Double Barrel Coffee Merchants

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Sydney

Baristas decked out in tattoos, band tees and piercings seems to the trend these days, and Double Barrel Coffee Merchants is no exception.  But counter to this trend, the guys here don’t have the attitude that often goes with it.  This place is friendly relaxed, and, best of all, serves really good coffee, presented in interesting bio-art series cups (have pretty pictures on them).

The coffee has a very smooth “roasted” flavour and was so tasty that finishing a flat white left me desperate to try a long black without the distraction of milk. Unfortunately the long black was a lot more bitter without the rich flavour I got from the flat white. Disappointing, but overall, not a bad coffee.

They also have a small selection of cakes and pastries; croissants, muffins, brownies, sandwiches and zucchini toast. They are fairly reasonably priced and, from what I’ve tasted, pretty good quality. It would be nice to see some sort of coffee-pastry deal though.

Regular coffee: $3.50

Atmosphere: 3/5
Value: 3/5
Quality: 4/5
Overall 7/10

3/33-35 York Street, Sydney

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Images from Double Barrel Coffee Merchants facebook.
Double Barrel on Urbanspoon

Black Star Pastry Review

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Small, crowded, staff flaunting tattoos, piercings and plenty of attitude – Black Star Pastry paints a pretty accurate picture of the rest of Newtown.  But there’s a very good reason why it’s constantly busy and now has a second location in Rosebery.

The cakes/ desserts, many of which are vegan, boast interesting flavour combinations as opposed to the usual selection that you’ll find in most bakeries.  The header chef behind the bakery (Christopher Thé) used to work as a pastry chef at several fine dining locations including Bel Mondo, Claudes and Quay Restaurant, and this past experience really shows through.
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The strawberry watermelon cake is one of the highlights here.  It consists of several layers of almond dacquoise and rose scented cream with watermelon, strawberries and pistachios.  It’s really light and refreshing and boasts a perfect marriage of flavours.

The vegan popcorn chocolate cake does not stand out any where near as much.  Sure it’s nice, and the caramelized popcorn sitting on top creates some intrigue, but it’s just a dense chocolate cake- so only get it if that’s what you’re craving and don’t expect to be amazed.

Another iconic offering at Black Star are their “ginger ninjas”; gingerbread men with chocolate sauced used to dress them up as ninjas.  Not being a huge fan of gingerbread men, the combination of the delicate ginger and cinnamon flavouring along with the slightly crunchy  but not too hard texture impressed me.  It was a damn good gingerbread cookie. But for $4.50, this may be one thing in Black Star that is, without a doubt, overpriced.  If you opt for the naked version though, it will only be around half the cost.
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In general, the price-to-quality ratio at Black Stat is very reasonable. Carefully crafted cakes with extravagant layers and ingredients will only set you back around $5-$7 per piece. They are also one of the only places I’ve seen in Sydney that don’t charge extra to have a few ice cubes thrown in your coffee (iced lattes are $3.50, the same as a regular coffee).

Atmosphere 3/5
Quality 4/5
Value 4/5
Overall 8/10

277 Australia Street, Newtown
85-113 Dunning Avenue, Rosebery

blackstarpastry.com.au

Black Star Pastry Newtown on Urbanspoon

The Mac Factory Review

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The Mac Factory seemed to beat everyone else to the punch when it came to capitalizing on the macaron frenzy. As the first store in the city solely dedicated to the precious baked creations, it quickly became known as Adelaide’s best producer of macarons. That being said, I had high hopes for the Mac Factory.

The place itself is quite cute. It’s located on quiet Hutt street, up stairs that are encased by a white picket fence. Fake grass is laid out to create a quaint garden-type feel and seating is supplied on the balcony overlooking the street. Inside, the shop is quite spacious, and they have a cookbook store next door. First impressions were looking good.
http://themacfactory.com.au

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Unfortunately things didn’t go so well from there. The macarons have very soft flavours, so much so that sometimes they are indistinguishable. I had the Turkish delight first, and it was a real let down- I couldn’t taste the rose flavouring at all. Next, strawberry and white chocolate. This one tasted a lot nicer, but didn’t have much of a strawberry flavour. The salted caramel was the best, as usual, and actually had a hardish, chewy caramel centre, as opposed to ganache, which was quite nice, but like the others, I think all the flavour did come from the centre; I got nothing from the shell.
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On the up side, the shells were well presented and good quality in terms of consistency and texture. They had a good, crispy shell, and weren’t too dense. At $2.50 each, they are not too badly priced either. But the dull flavours were a real disappointment. I should probably also mention that the flavour selection wasn’t very adventurous. They kept pretty close to the classics, although the list might be rotating.

Atmosphere 4/5
Quality 2/5
Value 3/5
Overall 6/10

190B Hutt Street, Adelaide
Mac Factory on Urbanspoon

Ragamuffin Review

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Ragamuffin is somewhat of a Norton Street institution. It deals only in coffee and muffins. But these are no ordinary muffins. They come in an impressive range of flavours and look and flatter and less puffed out than normal muffins. This is because they are cooked twice- first steamed to ensure that the inside is cooked but still moist and light, then baked to give a crunchy outside. The result is addictive and unlike any other muffin I’ve tasted before.

The flavours change constantly, but on any given day, there will be a small selection of savory muffins; spinach and ricotta, sundried tomato and feta, bacon and zucchini, etc, but the sweet muffins are definitely the main event here. Upon biting into many of them, you will be met with a saucy liquid explosion of flavour in the middle- an impressive surprise.

I’ve tried both the strawberry milkshake and lemon mirangue in occasion, both of which were filled with a saucy goodness inside. The peanut butter and banana offers more of a gooey mess, but very tasty none-the-less.

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On any given day, they will have around 15 flavours, which makes deciding very difficult, especially seeing as you are choosing between flavours like cinnamon apple scotch, double chocolate ganache, lemon and lychee, lime and coconut, and, for a limited time, hot cross muffin (especially for Easter).

What I really like about these muffins is that not only are they a good size (not so big that they are pretty much a meal in themselves like most muffins), but they are also full of flavour; all killer no filler, if you will.

Ragamuffin’s growing popularity has recently seen them increase their price from $3.50 to $4 each, but these creations are well worth the money.

Atmosphere 3/5
Quality 5/5
Value 4/5
Overall 9/10

157 Norton Street, Leichhardt

 

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Ragamuffin on Urbanspoon

Everyday Coffee Review

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Everyday Coffee was recently named Melbourne’s “hippest” coffee outlet, a title that is nothing to sneeze at. Coming from Black Coffee @ No Fixed Address (a moving pop up coffee shop), it definitely exudes an element of cool, without being too pretentious.

Everyday Coffee carefully select a different local blend for each coffee; for espresso you’ll get Seven Seeds, Small Batch or Seven Seeds for a milky cup, filter will get you Market and Code Black for batch brews.

The focus here is coffee without the “bullshit”. Staff seem well trained to brew classic coffee, even serving sparkling water along side. Each coffee has a very smooth, yet rich flavour, making it a serious contender for Melbourne’s best coffee. The only downside is the cost. With so many coffee specialist around offering coffee under $3.50, it does make for a harder sell.

Regular: $3.90

Atmosphere: 4/5
Quality: 5/5
Value: 3/5
Overall 9/10

everyday-coffee.com

33 Johnston Street, Collingwood
Images from thethousands.com.au

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Everyday Coffee on Urbanspoon

On Ramen’s Ramen Burger

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When you walk past a restaurant displaying posters claiming to have “the best ramen in town” and “Sydney’s first ramen burger”, it catches your attention. On Ramen is primarily a small ramen bar. Located just off George street, it’s small and comfortable and not too busy. It has tables for groups as well as bar space for singles and has a very Japanese underlying feel- with posters of maneki-neko cats on the walls and lanterns hanging from the ceiling.

For those wondering how exactly you make a “ramen burger”, the idea is close to Japanese burger chain, MOS Burger’s rice burger. The two “bun” pieces are two two tightly-packed cakes of fried ramen. Beyond that, it’s fairly similar to a normal burger, you get a patty (beef, chicken or pork), salads, chilli sauce and tangy mayo, served up with a side of coleslaw and watermelon.

The burger patty holds together better than expected; it’s fried just enough for the noodles to keep shape but of is also still soft enough that they don’t crumble at first bite. The burger itself doesn’t hold so well as a whole though (it comes with two toothpicks to help keep formation and it’s probably best to leave them in as long as possible).

The patty is pretty much what you’d expect coming from a Japanese ramen bar. It’s a fairly typical flat, okay but-nothing-fancy-affair, but it does the job. The sauces do stand out amongst burgers though. A word of warning though; by the end it gets a bit greasy and sickly, so save the watermelon for relief half way through.

Price: $12.50

Atmosphere: 4/5
Quality: 3/5
Value: 3/5
Overall 7/10

181-187 Hay Street, Sydney

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On Ramen on Urbanspoon

Blue Bird Coffee Review

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Sydney

The Regent Place prides itself in hosting only food and drinks outlets that put enough effort into their design and layout that simply being there is an experience in itself.  Blue Bird Coffee is no exception.  A thick, wooden pillar acts as a centrepiece with panels made from different types of wood (or fake wood presumably) which eventually separate at the ceiling before extending into waves and stretching throughout the store, hanging decoratively from the roof.  At the entrance, you’ll also find coffee mug lampshades, exposed spherical globes and wooden sticks hanging above your head.

There’s enough seating inside for around 20 people and wi-fi is free, making this a pretty good place to actually sit down and enjoy your coffee.

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The closer you get to the Chinatown district, the more suspicious you become of the quality of “specialty” coffee stores.  Considering that the rest of Regent Place is filled with outlets serving ramen, Japanese desserts and hotdogs and Vietnamese street food, my expectations for the coffee itself were not particularly high.  Fortunately however, the coffee is actually pretty good.

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The coffee has a smooth body, but is not particularly strong.  The iced coffees are a bit bitter at first but has an overall nice flavour.  They also do a cold drip for $5 with several blends on offer.  This was actually more bitter than the iced coffee, and in my opinion, not as nice (so you’re better of saving your 50c and going for the iced selection).

Blue Bird Coffee also has a selection of cakes and wraps, although for the prices (around $5-$6) they didn’t look particularly special.

Regular: $3.50
Iced Coffee: $4.50
Cold Drip: $5
Breakfast Deals (weekdays):
Regular coffee + bacon and egg roll/ raisin toast $5.50
Regular coffee + ham and cheese croissant $6.90

Atmosphere 4/5
Quality 3/5
Value 3/5
Overall 7/10

bluebirdcoffeesydney.com

501 George Street, Sydney

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