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The Reformatory Caffeine Lab

Restaurants Surry Hills
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

A comic-themed coffee lair is your new morning pitstop

Simon Jaramillo has coffee in his blood. Born on a coffee farm in Colombia he is a fourth generation farmer turned Sydney roaster who has now opened his own café near Central. He says his dream was to open the Bat Cave of coffee shops. That’s why he chose an old garage as the location for the Reformatory Caffeine Lab. It also explains the enormous comic-strip mural that's sprawled across one wall. On it you’ve got the Joker mixing up trouble in his lab and a future cop called Squab getting a beat down while henchmen fill drums of toxic waste. It’s rendered on a black wall in green, white and purple chalk-look pens by Melbourne artists Heesco and it’s reason enough to stick your head into the latest coffee temple to call Surry Hills home.

It’s a seating-free zone in this narrow, gently ramped space, and takeaway orders dominate. But if you do choose to drink in store there’s more to the experience than a quick shot. Aesthetics were a big consideration for Jaramillo and so your coffee comes in custom-made ceramic cups that have a slanted lip designed to trap the aroma around your nose (they are beautiful objects, but approach with care if you want to avoid wearing your flat white). That's not all: the impressive vessels are then presented to you on wooden boards with a glass of mineral water and, in the case of our ristretto, a little dish of fresh grounds to compare the scent. It’s quite the production. You can get astringent cold drips or softer filter brews if the espresso isn’t for you, and the ‘Joker’ house blend produces sharp shots light on crema.

The tiny amount of counter space not devoted to coffee paraphernalia houses a glass box of travel-friendly snacks. There are four kinds of empanadas – beef, chorizo, chicken and pumpkin – and cheesy pastry fingers with ham and béchamel, but if you can only choose one thing make it the cinnamon scroll. These guys are collected from the Oregano Bakery in Hurstville at 6am every morning and make an excellent sticky, spiced, sugar-dusted sidekick to your morning.

Some superheroes save the day with explosions and judo chops. These guys do it with coffee and sweet treats, which is totally fine by us.

By: Emily Lloyd-Tait



Address: 17-51 Foveaux St
Surry Hills
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 6.30am-4pm; Sat 8am-2pm