Around the corner from the busiest beer garden in Newtown, a daytime coffee spot is now staying up late for wine, cocktails and snacks on Australia Street.
During the hours when coffee is in greater demand than wine, this light, bright café slings 5 Senses espresso and simple breakfast snacks to a parade of parents doing the morning school drop and Newtown dwellers slowly starting the day. But on Friday and Saturday nights they turn the lights down low, bring out the candlelight and pack their fridges with small goods for your evening repast.
There are eight wines by the glass, but don’t expect much change from a tenner (or even a twenty) if you’re ordering the Channing Daughters tocai friulano, which runs $16 a pour. Eke out your dollars by ordering the medium-bodied, biodynamic Si Red from the Margaret River that blends cabernet sauvignon, Malbec and Petit Verdot to pleasing effect for $12.
Fancy a cocktail? The compact menu sticks firmly to the classics. Ordering a Negroni on a Friday night is never a bad idea, but you can also toast The Dude with a White Russian or perfume your evening with the unmistakable scent of maraschino liquor in the Hemingway. Like Goldilocks' bears, the beers here come in three sizes: cans of Dr Tim’s traditional ale, stubbies of Stone and Wood’s fruit scented Pacific ale, and longies of Young Henrys. All of them are budget-friendly.
This isn’t so much a dinner spot as a snack bar with booze. Your non-drinking hand might get into mischief if you don’t busy it with pairs of pintxos, little toast portions topped with jamon, quince paste and blue cheese, or white anchovies, fresh tomato and mozzarella crescents. Or just go to town on a cheese board. If you like your snacks hot, try the calzone. They are actually more like quesadilla triangles, and the spinach and cheese variety is topped with tomato chutney, reminding us of a gozleme more than anything else.
Newtown has old boozers and ace small bars aplenty, but quiet spots for a drink, a snack and no queue in sight are light on the ground. We’re pretty stoked 212 Blu is willing to work a double shift to bridge the gap.
You’ll find 212 Blu next door to the Newtown Fire Station, but these two buildings couldn’t be more different. Where one is characterised by screaming alarms, Dayglo yellow and modern-day heroes, 212 Blu is an oasis of Nordic-styled calm. The ceilings are high, the walls and floor are white tiled, the counter is polished concrete and they have some indie folk on the stereo keeping the vibe mellow.
The whole space is artfully restrained, which is the MO of fashionable collective the Stables, who also run café and designer boutiques in Surry Hills and Bondi.
Up the back there is a big communal table where you can peruse back issues of Kinfolk and Made and if you have little ones in tow there’s a well pawed copy of Where the Wild Things Are, too. Rough-hewn tables line one wall but the best seat in the house is the one in the window looking out onto Australia Street.
They are trying to do a lot with a small space and limited kitchen facilities so there may be a short wait on food. Though speed is not their forte, coffee is. They have three grinders of 5 Senses beans going at one time and there’s a fourth on standby, by the gleaming white Syneso espresso machine. On our visit they’re using the Tightrope blend for the milk coffees. It makes for a strong, smooth shot that we’d like to do again, and soon.
In the glass cabinet at the far end of the counter there are roast beef sandwiches and croissants. For a breakfast that is as simple as it is delicious order the smashed avocado with lime juice and a soft-boiled, dukkah-dusted egg on the side. Or try a combination of granola and Bircher with cinnamon yoghurt and berries.
In case of fire, call 000. In case of a caffeine emergency, make sure to call on 212.