Megan Johnston

Best coffee ... Hazel De Los Reyes, Coffee Alchemy, Marrickville. Click for more photos

SMH Good Cafe Guide 2014: award winners

Best coffee ... Hazel De Los Reyes, Coffee Alchemy, Marrickville. Photo: Edwina Pickles

An industrial-style cafe run by two coffee specialists on a side street in Newtown has scored the gong for best new cafe at the launch of The Sydney Morning Herald Good Cafe Guide 2014 on Monday night.

Brewtown Newtown on O’Connell Street won the award for this year’s "most exciting new venue, judged on coffee, food, service and spirit".

Cronuts, coffee and more at Brewtown Newtown, winner of best new cafe.
Cronuts, coffee and more at Brewtown Newtown, winner of best new cafe. Photo: Fiona Morris

The venue is the creation of Charles Cameron and Simon Triggs, who transformed the site of the old Berkelouw bookshop into a cafe. The two met while working at Toby's Estate. Cameron went on to work for Single Origin Roasters while Triggs launched Gnome in Surry Hills before they found a spot where they could open a cafe together.

Marrickville’s Cornersmith snagged the eftpos best cafe award, while best coffee went to Hazel Des Los Reyes of Coffee Alchemy in Marrickville and Gumption in Sydney's Strand Arcade for "utmost dedication to the bean".

The editor of the guide, Georgia Waters, says Cornersmith is one of those cafes "we all wish we had around the corner".

Best barista ... Reuben Mardan from Sample Coffee.
Best barista ... Reuben Mardan from Sample Coffee. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

"It's a genuine part of its community, swapping produce grown by local customers in their backyards for jars of pickles," she says. "The menu is beautifully seasonal, simple and ever-changing, with much of it made from scratch. And we love their Mecca coffee."

As for Brewtown, Waters says it quickly became one of the most talked-about cafes when it took over the warehouse space.

"They've introduced a lot of really exciting things, from their fantastically high-tech Steampunk system for brewing filter coffee to their affogato collaboration with Enmore's Cow and the Moon gelateria in the space upstairs," she says.

The Sydney Morning Herald Good Cafe Guide 2014.
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Cafe Guide 2014.

"We can't wait to see what they do next."

At the launch at The Atrium in Alexandria, The Golden Cobra in Botany won best boutique roaster and the Reformatory Caffeine Lab in Surry Hills was named the best brew bar. Reuben Mardan of Sample Coffee in Surry Hills was named best barista.

Over the past year, a team of 30 reviewers visited more than 300 cafes and coffee bars across 107 Sydney suburbs. To be published in the guide, the cafe must have top-notch coffee as well as quality food, service and atmosphere.

"Cafes that receive a one-, two- or three-cup award have to be doing something extra special, whether they’ve got a really beautiful coffee offering or their menu’s really exceptional - they’ve got to have a distinct personality or stand out in some way," Waters says.

The cafe culture in Sydney is thriving, Waters says, especially in the CBD. Pablo and Rusty’s has opened its first city cafe and Coffee Alchemy’s second venue, Gumption. A new flurry of suburban offerings includes Henri Marc in Penrith and The Tuckshop in Glenhaven.

"There’s been great openings all over the city this year so it’s been exciting to see top-level cafes almost everywhere you go," she says.

Waters says there is also more demand for so-called “third-wave” specialty coffees such as filter brews, single-origin or single-estate beans that are often offered alongside a cafe’s house blend.

The guide makes particular mention of sweet spots, child-friendly cafes, best breakfasts and healthy wholefood menus. Tea connoisseurs won’t be disappointed either, with a special look at the growing list of cafes doing exciting things with tea.

Other winners at the launch included Forest Lodge’s In the Annex (best small cafe), Devon Cafe in Surry Hills (best food cafe) and Grind in Cronulla (local hero). Toby Smith of Toby’s Estate won hall of fame for an enduring contribution to Sydney cafe culture.

 

The Sydney Morning Herald Good Cafe Guide 2014 will be available for $5 with The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday June 21 from participating newsagents, while stocks last. It will also be available in selected bookshops and online at smhshop.com.au for $9.99.