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Published February 19th 2014
A cute laneway cafe in Sydney CBD
Usually, the general rule in Sydney is if you can't see a cafe from the main road, it's bound to be a bit different, a good place to get coffee and a bite to eat. After all how many establishments situated on a main road do you know of that are memorably very good? Prove me wrong but very few come to mind. The other benchmark for good cafes is the smaller, the better.
Does Marlowe's Way fit these criteria? From reading various reviews, I thought it was a given that Marlowe's Way should fit this criteria, but perhaps my expectations were raised somewhat a little too high…
Location and ambience
Marlowe's Way is located in Tank Stream Way (off Bridge Street, Wynyard, at the back of The Establishment) in Sydney CBD. Generally, it's good if you have not heard of this street before even if it is in the heart of the city as it generally means a few hundred others probably haven't heard of it either. It also means the laneway cafe is hidden and you can be seated in peace. Wrong. If you go at 1pm on a weekday, you are guaranteed not to get a seat. I watched many people rock up at 1pm only to turn away because no tables are available. It probably doesn't help if it only seats about 15 people in total. The ideal time to go would be about 12pm if you want a seat for two people.
The décor is interesting. There is graffiti on the walls as well as pictures of music groupies. The music in the background was New York themed jazz.
Marlowe's Way, a laneway cafe off Bridge Street, Sydney
The café is tight and cosy, but it also means in summer it can get a bit hot and steamy as there is no air conditioning. Admittedly, I did feel like I needed a shower afterwards. If you are rushing back from a work meeting and want to grab a coffee, don't expect to cool down in this place. It could do with a bit of ventilation. But the cosiness is probably ideal for a colder climate.
Food & Coffee
To be honest, the food is better than the coffee. For the CBD craving caffeine addicts, I think you will be disappointed. I don't really like bitter coffee (even if it's their own house brew) and Marlowe's Way coffee was a little on the too bitter side for me. I am very particular when it comes to the taste of coffee so I think I have to disagree with some of the reviews out there that this is the best place to get good coffee in Sydney CBD.
That said, the food is interesting, simple and surprisingly a good variety for a tiny establishment. This is no Vegemite on toast establishment. There is a range of home style Italian meals, as light or as heavy as you want. You have the option of salads (with tuna and cannellini beans or poached chicken as the main ingredients for $17); the daily variety of quiches and pizzas that are available ($12); Aracino Italian rice balls ($12); Italian pork and fennel sausage and spinach ciabatta ($12) or for lighter meals, the boards with boiled egg, provolone, cheese, mayo with rye ($12). The board is what I had as I was not that hungry but could eat. Each item on the board is probably not all that interesting, after all there is only so many ways you can boil an egg, but in combination, the taste of the egg, provolone (Italian cheese), mayo, prosciutto and rye seem to work all in sync in your mouth. The flavours are persistent. The provolone is light with a sweet mild taste. The prosciutto's saltiness does not overpower the sweetness, and in chewing it, it's soft but not too elastic.
The service was pretty quick, no-frills and efficient – which is all you need if you are there for a lunch break and have to rush back to work in an hour.
This is a great cosy little place to go for lunch (or breakfast), but its setting is probably better for the cooler climates as you can swelter in there in the middle of summer. I would reluctantly suggest you go somewhere else for the coffee if you don't like yours bitter.