems mouth-watering, almost too good to be true. And this is the problem – at least in our [several] experiences, it was too good to be true. The wraps were overstuffed with rice and not enough of the fillings advertised. Not only that, but several that we tried were soggy.

On the plus side, the actual cafe space is extremely convivial, combining modernity with a comfortable buzz and the selection of coffees is excellent, creating a great ambience – definitely a place to hang out; if only they could do something about those wraps!

55 Willougby Rd
Crows Nest NSW 2065
(02) 9438 4946

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Baffi and Mo

bafimo_08_smallIn contrast, there was nothing prissy or ‘precious’ about Baffi & Mo in Redfern St [see previous review]. Baffi & Mo is a great new spot, Right in the heart of Redfern. It’s an interesting blend between ‘comfy’ and stylish, but it pulls it off brilliantly. The room is dominated by one large communal table along with several tables and a leather sofa with a view of all the comings and goings on Redfern Street.  It features a bright and clean open kitchen, which while we were there was a picture of bustling efficiency.

While the breakfast options are not huge, they are certainly generous. They offer an excellent muesli with fruit & yoghurt, scambled eggs with a range of extras, and a variety of other breakfast and all-day options, including wraps and sandwiches. We tried the Scrambled Eggs with Chorizo,  which was delicious. The coffee was excellent – perhaps not surprising since Lou [one of the cafe co-owners used to be a barista trainer for Lavazza!

All-in-all, an excellent cafe experience, one where you don’t have to sacrifice on ambience and quality, even though it’s not located in what is seen as a traditional ‘cafe belt’. And, from what we could tell, certainly one that is appreciated by the locals. Highly recommended.

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Side Plate

planted-4_tinyThis tiny spot on newly gentrified Bourke Street is an offshoot of a catering outfit called ‘The Plated Group’. It promised great things, having been launched with appropriate fanfare to the foodie cognoscenti in inner-city Sydney a couple of months ago, and has developed quite a following amongst locals since then.

Given its ‘foodie’ credentials we went there expecting great things, and were surprised to find that the food options were quite limited. The menu was fairly brief, offering the basics but not much more. Items included Homemade Muesli [$9.50], Toasted Banana Bread [$4.50], Fruit Toast and Ricotta [$6.50], Scrambled Eggs [$8.50] and a range of toasted sandwiches.

The scrambled eggs were nicely cooked, but the surprise was that pretty much everything you order apart from the eggs themselves are counted as an ‘extra’. I had mushrooms and smoked salmon with toast, so my dish quickly went from $8.50 to $14. The meal itself was OK, but nothing special – certainly adequate, but nothing more.

Again promising great things was the shiny Syncra Cynesso three group espresso machine on the stainless steel bench – an attraction for coffee purists ‘in the know’. However once again Side Plate disappointed, my flat white having a slightly ‘burnt’ character. The Cynesso is a beautiful machine, allowing custom espresso settings, but definitely needs to be perfectly tuned to turn out the perfect shot!

Service was pleasant enough – although to this reviewer’s mind, it just seemed a little fussy – perhaps the result of the close quarter contact, due to Side Plate’s rather intimate size. One slightly annoying detail – they don’t have a toilet for customers – in this day-and-age, you would not be wrong for considering that pretty much a ‘given’ for any cafe.

Overall the deal at Side Plate seemed to be one which over-promises and under-delivers; in these recessionary times, it’s also a little pricey for what you get. [AF]

664 Bourke St

Redfern East, NSW 2016

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Velluto Nero

Velluto Nero interior

In spite of the fact that Velluto Nero struck gold with the Sydney Morning Herald Good Living crowd [April 08], we found it surprisingly empty when our reviewers first visited late last year.

First, the coffee. Our flat white came with a nice rosetta, but lacked body or any special character; hopefully the espresso would be better. It wasn’t, but luckily when we review a cafe we take it so seriously we go several times, and our reviewer’s piccolo latte on the third visit was quite good – maybe it was a different barista! However, from a coffee perspective it’s got nothing on Mecca, just around the corner.

Velluto Nero serve a range of sandwiches and other simple lunch items, but the menu was of surprisingly lacklustre quality, considering they pose as a potential lunch option for busy city workers. In fact, the Roasted Vegetable Focaccia I had was probably the worst ever – it was so tasteless, it could have won a blandness award in a Monty Python skit.

They have a roaster in the front, as if to emphasise their roasting credentials and proudly showcase their ‘coffee awards’. In fact, they’re great on the self-promotion, but there has to be a reason this place is not buzzing. The 1978 Brunello Rondi film of the same name got a 4.6 out of 10 in a film buff site we visited and in this reviewer’s mind, we would find it hard to rate the cafe much higher.

Velluto Nero
259 Clarence St, City

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

The Source (Sydney)

Open for a year, the Source is one of the new breed of cafés that’s probably best described as an espresso bar. By that I mean that although they serve food [& in fact the food is very good] – their primary reason for being, is the coffee. When you walk in to this Mosman-located café, everything screams a love of coffee – from the Synesso machine on the bench to the Renegade roaster taking pride of place on the floor. It’s a great spot with a great vibe, but most importantly [for us anyway!] they make great coffee.

And not just great espresso – although that was fantastic – but go prepared to expand your horizons. They are coffee aficionados, and as such, are only too happy for you to experience the latest single origin coffees that they are bringing into the country themselves. We tried the Kenya Masai – served pour-over style through the Swiss gold filter – and it was delicious: full of flavour yet uniquely delicate! Although barista purists – they are currently setting up a barista exchange with Brother Baba Budan [the café we judged Melbourne's best café 2008] – they are definitely not elitist – the Source buzzes with a friendly, vibrant atmosphere.

Whether you’re just beginning on the espresso road and want to ask some questions of knowledgeable staff, or just want a great coffee, this is definitely a place that should be high on your list!

Reviewed Nov ’08 [AF]

The Source Espresso Bar
6/914 Military Road
Mosman  NSW  2088
Tel: (02) 9969 1368

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

Grind Espresso Bar (Sydney)

An oasis of relaxation in the otherwise plastic & kebab shopping precinct of Cronulla – Grind features the sort of cosy, grungy atmosphere that you would expect to find in Newtown’s King St. Its walls are lined with all sorts of knick-knacks, photos and reviews – most of them good! And there’s a reason for that. Richard Calabro and his team churn out the sort of coffees that you could almost drive down to Cronulla especially for – if only it wasn’t for the awful drive that starts at Tempe and continues through the appropriately named Tom Ugly’s bridge.

Let’s cut to the chase – they don’t do food but that’s not why you come to Grind. It’s an espresso bar and, yes, it’s all about the coffee.

And what great coffee it is too – it certainly holds its own with any of its more citified Sydney compatriots – smooth, bold and with an excellent crema – these guys do it right. If you’re down that way, make sure you make a visit; for the true espresso aficionado, this one’s definitely worth the 45 minute drive!

Reviewed Oct ’08 [AF]

Grind Espresso Bar
6 Surf Road
Cronulla NSW  2230
Tel: (02) 9568 5535

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

Cordial (Sydney)

Cordial occupies a rather prosaic space in a modern block on the suburban side of Newtown’s ubiquitous King Street. Whilst some might say it doesn’t possess a great deal of café ‘character’, the outlook through the dappled light of the surrounding trees, and the outdoor seating area is very pleasant.

The menu is simple, offering typical café breakfast staples, like Eggs Benedict [$11], Corn Fritters [$12.50] and Pancakes [$12.50] and a good range of sandwiches – Chicken [$7.50], Tuna & Avocado [$11.00] – salads [such as the Moroccan Chicken for [$11.00]. But what impressed most was the quality of the meals – Lib had the Corn Fritters [$12.50] and I had the Cordial Special Burger with chicken breast, eggplant, sweet potato and basil mayonnaise [$13.00], and both were cooked very well.

Service was impeccable – friendly and efficient, and the Golden Cobra coffee was perfectly made. This is an excellent café; while not fancy, the space it inhabits is light and open, and the food, coffee and service put many fancier joints to shame.

Reviewed Sept ’08 [AF]

Shop 8, 130 Carillon Avenue
Newtown NSW 2042
Tel: (02) 9557 6066

Sunday, September 21st, 2008

Sappho Cafe (Sydney)

The choice of name for ‘Sappho’ Cafe [historically, a woman poet from the island of Lesbos] is an apt one, as Sappho is at the rear of the bookshop of the same name, on busy Glebe Point Road, in Sydney’s inner west.It’s a lovely space – part indoor and part outdoor – the sort of space that makes you draw a deep breath, and look forward to a relaxed meal or coffee. I arrived at lunchtime, and whether this was the reason, I’m not sure, but the lackadaisical service tempered that sense of tranquility.

The menu looked great – toasted panini in various varieties [$8 - $10] and salads such as Seasoned sweet potato with feta cheese and walnuts [$11] and Free range chicken, marinated & grilled with semi-dried tomatoes [$13]. I ordered the Marinated vegetable panini, and was disappointed – it had a dry, pre-packaged quality – not what I was expecting from first impressions. Moving on, I tried a Belgian chocolate brownie [$4.50]. Again, I was sorely disappointed – instead of a high-quality chocolate experience, it had a dry, bland flavour; in fact the main taste characteristic was of flour, rather than chocolate.

The coffee to finish was Toby’s Estate, and was well-rounded and pleasant. However, overall, I was not overly impressed with the menu, and the service was not up to standard. The thing I would rate Sappho most highly for was the ambience, with a slightly bookish indoor, and a pleasant, bohemian terrace, making it a lovely place to take time out from a busy schedule.

Reviewed Sept ’08 [AF]

Sappho Cafe
51 Glebe Point Road
Glebe  NSW 2037
Tel: (02) 9552 4498

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

Forbes & Burton (Sydney)

The old ‘Dov’ was always a favourite of the Darlinghurst crowd, and in terms of matching Dov’s reputation, which occupies the same sandstone-walled premises, Forbes & Burton doesn’t disappoint.

Located [not surprisingly] on the corner of Forbes & Burton streets, it’s a beautiful space – the warm stone walls are offset by large glass window panes; plywood chairs and tables are complemented with a cushion-lined stone seat jutting out from one of the windows a nice spot to sit or to wait for a table.

The queues lining up for breakfast on the weekend are testimony to Forbes & Burton’s excellent breakfast menu, which includes their renowned Croque Monsieur – double-smoked leg ham, Swiss Gruyere & Mustard [$10.50] and the Croque Madame [as above, but with a fried egg on top $13].

We ate from the ‘all day breakfast menu’ – The poached eggs with roasted tomatoes, mushrooms and grilled bacon [$13], and the roast vegetable and polenta stack with pesto and provelone [$17.00] were delicious. Dessert – from the Specials Board – included a Belgium Chocolate Brownie [$8.00] which was truly exceptional.

Coffee, by boutique Sydney roaster Single Origin, was well made – Forbes & Burton uses an organic blend, using filtered (reverse osmosis) water in the machine - delivering a sweet flavour with a pleasant aftertaste.

An impressive experience and highly recommended.

Reviewed September ’08 [AF]

Forbes & Burton
252 Forbes Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
Tel: (02) 9356 8788