Single O CBD
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The Surry Hills café expands with a hole-in-the-wall CBD location
There are seemingly thousands of places in the CBD serving coffee, but sometimes it can be next to impossible to find a drip that doesn’t taste like burnt ashes from a century-old pyre. There are some serious contenders to be found – in fact, we made a list of the best black gold in the city – and a recent arrival on York Street is already angling to sit at the top.
Beloved Surry Hills institution Single O now has an outpost squarely in the middle of the business district, and it offers so much more than beans. It’s a simple fitout – essentially just a shopfront with a bench top and a few stools. But it’s slick, too, with artful, rusty metal features and portholes revealing a selection of coffee bags (which, by the way, you can purchase and take home). Look up and you'll spy a cloud-like ceiling installation by artist Renuka Fernando.
The coffee here is predictably excellent. An ultra-smooth flat white is of the variety you want late on a Sunday morning – just creamy enough, with a grind that speaks of vanilla beans and fire at the same time. As middle-of-the-work-week indulgences go, it is a total treat. But a word of warning – these guys only offer full cream milk and soy, so no skim or almond milk for you, matey.
Coffee not your bag? You’re not from Sydney, are you? OK, OK – we've got a different recommendation, one that sits on the other end of the taste spectrum. SOR has Ballsy Wild kombucha on tap. Brewed locally in Leichhardt, it's light and bright, with a fermenty fizz that doesn't overpower the gentle infusion of finger lime and ginger. It sort of feels like you're drinking fancy cider in the morning. Again, quite the treat at the start of a frantic weekday.
As for food, the favourites are all here. The famed banana bread with espresso butter is on the menu, but we're taken with the Breakie Box – a brown cardboard pack filled with two perfectly poached eggs, a pile of toasty flat bread, garlic-slapped hummus and a fragrant coriander salad. It's breakfast by way of the Middle East – fresh and clean, and boasting a nice hit of nuttiness from the tahini-rich hummus.
But let's sashay to France for a minute, and talk about the "Mr Croque" cheese toastie. I once heard a guy say the best thing France ever gave us was the croque-monsieur. He had a point. The basic premise “à la française” is a sandwich filled with ham, cheese, and then drizzled in béchamel sauce before being grilled to perfection. Here the bouncy, chewy sourdough comes from the Bread and Butter Project, and it’s filled to the breaking-brim with generous swathes of tender leg ham, a lick of Dijon mustard and a thick layer of cheddar cheese-enriched béchamel. Then it’s fried. In butter. On the side: a tart salad of pickled vegetables and rocket to cut through the richness. It's a bloody glorious thing – one of the best sandwiches in the CBD, hands down. Order it.
What’s nice about this place is that they haven’t CBD’d it too much, if you know what we mean. Sure, it’s a bit more bling, and – given the busy clientele – mostly deals in takeaway, so you won’t feel like lingering for long. But with its attention to detail and oh, that coffee, it still feels like a Surry Hills café at heart. And that sandwich is a wonder to behold, not to mention taste. Rock on, Single O. Long may you reign.
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