In cities around Australia, the "hole-in-the-wall" coffee outlet is a popular way for up-and-coming entrepreneurs to try out their new ideas, without the overheads of opening a café. Often, the more basic it looks, the more "hip" it appears. For example here in Canberra, Milk Crate in the CBD was a popular "hole-in-the-wall" outlet, which provided exceptional food and coffee while diners happily sat on milk crates out the front. After finding their loyal customers and working out what they wanted, then opened their own café Courtyard by Milk Crate.
I recently visited Sydney and there were trendy "hole-in-the-wall" coffee outlets crammed into every nook and cranny of the city and tourist areas. Here in Canberra, there aren't as many as other cities, as we have more room to spread out in our designed city (thank you Walter Burley Griffin!). Instead, we have food trucks, food festivals and the Old Bus Depot Markets for small businesses to test the waters with their ideas. There are however, a few cute and interesting "hole-in-the-wall" venues dotted around the city centre and beyond, just waiting to be discovered...
Asili, a popular hole-in-the-wall coffee outlet off Garema Place
Asili may be a small "hole-in-the-wall" coffee outlet, but they are big on personality. Now open for just over a year, at the time of writing, Asili always has a crowd of happy, jovial people in front of their window - matched by the happy owners on the other side. The owners are of African background and have delicious African street food to try, African beats to listen to and the popular Campos coffee, which is always a hit with the local workers. Their display case also offers a small range of lunch items, sweet treats, coffee beans and delicious $6 jaffles! Find them in the little alleyway between Garema Place and Bunda Street, opposite Café Essen. The logo and philosophy of Asili uses the word Ubuntu, which loosely means "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity". See here for the Asili Facebook for more details.
Asili - coffee, jaffles and African specials. Image: Original photos from Asili Facebook
Elixer is a small coffee outlet, located in a kiosk on Queen Elizabeth Terrace on Lake Burley Griffin. Each morning they unpack their chairs and open the shutters and begin the day providing takeaway coffees to walkers along the lakefront. This outlet was previously called Doms and also sold gelato, however Elixer has gained its own following with healthy food options, yoghurts, cakes and a wide array of coffees. This venue is one of the most scenic areas on Lake Burley Griffin, so why not take a seat and relax and enjoy the iconic views over to the Australian War Memorial. As it is right in the middle of the Lake Burley Griffin Central Loop, you can also watch joggers, cyclists, dog walkers and charity fun runs go by each weekend. Although they don't have a website or Facebook, they are open 8am - 3pm daily (at the time of writing). See here for a Google map.
Relax at Elixer, East Kiosk on Queen Elizabeth Terrace
Remedy coffee outlet on the Kingston Foreshore may not technically be a "hole-in-the-wall", however it is so small you can only fit a few people inside the compact interior. Remedy is part of the locally-owned Lonsdale Street Roasters group of coffee outlets, with another Remedy located in Belconnen. Their coffee is popular with Canberra locals and they also have a good range of filled croissants, sandwiches, toasties, cakes and pastries. If you are taking a walk along the Kingston Foreshore, this takeaway coffee outlet is ideal for grabbing your favourite coffee and sitting down by the water and enjoying the views. It is set back a little from the main walkway, next to Walt and Burley. See here for the Remedy Facebook.
Nookie Espresso Bar actually started as a "hole in the wall" in the city and then due to its popularity, it spread out to a small corner store in the historic Sydney Building. Their loyal customers followed. This is another venue where you see a constant stream of people walking in and out, with a few people sitting out the front in the sunshine. As well as making delicious coffee, they also offer chia cups, cakes, delicious breakfast options, burgers, pastries and takeaway lunches. When you first walk in, there is also a colourful floral wallpaper as a feature on the back wall, which instantly grabs your attention and creates a comfortable feeling inside. See here for the Nookie Facebook.
Also check out Bean in the City (Ainslie Avenue) and 3 Degrees Coffee (London Circuit), both in the city centre. If you have a favourite "hole-in-the-wall" coffee outlet that you have discovered in Canberra, please leave a comment on the bottom of this article and share your locals tip.
It's a good way to support a local business - and enjoy a good coffee at the same time!
Nookie, now a real café on the corner of East Row, in the Sydney Building