I’ve been getting around lately. Here is a review of the best places for casual business meetings, either side of a Sydney 9-5.
Reservoir St, Surry Hills
Get here early if you want a seat. Especially a cosy seat in Winter when the sun doesn’t touch this corner locale until well past midday (though the cuter than cute crew will happily dump the sweetest, thickest blankets on your knees like a doting team of mums). The coffee is in my top 3 in Sydney. The place; you hardly notice. It’s one of those café’s where it’s the service, coffee and conversations that matter. No big sign, no table branding, no counter branding, just a workplace packed with staff who go about their business with the efficiency of its Japanese roots.
I’ve spent the most time here and it’s a no brainer. This is the place to hatch plans, discuss next steps, get excited. Located at the Elizabeth St end of Reservoir, it’s very handy to walk 10mins to Central Station, or join the traffic to make your way up to Hyde Park.
In short: Be warned - such is the quality of the experience, you will regularly choose to meet here but you will bump into others whom you’ve met or know who are also doing the same, severely limiting your time available and your efficiency. But god damn the coffee is good. It’s probably my number 1.
Reme and Lees
Bourke St, Surry Hills
6months old and firing, R and L’s is a cosy, corner joint that oozes kid cool. Owners and partners, R and L are also riders and so their bikes are always parked outside as a sign if nothing else.
Entering, it feels like being in a friend’s kitchen (there is no separation between barista and customer) which has outlasted its fad and established itself as a highly functional and friendly design feature. With the coffee machine right next to the doorway, it can get tight when the regulars line up for the first hit of the day, but slide past and if you don’t get the prized window table, there’s a narrow bench to easily enjoy a quick cuppa.
Formerly a jewellery store, Reme and Lee saw the potential to leave its cabinets lining one wall which now provide ample display space for various merchandise including bikes, mini photo galleries and other assorted cultural promotions.
In short: Good for quick, paperless chats leading to bigger things, or quick overviews before presentations and pitches.
In that centre behind Object Gallery, off Bourke St, Surry Hills
Smaller than tiny, Pigeon is neat because it’s circumspect. Does that make sense? Serving those in the know who live nearby in the enclosing apartment buildings, Pigeon does good coffee and simple food like toasty spreads and muffins.
In short: If you have your first meeting here you might have your second and third. It’s easy, and not busy. It’s also got an entire wall turfed in synthetic grass with a pigeon cut-out. Coffee is good too but the regular cup is that small type which never seems like enough.
Forbes & Burton
The fit-out of this place is beyond par. If I owned a 19th century sandstone cottage, I too would choose to put grey felt on the roof with mirrored mauve skirting and wallpaper the bathroom in dirty, sexy limericks.
Tables are plenty both inside and out and whether it’s for two or six, they can easy accommodate.
In short: Easily one of the top 3 coffees I’ve sampled in Sydney too, but geez, Sydney is a big place isn’t it? One could easily spend a few hours here in private conversation with respectful service. Feel like Beatrix Potter on a rainy day.
Mary St, Surry Hills
This place is probably the closest to a boutique, retail based co-working space you’ll currently find in Sydney. Coffee, privacy and with space to breathe, the tables are large and you can easily whittle away half-a-day without downing a torrent of coffee.
In short: This place doesn’t need selling. See for yourself.
Military Rd, Mosman
A massive leap over the harbour but a worthy mention, The Source doesn’t belong here. It should be amongst the postcodes of those mentioned above. But coffee is coffee, and this smartly designed and positioned corner offering caps off my top 3 froths in 2000.
In short: It is a hangout for Soccer mums and ex Wallabies, but for a lunchtime chat with a turkey, cranberry, pesto and jarlsberg sandwhich on thick multigrain, complemented with a cup of their own blend (there is a substantial Charlie Chocolate Factory-esque machine in the café with pipes plugged into walls and the ceiling), the Source rules.
Off Crown St, Surry Hills
Arrive at 6pm and the place is yours. With a massive Tahitian sunset painted on the back wall, it’s a Pacific oasis that in another locale would be full to the hilt of backpackers. Luckily for you it ain’t. A couple of Little Creatures over the cave-like bar (which must be almost under Crown St), will start your informal meeting. Order the staple bowl of wedges and sour cream and chilli with your second round.
In short: Feel like you’re doing business on holiday. Big tables offer plenty of room for bags, books, coats and costings.
Burton St, Darlinghurst
Style and substance are two qualities I immediately experience and respect in a space, and when these are embodied in hand crafted furniture, a fireplace, Monocle-esque waitstaff in crisp brown aprons and with tasty meals on homely camphor-laurel chopping boards, you know you’re in good hands.
This ‘local eating house’ as its tagline assumes, welcomes you with a partially sheltered outdoors courtyard which offers fresh air (while it lasts) before typically being smoked out by 9pm. If you arrive just after work however, choose a stool out here for a sunset Hoedgarden, or wander inside to talk shop at one of the several large tables whose design and finishing is of the highest quality. If it’s too cold, wander down the plywood steps to the ski-lodge décor of a Swedish rumpus room for more philosophical discussions in front of a flame.
In short: 10 stars. Feel rich, feel intellectual, feel organic. A place to impress newcomers or imprint a valuable impression.
Burton St, Darlinghurst
Before you roll your eyes at another place on Burton St, know that this was the first of several in the fashionable evening economy precinct that has become the block and a half down from Oxford and either side of Crown.
Pocket is cute. No frills. No attitude. Just an extension to your own home of a long lounge room which happens to have some of the best bartenders in Sydney at your service. Not to mention that wall. Grab one of the spots near the front for upright and frank discussions or pick a velvet thrown towards the back to recline and propose a toast to new partnerships.
In short: Where art meets business.
Devonshire St, Surry Hills
This place heaves bodies. But don’t worry, after you’ve actually found the steps to the next floor, pick a path through doors and doors into rooms and more rooms as you select a table for three or perhaps eight; the Shakey accommodates.
This outstanding example of Sydney’s lubricated culture has stood the test of time and offers the moonlighter great options for team meetings over dinner ($10 main meals every night of the week). Dark lit and carpet lined, the walls are adorned with paintings of the English proper; you’re in good company.
In short: A great regular meet-up place for the definitely casual end of the business scale. Come here to either get merry on more ideas, or brainstorm the next.
Burton St (again), Darlinghurst
Thought I’d separate the three Burton St locales to keep you reading. But this place does deserve a mention for one simple reason: When you are writing up some notes or action steps under the dappled shade of a large tree that is filtering alfresco light of a street lamp as it takes over from the sun, you are momentarily transported to another part of the world where your dreams are free to dream and suddenly life doesn’t seem that hard anymore. When that gentle Summer breeze flicks across your gaze as you look at the wanderers walk to and fro, and then the cute waitress appears with your carafe of Sangria and flicks you a smile from a foreign but familiar place, anything is possible.
In short: Arrive before the party tables of 10 fill up. No paper and pens allowed. Just conversation and perhaps an iphone or B’berry. Or that new Samsung.
A big thankyou must go to these places that welcomes people like me week in, week out. You put up with our measley orders and hogging of tables. Without you we’d be screwed.
E: joshuacapelin at gmail dot com