6-8 O'Connell Street Newtown, NSW 204202 9519 2920
|Opening hours||Mon-Sun, 8am-4pm (Retail space, Thu-Sun, 10am-4pm.)|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
When the Newtown branch of Berkelouw Books shut in September, the closure was not welcomed by locals. The converted warehouse, just off the bustle of King Street, was perfect for a bookstore, with its ground floor of glossy new releases and cosy leather sofas amid shelves of second-hand books upstairs.
But for two Sydney coffee professionals, the old two-storey building was just right for an ambitious new coffee-focused cafe. Brewtown Newtown, which opened in December, is the creation of friends and business partners Simon Triggs and Charles Cameron.
The two met while working as managers for Toby's Estate and went on to launch Surry Hills' Gnome (Triggs) and work for Single Origin Roasters (Cameron), before looking for a spot to open a cafe together.
On the ground floor, they have installed a bar almost the length of the room, allowing patrons to watch baristas at work behind the espresso machine or at the gadget-stacked brew bar. Check out the high-tech Steampunk Mod, the computerised brewer that is reportedly the first brought to Australia. The bare industrial bones of the building haven't changed, with exposed brick walls and concrete floors given a lift with white paint, warm lighting and vases of fresh flowers.
Under chef Alun Evans, formerly of Surry Hills' Toko, the menu is a bistro-cafe hybrid. Breakfast might be ocean trout cured with beetroot, or black sausage with hash browns and boiled eggs, while lunch runs from duck ravioli with porcini and wild mushrooms to poached chicken and quinoa salad and deli-style sandwiches of pastrami and sauerkraut.
On a warm Saturday, we arrive early enough to miss the late-morning queue. Well-informed staff are keen to talk food or coffee, and bring glasses of complimentary on-tap sparkling water. There are no bottled drinks for sale, in a bid to cut waste.
Our plate of polenta and eggs is substantial but not too heavy, the creamy polenta cut into thick slabs and baked, served beneath a meaty, juicy field mushroom, two soft-poached eggs and shaved parmesan, with a pile of thin asparagus spears adding crunch and freshness.
The beetroot-cured ocean trout is sweet and briny, the deep coral curls of fish piled onto rye toast spread with avocado and feta, under a tangle of parsley and watercress.
We have also ordered a plate of stonefruit salad that arrives looking like a watercolour, with slices of blushing fruit scattered with pomegranate seeds and crushed pistachios. Fried brioche cubes add contrast.
Then there are the cronuts, the croissant-doughnut hybrid imported from New York. Baked at Brewtown daily, they are responsible for at least some of that queue. Order one early, or weep.
Brewtown offers two custom blends for its espresso coffee: the Casablanca for milk-based drinks and Metropolis for black. There is also a single origin on rotation. Filter coffee is offered hot, brewed in the Steampunk, or cold-brewed, which is stored in canisters and served on tap. Tea is by Teacraft and is served by the pot for a reasonable $3.50.
Meanwhile, upstairs is an airy retail space, run by Triggs' wife as O'Connell St Merchants, selling chic homewares, eyewear and clothing by local designers. The cafe is set to expand into the space as well with an affogato bar, a collaboration with Enmore's Cow and the Moon gelateria, as well as a pastry kitchen selling cronuts.
With further plans in place for Brewtown to begin roasting its own beans later this year, it's already shaping up to be one of the most interesting new cafes of the year. Get in line.
Menu Bistro-inspired brunch and serious coffee.
Recommended dishesBeetroot-cured ocean trout, avocado smash, rye sourdough toast; fruit salad with croutons; baked polenta with mushrooms and eggs.