As you turn the corner into Sussex lane, you will need to scan the row of small wine bars to find the entrance to one of Sydney's favourite inner city cafes - Espresso on Sussex Lane. Once inside, you'll step down a couple of steps into what initially feels like an underground tavern. It's a small space filled with timber tables and a few banquet seats glowing under amber lights creating a laid back vibe. Immediately you'll hear the growl of a Marzocco coffee machine followed by the familiar enticing aroma of ground beans wafting into your nostrils.
To top it off, this coffee symphony is headed by a handsome barista who is concentrating on steaming a beaker of milk. At this point, you'll know you have landed in a coffee lover's gem.
We arrived on a Saturday mid-morning just before closing time. The timing was ideal for the review due to the laid back weekend atmosphere. Previously, Espresso on Sussex Lane had only been open on weekdays. Now the Cafe is open until 1.00pm on Saturdays. This cafe is not only a popular weekday stop-in for busy office workers but ideal for tourists as it is only a short stroll from Wynyard station and an easy walk down to Cockle Bay and Barangaroo.
This allowed me to chat to David, the barista, who hails from Ireland. He is well experienced as a barista having worked previously at Coffee Alchemy and Toby's Estate. You can immediately sense he is passionate about coffee as his eyes light up while answering in-depth my enquiries about his blend of coffee. At Espresso on Sussex, they use different blends supplied by Campos which provides the best beans from Kenya. He explained the process of how Kenyan coffee can either be from a single origin (one farm) or the more superior blends might be from 5 origins. Apparently, Kenyan climates are the perfect environment for coffee plants, where they thrive in the hot sunny temperatures. Kenyan beans are de-pulped, fermented and washed, soaked and dried. The whole process creates superior beans that provide consistently rich coffee enhanced with berries flavours. He showed me the bag our coffee was being made from - Single origin Kenya Tchakakhani.
It sounded and looked impressive and I couldn't wait to taste my first cup. They even offer a red velvet latte for those that seek something a little different or you could order an iced coffee made from the iced drip coffee machine.
Out came our steaming coffees. I touched the cup and was relieved to feel it seemed the right temperature. At the first sip, I smiled, delighted I was onto a winner. The perfect brew, a rich flavour, creamy froth, no bitterness just a lovely velvety consistency with a delicious aftertaste,
While enjoying the aftertaste, the Chef Alessandro Giccone arrived to explain the new menu selection and find out what we would prefer to try. As it was already nearing midday we ordered a Mediterranean Platter, Kale and Cabbage Slaw Salad and Smoked Trout with ricotta cheese on sourdough.
The Kale and Cabbage Salad ($20) was visually stunning. The plate was piled high with a mountain of cascading colour. Lemon juice had been spritzed over layers of shredded red cabbage, kale, carrots, tri-colour quinoa, snow pea sprouts, pomegranates and crunchy pistachios. The large glob of baba ganoush topped off this healthy satisfying dish. This was my favourite dish out of all three and I ate every last pomegranate.
The Mediterranean Platter ($20) was piled on top of a bed of rocket, ruggedly topped with scattered chorizo, warm grilled halloumi, fresh cucumber and tomato slices and two poached eggs. A healthy option to my usual preference of bacon and eggs. I didn't feel bloated like I usually do after bacon and eggs so I felt quite pleased with myself. This is a new dish on their menu and it is quite tasty, however, I tend to like my poached eggs softer and would request this if ordering again. It's a lovely wholesome dish and as it is called a platter going, forward I would love to see the addition of maybe marinated artichoke, caponata, a dollop of hummus and maybe a little prosciutto. Oh, I also love soft cheese, chunks of soft goats cheese or bocconcini would be heavenly with this platter. Yes, I'm a glutton and will more than likely feel bloated after eating all of that!
The next new dish was the Smoked Trout on sourdough. Now, this was a pretty dish, lovely presentation. Slices of smoked trout artfully splayed over the ricotta smeared sourdough toast. The pickled beetroot and baby carrot added a nice crunchy texture to the dish and the use of little flowers added to the enticing visual display.
All up, I had to say this cafe was well worth my trip from the Northern beaches and the perfect start to spending a day in the city as a tourist. I headed off to see the Barangaroo district feeling healthier and fired up after all the delicious food and outstanding coffee.
Image credit - Seafarrwide
Be sure to check Espresso on Sussex Lane next time you are working downtown or being a tourist seeing beautiful Sydney.