Sean Goedecke is a freelance writer trying to visit every cafe in Australia. If you enjoy his articles, it can't hurt to click the 'like' link at the bottom or subscribe.
Published November 21st 2011
It was Jonathan Swift who said that coffee makes us philosophical. That, and many other caffeine-related quotes, can be found on the website of Campos Coffee, a Newtown coffee shop known worldwide for its skilful baristas and self-consciously hipster atmosphere. Campos Coffee has been around for nine years, and in that time they've perfected (or at least improved at) the art of coffee-making. In a city full of Starbucks and Gloria Jean's, places like Campos Coffee can save your life.
Also they have their own latte cups.
Find them at 193 Missenden Road – a tiny shop marked by a blue and brown picture of stylized latte art. Inside, it's all wooden tables and leaflets tacked onto the walls. If you're a fan of Melbourne coffee, think one of the many coffee shops along Gertrude or Smith St, but with marginaly better coffee. In fact, that's probably Campos Coffee's main attraction: for Sydneysiders who prefer a simple latte to a Starbucks monstrosity, Campos Coffee provides what might be (pretentiously) termed the Melbourne coffee experience.
Prices are pretty normal for a coffee-and-cake shop, but don't expect the pastries to blow you away. Campos Coffee is very much focussed on good espresso – if you can't drink a latte without an accompanying croissant then, very well, they've got you covered – and not much else. Go somewhere else for lunch and drop by Campos Coffee for an after-meal brew. Still, the chocolate pastry is worth trying at least once. It's crisp, slightly moist, and full of delicious dark chocolate that goes well with a bitter espresso (or, for those with a sweet-tooth, an affogato.) Speaking of affogato, it speaks very well of Campos Coffee that they don't skimp on the ice-cream. Many places just go with standard vanilla, hoping in vain that the espresso will mask the sickly-sweet taste – Campos Coffee goes with Serendipity Belgian white chocolate ice-cream, which would be delicious even without the coffee.
The Campos affogato.
The standard critique of any small place that specializes in amazing coffee (or food, or anything else) can also be leveled against Campos Coffee. At peak times, it's so crowded with people looking for good coffee that you might have to wait fifteen to twenty minutes for a cup – and then go takeaway, because there almost certainly won't be a seat available. This shouldn't be taken as a criticism of the Campos Coffee manager or staff: overcrowding is actually a good marker of the quality of the coffee, if a little annoying. The best way around this is probably to pop your head in and judge how many people are waiting in line. If it's totally packed, you're better off waiting for an hour or so (or, if you're totally desperate, going to nearby Gloria Jean's.) Give it some time after the crowd disperses, too, since when the machine's working non-stop for a while the coffee quality suffers.
Still, even if Campos Coffee was the worst coffee in Sydney (which it certainly isn't) it'd still be worth going for one thing: the Obama blend. Nobody can accuse them of not engaging with foreign politics: the blend is described as having 'depth of character, strong, eloquent'. Whatever your politics are, if you don't find that amusing, you should probably take everything a little less seriously. Go on, have a coffee. It'll help you relax.