Oversimplification can be problematic, but I'll go ahead and say when it comes to creating a successful venue, good management needs three genuinely good things: atmosphere, service and the stuff you put in your mouth. Edition Coffee Roasters, Darlinghurst's arguably most stylish-looking addition to the cafe/coffee scene from brothers Dan Jackson and Corie Sutherland, manages to tick two-and-a-half out of three boxes.
The first thing you'll notice about Edition is it's a stunner, and so is the grub. In fact, the word 'grub' does little justice because the dishes are so damn attractive. The theme is Japanese meets Scandinavian, so don't expect eggs and bacon here. In fact, get ready to feel like Uma Thurman when you slice open your big fat kombucha poached pear that sits among an inviting Bircher muesli ($15) with the funkiest Japanese steel you'll have seen in a long time. But even with all that potential, it's bland. Take the black rice ($15) in coconut yoghurt, given a garnish of strawberries, blueberries and other vibrant seasonal fruit: you want it to smooth over your tongue with a subtle but enriching freshness. Sadly, it misses the mark, and slides down a little underwhelmingly.
As mentioned, to their credit, aesthetically these guys are smashing it out of the park. There's so much natural light in here the sharp interior smacks of class. Class and cool. From gold milk jugs, Juggler milk taps, greys, birches, creams, a white hexagonal tile-covered counter complete with bronze, UFO-shaped overhead lighting and a two-person-per-table setup, it's the perfect place for a Japanese tea ceremony, house-blended cup of coffee or just to flick through an Ikea catalogue. You'll probably get laughed at if you do the latter, of course (this place is no stereotype), but the team's been around the scene a fair bit (Toby's Estate, Mecca, The Stables), so they know you have to be a fairly friendly bunch to survive.
Jackson hits up the tables with a casual but fitting air, while Sutherland smashes out his own brand of coffee that changes often from the mean La Marzocco machine. For him, it's all about "experimentation" and ensuring "the best flavours punch through the milk", he explains to a customer next to us, and indeed, the coffee is good. In fact, you could probably listen to the team share its knowledge until the cows come home, sipping on a Chinese Chung Feng jasmine tea ($6.50) or Japanese Gyokuro ($7.50), poured per cup (about three cups per serve) so the leaves don't over-brew in the pot. You might even be tempted by one of the pastries filled with, this time, umeboshi plum. But again, the word 'filled' is a kindness, as the insides were meagre and that promise of refined sweetness turned out to be doughy disappointment.
The problem here is that while Edition puts on a brilliant show, there's not enough substance (something this suburb in particular has been criticised for on many occasions), and perhaps in a bid to create a perfect blend of two very sophisticated styles renowned for their cleanliness, plainness has been mistaken for simplicity. But, all that being said, you have to hand it to Edition for creating something pretty damn gorgeous. Let's hope as the weeks progress, so will the flavour.