What do I like most about Sydney, Australia?
Nope, it’s not the Opera House.
Nor the Harbour Bridge.
Nor Bondi Beach.
Nor the Blue Mountains.
The answer is this:
Cafe culture in Sydney.
After ten days down under, this was what left the deepest impression in my mind, and what I think of first when I look back at my trip to Sydney.
Sure, the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach and the Blue Mountains are all world-famous attractions in their own right, and deservedly so (except for the Blue Mountains, but that’s a story for next time).
Yet it was the excellent cafes dotted around town that made travelling in Sydney such a delight.
Cafes in Sydney come in all shapes and sizes, but they share one common trait: a casual, welcoming place for people to visit and indulge in the luxury of time.
The best one I went to was in Berkelouw Books Newtown (6-8 O’ Connell Street, off King Street, Newtown; http://www.berkelouw.com.au/about/newtown), tucked in a quiet alley in a neighbourhood close to the city. It was as much a cafe as it was a bookshop (its founded in 1812), and the two blended together so seamlessly it’d put wannabes like the cafe at Borders to shame.
You enter into a wonderfully rustic bookshop which decor oozes literature by itself, and on the second floor, facing the street, is a gem of a cafe.
The decor is amazing. It is bright, modern and yet cozy, with touches like exposed brick walls, dark wooden banisters and cushy sofas that sink when you sit on them.
Its not all about the decor, though. Coffee obviously does not take a back seat here. The large flat white (AUD$4, or S$5.20) I ordered was rich, creamy and topped with such intricate latte art that it felt like a pity to finally have to drink it.
It tasted so good.
The same goes for almost every cup of coffee I had in Sydney. Always that beautiful design on top of the foam, the work of an experienced barista. And each cup is filled to the very brim, so full that extra care has to be taken not to spill the coffee when serving it. Sometimes, it is full to such an extent that you can see the curvature of the liquid rising slightly above the rim of the cup!
Some pastries are also sold at the counter. At the cafe in Berkelouw Books, I got a homemade blueberry muffin (AUD$3.50), which tasted just divine. I don’t know whether it’s because of the fact that it’s freshly-baked, or because of how beautifully its presented, sprinkled with flour, on an oval shiny metallic plate.
Starbucks? Never again.