Lava is a modern café with sought after coffee, located in the industrial suburb of Phillip in Woden. Their baristas expertly create their coffees using beans from Sensory Lab and Code Black in Melbourne, which brings in a queue of regulars each day. When we visited, my young daughter and I decided to sit inside and enjoy the industrial décor and comforting smell of coffee with some breakfast. The café inside is quite dark with black walls, exposed beams, hanging industrial globes and black tables, however the whole café is lit up by the natural sunlight coming in from the open front door. There is also a communal table with magazines to read as you walk into the café, an inviting spot to sit and relax.
Behind the counter is a wall-to-wall chalkboard menu which is a work of art in itself. As the café doesn't have a kitchen, the menu items are kept simple yet delicious. Breakfast items (at the time of writing) include sourdough toast ($4) and fruit toast ($4.50), paleo granola muesli ($11), smashed avocado on sourdough ($9) and a breakfast roll ($9). Lunch items include fresh sandwiches or toasties with gourmet fillings ($8.50 - $11) as well as pastries and muffins for sweet treats ($4 - $6).
The emphasis is on the coffee and matching the food with light meals to enhance the flavours. I recently visited "Red Brick Expresso" in Curtin which had the same philosophy.
I decided to try the Paleo Granola Muesli with dairy free coconut yoghurt and berries for a healthy start to the day. When it was served it was smaller than I expected for the price, however the granola was surprisingly filling and the serving size ended up being just right. The sweet granola muesli blend of nuts and seeds had a good crunch, with the coconut yoghurt a perfect match. My daughter enjoyed a blueberry muffin which was healthy and full of natural flavour.
The location of Lava is unusual, a hidden secret in the heart of the industrial area of Phillip. We found this café last time we went to the mechanics nearby and have been meaning to try it out since. Their signage is limited with one small Lava sign high on the edge of the building, with no other signage out the front. Just look for the open door, communal table and people watching their coffees being made, sitting on a long bench seat.
It is easy to see why Lava has become popular with local workers and coffee lovers from all over Canberra. It is a café where you can sit back and relax - with friendly staff, good food and happy diners. With the working week whizzing past outside, it is a good rest stop for busy workers needing a coffee fix and something light to eat. For a more leisurely coffee and meal, Lava is also open on Saturdays with plenty of parking outside.
If you love your coffee, have a chat to the baristas and find out more about the origins of the coffees they make. Whether you are an expert or not, it is hard to leave without taking away a little white cup of your own to enjoy for a bit longer.