There’s nothing worse than fetching up to a cafe with a coffee craving that’s ten seconds away from a splitting headache, only to discover you’ll need to find an ATM before you can achieve your caffeine fix. That would never happen at these places. Not only do they make delicious brews, zesty espressos, and perfectly velvety lattes, but also they’re all champion businesses that have no card minimum.
There's a reason this roastery/café on Reservoir Street is one of lower Surry Hills' most popular spots for a pre-work brekky meeting. For starters, there's the coffee – no surprise, given the spot is HQ for the roasters supplying some of Sydney's top cafés. The team here serve a house blend they call Reservoir and it's a doozy: sweet, clean and light. A great addition to the café is the coffee bar next door, which serves take-away coffee as well syphon coffee, cold-drop, aero-press and pour overs. The menu is frequently changing, but always reliable. Sure, it can be hard to score a seat, but whether you’re eating in or taking away, it’s worth braving the crowds.
Coffee Alchemy’s owner Hazel de los Reyes is a woman obsessed with beans. She brought her own machine, eventually her own grinder and then it clicked: she realised she needed to roast her own coffee. At Coffee Alchemy, every coffee is tasted fresh every day before the doors swing open at 7am, and the vigilance doesn't cease until the doors are closed. "If there are variations in humidity, say on a rainy day, then we have to keep tasting. If something doesn't feel right about the coffee then we have to keep tasting," she tells Time Out. How’s that for dedication?
Residing in a beautifully restored warehouse space, Campos coffee’s Alexandria outpost shares a space with wholefood canteen Bread and Circus. You can absolutely drink your fill of the Campos espresso you know and love so well, but think outside the coffee pot and try a different single origin brew, a cold drip or filter coffee at the pour over station. Your adventurous streak will not lead to disappointment. And, when you’re nice and buzzed from all those beautiful beans, you can satisfy your hunger with a menu of local, ethically sourced cafe classics like ham and cheese croissants and avocado toast.
Neighbourhood is the new café from barista-extraordinaire Sean McManus – what this man doesn’t know about coffee, isn’t worth knowing. It's a teeny-tiny space - just a hole in the wall with a few benches outside. But what it lacks in size it makes up for in attention to detail. The flat white hits you with a puff (foam?) of smoke – but not the bitter, burnt kind. Here it's a clean, sweet sort of smoke. The espresso is super-clean, chocolatey and so blissfully citrussy and sour it's almost like eating a lemon drop. Now that's how to wake up in the morning. Then there are the kick-ass croissants. Don’t leave without trying one.
Mecca is a really, really, ridiculously good-looking café. Designed by Smith&Carmody (you know them from Cornersmith and Brickfields), it’s all aged brass, monochrome tiling and mid-century inspired furnishings. These guys utilised this space as a roastery for years before opening the cafe, and the equipment is all still up there in the back, roasting away. Such is the proximity of beans to coffee machine, that you’d expect the coffee to be downright brilliant. And it is; the flat white smooth and caramelly, with none of the bitter aftertaste which comes from the roasted beans lying around for too long. The food, too, does not disappoint, with a menu that basically wails at you to order everything on it.
Artificer is not about cake. It's not about sandwiches or even a nice cup of tea. Artificer is about one thing: coffee. That's all they sell. Co-owners Shoji Sasa and Dan Yee are sourcing the beans themselves and roasting them onsite. When you go in they'll ask you "What do you feel like?". Turn that question around and ask them what's good – you might be surprised. We try a Bolivian iced coffee cherry brew. It’s steeped "like tea" and the result is totally delicious. The interior has those Japanese-Nordic feels and they've got hip-hop on rotation. It all reflects the vibe of this place, which is very chilled.
There are no bookings for brekky at Yellow, and you will probably have to wait for a table (check out Defiance Gallery next door while you wait for the call) but you won’t regret it – the breakfast here is the stuff of legend. Not only is the food amazing, but here at the Paris-end of Potts Point, you feel as if you’re actually in Paris. If you’ve never tried the liquorice bread, you’re missing one of the best darn cakes in town. It’s only served at brekkie and it’s worth crossing the city for. The rest of the food is exactly what you’d expect from a five star restaurant – and brunch is the most affordable way to dine here.