Trafalgar St Espresso resides in an unassuming shop frontage on what is otherwise a mostly residential street just off of Parramatta Road, Annandale. When I say unassuming, what I actually mean is it's a double shop front with no signage, that just screams 'I'm so cool, that if you don't know who or what I am, you shouldn't be here.' Luckily for us, we do, so I guess we deserve to be there. Just.
If you can find your way there, you're in for a treat when you step inside. The building that was once used as who knows what, is now home to (another) one of the inner west's true gems as far as cafes are concerned. It's a funny little place in some ways, it's kind of hipster, but it also has a much more local and 'down home' vibe about it than many hipster joints. We are there on a Saturday and it's obvious that many of our fellow drinkers are regulars. I get chatting to one them who lives literally around the corner, and whose eyes widen when I tell him that we have 'trekked' all the way from the other side of Parramatta Road to be there. I honestly don't think he'd have been any more surprised if I'd have said that we'd dropped in from Paris for a quick latte and would soon be jumping on the next A380 home.
The Little Marionette in Annandale. The simple exterior belies what lays behind it.
Anyway, I digress somewhat. The thing about it being so much of a local joint was that we stood out a) for being unfamiliar faces and b) for milling a bit aimlessly when we first walk in. Apart from taking in the eclectic decor, and being somewhat awestruck by the revolving bookshelf door (I don't recall ever having seen one in real life before), we are also unsure as to whether we need to order and then sit down or whether there's table service or what. The lovely local who was surprised how far we'd come informs us that we need to order and pay at the counter, so we look for somewhere to sit first and then decide what we want and place our order. We don't have to look too far to find a seat as it's a pretty small joint really, with a handful of tables in the main room, as well as a few bar stools at the counter and a table out on the street, plus a couple of sofas in the 'annexe' room, behind the impressive bookshelf.
The rather impressive revolving bookshelf @ The Little Marionette, Annandale
Although there's a bit of a lineup outside (actually, it's more of a milling throng, to be exact, and I think they were a larger group wanting to be seated together), we quickly find a couple of seats in the side room and make ourselves comfortable there. This keeps us occupied for a few minutes whilst we work out our order - it's kind of wonky hunting lodge meets collegiate library. There's a stags head (real?) mounted on the wall (de rigeur for any hipster venue these days, of course) with mirrors strewn at jaunty angles around it. One wall is taken up entirely by floor to ceiling bookshelves which open to reveal another secret entrance, this time to a corridor leading into the inner sanctum. We debate whether the revolving bookcase and hidden passage are original features (I say nay, Mr V says yay) or have been added for the benefit of the ambience. Either way, they certainly add a little je ne sais quois to the place, and the overall effect is shabby chic ala inner west.
Shabby chic ala inner west @ The Little Marionette in Annandale
We take a look at the menu and realise that coffee is really the focus here - the menu is pretty light on, but there's enough to satisfy most takes if you're after a bit of a nibble, rather than a slap up feast. I decide on the maple muesli with fresh fruit, Mr V goes for the lamb shank pie, and we order a croissant for Little Miss V. I later discover that all the pies and pastries (there's a lush looking pastry cabinet by the door) come from Blackstar Bakery in Newtown, which explains their general yumminess. My muesli is delicious too, the toasted flakes are just sweet enough and come liberally dosed with roasted nuts, seeds and dried figs, as well as the topping of yogurt and fresh fruit. It goes down very well indeed, both for myself and the toddler who helps herself to several spoonfuls. It comes served in the chunkiest bowl I have ever seen - seriously, you could do some damage with that thing if you dropped it on your toe.
Maple muesli, lamb shank pie, croissant. Tasty treats at The Little Marionette in Annandale
The brevity and simplicity of the menu is a testament to their focus on fantastic coffee. As is the roasting machine that is visible in a room off the main serving area. Yum - there's not much that beats the smell of freshly roasted coffee.
We both order our usual coffees - a large skim latte for me, double espresso for him. The Miss has a babychino, which is a plastic up of barely warmed through milk with chocolate on top, and is served with a straw. She loves it. I enjoy my coffee, but found it to be too milky. I know this sounds like a strange comment about a latte, which is by definition milky (and this is from the woman who once described a risotto as too 'ricey' - which it was, the rice was undercooked). However, I felt that compared to other large lattes it was a bit weak. Mr V liked his espresso, but it didn't knock his socks off.
Overall though, we had a fantastic visit to the Little Marionette - the loungey annexe area was great for us with the toddler (there was a group with a toddler there when we arrived, and another couple with a baby turned up just as we were leaving), and we felt that we could relax and take our time in there without getting in the way or depriving someone else of a table. The decor keeps things interesting from a visual perspective, and the food is more than enough for breakfast or a light lunch/snack. We even got to meet the place's namesake in the form of a Pinocchio doll, who keeps Little Miss V occupied for the entirety of our visit. I'd say that The Little Marionette will definitely make it into our inner-westies-in-the-know little black book of great cafes, and will no doubt stand up to a repeat visit or three.
I found their coffee over roasted(ok if that is what you want) and weak which is unforgiveable.
I got no response when I contacted them to say maybe something went wrong.
I will never get a coffee from there
Thanks for your comment - I definitely agree with you on the weak front - as I mentioned, I felt the same thing too. I am not sure about it being over-roasted. In any case, I like the atmosphere and decor enough to go back and give it another shot (no pun intended).