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By Natalie Freeland
August 28, 2014
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TopHat Coffee Merchants

The eastern suburbs' characterful culinary scene is growing, and this cafe has been right out front.
By Natalie Freeland
August 28, 2014
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Perched on the corner of Clovelly Road and Arden Street, across the road from Clovelly burger haven Out of The Blue, TopHat Coffee Merchants is a real local's joint, somehow shaded from the eyes of tourists. The vibe they're going for is relaxed, bright and happy, and they execute it superbly, with white wooden furniture and splashes of bright colour that create the vague sensation of being in a beach house.

Speciality coffee is the primary focus here, and with my first cup it's evident why. The coffee ($4 for a large) is smooth, with a bitter kick and the perfect aftertaste. The coffee is sourced internationally — bags of coffees from Kenya, Guatemala and Indonesia line the walls, with coffees from various regions on rotation and for sale.

The menu is simple, without a hint of pretentiousness. Basic breakfast staples are on offer, which, for the indecisive like myself, is very comforting. The ricotta cheese and spinach pastizzi, served with beetroot relish and marjoram ($11) is a little, warm parcel of perfection — the ideal crispy to chewy ratio.

The avocado and feta dip served with soy and quinoa toast ($9) is tangy and fresh — and fortunately they don't skimp on the avocado. The warm oats infused with chai, sultanas, and coconut and topped with barbecued banana, honey and pistachios ($12) doesn't steal the show, but it's warm and hearty and does the job on a cool day.

Drinks other than coffee are a tiny bit disappointing; the chocolate honeycomb milkshake is unremarkable, and is a bit small for $6.50. Most customers are here for the coffee, so it seems other drinks are not a priority.

TopHat Coffee Merchants has been in operation in Clovelly for about two years., and the clientele is a good cross section of the suburb. European expats, families and fitness types all stop in for their morning coffee. Staff are friendly and efficient and the background music isn't overpowering, so it's ideal for breakfast with a few friends for a chat or to read the newspaper.

There's something brewing in Sydney's eastern suburbs. I'm not just referring to the coffee (although that is ample and flowing). The recent opening of The Pavilion by Merivale at Coogee Beach, and the smattering of cafes dotted around Coogee, Clovelly and Bronte beaches — each with a distinct personality deviating from the generic beach vibe — are heralding in a new era for the area. TopHat Coffee is out in front of this development with its friendly, simple and bright offering.

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