QV bar cafe, Sydney

QV bar cafe, Sydney
Piazza D’oro coffee. Shop 56, ground floor, QVB Sydney 2000. Sitting in the open spaces of the ground floor of the cafe is a rather distracting area if you’re trying to concentrate on some writing. There are signs saying “free wifi” on the table, but if – like me – you’ve approached the counter and ordered, there’s nothing to easily explain how to access this wifi.

The coffee here, though it makes me uneasy on first sip, settles down to be a pleasant, milky cup. It’s certainly an easy enough coffee to drink: not exceptional, but sufficient.

Cafe Dendu, Ultimo

Cafe Dendu, Ultimo

Piazza D’oro coffee. 2/373 Bulwara Rd, Ultimo. The ability to sit outside, in view of trees, is a rare thing in Ultimo. This cafe takes full advantage of its location, offering indoor seating to those who want an escape from the outdoors. On a day like this, though, it would be folly to sit indoors, and so I take an outside table. The downside is, of course, the secondhand smoke from the adjacent table. Ah well, if that’s the grumble, the life is good.

The main trade of this place appears to be sandwiches and quiche; a window at the front of the unusually high counter shows off an array of traditional lunch options, any of which can be cheerfully brought out to your table by the waitstaff.

Coffee is okay; first sip is foreboding, but improves after that to be pleasant, if served a little too hot.

Platform Cafe, Ultimo

Platform cafe, ultimo

Piazza D’oro coffee. 458 Harris St, Ultimo. Part of the Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre complex, though you don’t need to buy an admission ticket to buy something from the cafe. The first thing that strikes you as you walk into this space is all the natural light: there are big windows running the length of one wall, and another set of windows behind the cafe overlooking the pool. The second thing is the familiar aroma that comes with a swimming pool – the strong scent of chlorine.

Visiting after the lunchtime rush doesn’t see the counters in the best shape: there are plates that have been removed from the table but not yet properly cleared on the counter: in fact, there’s not a lot of counter space anywhere: there are lots of little food options and signage, and a blackboard with some specials – a free coffee with the larger breakfast items is the current special.

It’s not without trepidation that I wait for my coffee: there’s something about the look of the place that tells me the coffee won’t be quite right, but I’m pleasantly surprised. The latte art is well-executed, and the coffee itself is quite good.

Ground espresso, North Sydney

Piazza d’oro coffee. 101 pacific highway, North Sydney. Named after the ground floor, this lobby cafe/restaurant is a haven for suits who are looking for a place to spend their lunch-hour. Not cheap, but still fairly priced for north Sydney. Staff are professionally distant, rather than friendly. A big range of lunch options.

The decaf is ground to order, but lacks freshness, which is a shame. Quite drinkable, the place remains a pleasant spot for a workday break.

TJ’s coffee house, penshurst

Piazza d’oro coffee. A little hole in the wall, with a broad coffee menu and a number of food choices. A few small tables and chairs outside, where you can get some fresh air, and watch for your train.

Decaf is disappointing: a few technical errors, and no crema to speak of. Bearable, but not a great cup.

Update: according to the commenters, the caffeinated coffee is really good.

Blend on george espresso and sandwich bar, Circular Quay

Piazza D’oro coffee. 200-210 George St, Circular Quay. Two shops next to each other share the same signage. Coffee orders are shouted across the open space, along with order numbers: not the most tranquil place in the world! When your order is ready, you put the receipt on the spike.

One shop does takeaway coffee only, the next – slightly further from the harbour – handles table service.

Takeaway coffee is quite good: the large is a generous size, hot, pleasant.

Oakvale Café, Pokolbin

Piazza d’oro coffee. 1596 Broke Road, Pokolbin. Not every winery in the Hunter Valley has a café attached, but Oakvale has “espresso” written on its gates, so we decided to call in.

The background noise is a mix of radio and cellar door wine spiel; a range of reasonably priced food options are on offer.

Coffee takes a while to arrive, and comes out with a very thick head of foam on it – strong enough to take the weight of a teaspoon – that masks the flavour of the beans.

Café manhattan, York St Sydney

Piazza d’oro coffee. Apart from the 1920’s font on the signage, there’s little to draw attention to this place. The seating – indoor and outdoor – is fairly spacious; table service is an option, but it seems that the takeaway crowd account for most of its trade: there’s plenty of breakfast options lined up ready to be taken away at a moment’s notice: banana bread, croissants, and fruit salad among them.

Coffee is made tremendously fast during breakfast: the shots are ready as the customers walk in. Served at a ready-to-drink temperature, the milk is thick, but not foamy, and there’s some sweetness to a quite pleasant base.

Alley Break, Cronulla

Piazza D’oro coffee. 2 Kingsway, Cronulla About as close to the beach as you can get without sweeping sand from under the tables. A little pricey, but not beyond what you’d expect for the location. Seats about 40 people in close-together outdoor tables.

Coffee is pretty slow in arriving. When it’s brought out, it’s a good temperature, good texture, and even tastes good!

Café Bello, Burwood

Piazza d’oro coffee. 100 Burwood Rd, Burwood. A Burwood institution; fairly high prices, largely due to its Vurwood-road-but-in-Westfield location. Normally I’m scared away by a breakfast menu where the meals include chips, and indeed this is a reflection of the target demographic – the whole family, including the older generation.

There are booths and tables, the menu has generous serving sizes, and even when crowded, it’s still fairly quiet. Staff are friendly and efficient – taking note of when customers are ready to order.

Coffee – the lattes are served in the tall glasses that have a handle – has a thick head of froth, and has a bit of that metallic taste on first sample. There’s no buzz of the grinder, either. Overall, a good job on the milk, but the shot itself is disappointing.