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FOOD & DRINK

The Best Cafes (and Coffee) in Parramatta

These cafes pair exceptional coffee with standout brunch dishes, making them some of the best daytime haunts in western Sydney.
By Jasmine Crittenden
September 12, 2018
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The Best Cafes (and Coffee) in Parramatta

These cafes pair exceptional coffee with standout brunch dishes, making them some of the best daytime haunts in western Sydney.
By Jasmine Crittenden
September 12, 2018
  shares

THE BEST CAFES (AND COFFEE) IN PARRAMATTA

These cafes pair exceptional coffee with standout brunch dishes, making them some of the best daytime haunts in western Sydney.

Over the past few years, Parramatta's coffee scene has changed dramatically. One of the first specialists to arrive on the scene was Circa Espresso — back in 2010 — and since then, baristas a-plenty have followed. Whether you want to sample house blends or work your way through a bunch of exotic single origins, you can. Here's a guide to some of Parramatta's best cafes slinging the suburb's best coffee. And when you've made your way through all of them, keep exploring — down the CBD's hidden laneways and along the meandering Parramatta River, you'll discover many more brews worth lingering over.

  • 8
    Circa Espresso

    Owner Aykut Sayan opened his popular cafe Circa Espresso, found five minutes’ walk from Parramatta Station, with one goal in mine: sharing his love of food and coffee with others. His approach fuses Middle Eastern influences with modern Australia fare, resulting in hearty, flavour-packed brekkies, brunches and lunches. The Ottoman eggs are a feast of poached free range eggs with crumbed eggplant, garlic labneh, burnt chilli, sage butter and seeded sourdough, while haloumi, cauliflower and poppy seed fritters come with marinated carrot, pepita, pine nuts and mint salad with romesco sauce. At coffee-time, forget about your usual cappuccino or latte — Circa gives you a choice of white, black, hot brew and cold brew. If you’re undecided, taste your way through the options with a Barista Flight. All beans are carefully selected by Sayan and roasted in small batches. On clear days, the outdoor terrace is bathed in sunshine, while, in chilly weather, Circa’s pendant-lit interior is one of Parramatta’s cosiest spots. To really hide away, find the Chesterfield up the back, surrounded by books and artworks.

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  • 7
    White Henry Espresso Bar

    In 2014, White Henry was one of the first cafes to open in Parramatta’s hidden laneways. Today, its black metal stools and timber-topped tables are busy with a stream of regulars. The major drawcard is White Henry’s house blend: Blue Stag. Carefully refined over years of research and cupping, this brew involves three kinds of arabica beans, creating a chocolatey body with fruity, spicy notes. If you’re more of an experimental drinker, try the single origin, which changes from week to week. Given such a heavy focus on coffee, the food menu is short, sweet and affordable. At brekkie, think banana bread, wraps and smashed avo; at lunch, go for a salad box, sourdough sandwich or turkish roll. Despite being so tucked away, White Henry catches quite a bit of sun light. Even on cool, wintry days, it’s an uplifting, peaceful spot to take five from Parramatta’s rapidly growing CBD.

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  • 6
    XS Espresso

    XS Espresso, whose first cafe is in Wetherill Park, first got famous via social media, where photos of its crazy shakes dominated many an account. In late 2016, owner Roky Gorgees decided to expand to North Parramatta, where he opened a second incarnation among a bunch of mega stores, just off Windsor Road. Splashed with greenery and warmed by pendant lights, this hideaway is a cosy relief from traffic and shopping. The shakes are as OTT as ever, too. Take The Volcano, for example — a towering sculpture of Nutella, coconut, Oreo, ice cream and warm chocolate soufflé. Dishes follow suit: buttermilk fried chicken stacked with cinnamon waffle, slaw, melted cheese and special sauce; or seared Atlantic salmon on a base of sweet potato mash and stir-fried chickpea, layered with kale, tomato, chilli and crispy sweet potato. Yep, whatever you order, you’ll be getting big, rich flavours and enough food to power you through to the next day.

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  • 5
    Darcy St Project

    Darcy St Project isn’t just a cafe: it’s a social enterprise. Here, students and youth — particularly those at risk of unemployment — can gain the skills, training and confidence necessary to becoming gun baristas. Others who take part in the program include refugees, newly arrived migrants and those experiencing homelessness. While knowing that your money is going to a good cause, kick back and enjoy a fine cup of coffee. Rather than sticking with just one kind of bean, Darcy St runs a feature roaster program, letting regulars taste their way across a bunch of single origins, from Seven Seeds’ Kainamui (Gichugu, Kenya) to Pablo & Rustys’ Bella Vista (Narino, Colombia). Meanwhile, the house blend, dubbed Big Tasty, is roasted in-house, in small batches. It’s a smooth blend of three beans, from Kenya, Colombia and Brazil. Darcy St Project’s headquarters for coffee drinkers is the OG Brew Bar, a cosy spot dotted with yellow stools and backdropped by a cheery green feature wall. True to the name, the focus really is on coffee, with food limited to bakery treats.

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  • 4
    Meraki Merchants

    House-made almond milk infused with rose petals, chilled Milo with choc chips and jaffles dripping with cheese and sausage — Mëraki Merchants takes all your childhood food dreams and turns them into adult realities. Barista Toufick Chami — whose CV includes Circa, The Cupping Room, Tap and Ona — opened the glass doors of this sunny, friendly corner cafe back in 2016. He combines his Lebanese background with modern Australian cafe fare, creating dishes that break the mould through simple but effective twists. The signature toastie, for example, called The Saltan’s Jaffle, is made up of tasty cheese, sujuk (dry, spicy sausage), olives and house-made smoky capsicum relish, while the granola is served on watermelon-infused rose water reduction and a pear poached in Earl Grey tea. The compact menu changes frequently and, every morning, a batch of freshly baked goodies lands on the counter. Be there early to nab one. Chami sources coffee beans from Stitch, St Peters, but, for non-coffee drinkers, there are plenty of alternative adventures, such as the Red African hot chocolate, chilled vanilla rose Milo and the aforementioned house-made almond milk made with beetroot, rose petals and Himalayan sea salt.

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  • 3
    Black Seed Eatery

    When it comes to cafe fare, true tastiness and robust healthiness do not always collide. Black Seed Eatery, however, has perfected the match. Opened in June 2018, this sleek eatery is bringing dishes made with fresh produce and spiked with super foods to Parramatta’s rapidly evolving food scene. Designed by Al & Co Haus of Design, the space is a naturally lit refuge, filled with shiny mirrors, Scandi-inspired blonde timbers and lush pot plants. To start your day right, tuck into the quinoa salsa — asparagus, sweet corn kernels and avocado, topped with a fried egg and shallots on organic sourdough — or a baked field mushroom layered with crispy pancetta, poached egg, rocket, balsamic and parmesan on organic sourdough. That said, the menu isn’t only about looking after your vital organs. Come lunch time, you can get a bit more indulgent with a Black Seed Beef Burger (beef, onion, cheese, cos lettuce, tomato and house-made sauce) or buttermilk fried chicken with slaw and spicy mayo. There’s also a bunch of artisanal baked goodies, created in partnership with Luxe Bakery. Meanwhile, Toby’s Estate is supplying the coffee beans and has spent many hours working with the Black Seed team to come up with a smooth, rich, unique house blend.

    Images: Terence Chin

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  • 2
    Lil Miss Collins

    Lil Miss Collins started out, well, lil’. The team hosted two pop-ups around town, then, once popularity was established, moved onto a spacious, grassy site, five minutes’ walk from Parramatta station. The cafe’s adorable (and permanent) home is a combination of shipping containers and recycled timber, which owner Tony Moussa, with the help of his family, transformed into the space it is today. Once there were chickens, too, but Council regulations brought their residency to a swift end. The good news is there’s no shortage of animal company: pets are welcome. In between patting dogs and maintaining his DIY digs, Moussa roasts his own coffee beans. Choose from a house-blend or a single origin, before perusing the hearty, healthy menu. Among the seasonal offerings, you’ll find roasted pumpkin with poached egg, feta, labneh, broccolini, chilli and kale on sourdough, as well as slow-cooked lamb shoulder with rosemary, roasted potatoes, roasted pumpkin, lentils, fennel, béarnaise sauce and crisp bread.

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  • 1
    Paper Plane Cafe

    Run by couple Carla Soriano and Ben Mora, Paper Plane whisks you away from Parramatta’s busy city streets into a cosy farmhouse, dotted with fresh flowers and warm timber. Back in 2013, the two quit their fast-paced corporate jobs and spent a year travelling overseas, before deciding to devote themselves to cafe life. Slide into your morning with a cup of Picasso Blend, a buttery brew with sweet caramel notes, created by Beaconsfield’s Numero Uno Coffee Roasters. When it comes to ordering food, chances are, you’ll be eyeing off everyone else’s plates, loaded with piles of bright, colourful deliciousness, before making your decision. If you’re ravenous, go for the Big Breakfast, a mountain of eggs, bacon, chorizo, hash brown, mushrooms and tomatoes on sourdough. For lighter eaters, there’s a bunch of delightful morsels to choose from, including the Monte Cristo – a toastie filled with turkey, ham, Swiss cheese and cranberry sauce – and a fun take on french toast, with custard, rhubarb, strawberries, pistachio and cinnamon.

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Top image: XS Espresso

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