Coffee Mecca

April 24, 2007 at 4:36 am (Uncategorized)

I had an appointment downtown with one of my editors this morning. Mel from Is/Not magazine was up from Melbourne, and, as we’d never met face-to-face, we both braved the ghastly weather and dripped, sodden, into Mecca espresso bar this morning. Mecca is probably my favourite place to grab a coffee in town. Aside from being apparently incapable of making a dud cup of coffee, it has atmosphere, and I love it. It feels welcoming, that’s certainly part of it, the service is always excellent, but they have also perfected the cafe aesthetic. It’s understated but warm. Stylish but simple. Cosmopolitan but also lived-in and accessible. There’s nothing pretentious about it, and they’ve avoided that common, wanker trap of trying too hard to be “European” in what is and will always be Sydney, Australia. Quite a distance from the Continent, in other words, and there’s nothing worse than grasping for something you can never really be. Better to come to terms with what you are, and make the most of it, and that’s what Mecca does so well.

As a general rule, Sydney has great coffee. It’s kind of difficult to get a really bad cup these days – you have to vigorously set yourself the task of uncovering one and pursue it doggedly until finally someone scalds the milk and fails to tamp the coffee. You’ll get there eventually, sure, but you’ll stumble upon many superior coffees in search of a bad one. A very happy predicament, if you ask me.

Just in case you find yourself in downtown Sydney thinking “All right, Di, if you’re so bloody confident about this being some kind of caffeine heaven, where the hell can I get one?”, I thought I’d tell you about Mecca, which is underneath the Grace Hotel, corner of King and York Streets, and a couple of other spots as well. One is Intermezzo at the GPO, Martin Place side, George St end. It is a fully operational and rather swish restaurant, but you can also very happily while away an afternoon sipping a coffee whilst sitting in the huge GPO foyer at one of Intermezzo’s two little tables just along from and opposite the bar. I’m sure you can sit at any of their tables and have a coffee, but I like these lounge-style chairs and the vantage point they afford of the wonderful exposed sandstone and soaring atrium of the GPO refit.

Toward Circular Quay is my third recommendation for the day (although this comes at the expense of countless others), and a new discovery as of 8 o’clock this morning, when Llew and I had a coffee before we went off to our respective appointments. The Governor Macquarie Tower occupies the point at which Young St, Bent St, and Farrer Place converge (I’m not sure where it stops and Governor Phillip Tower begins… I believe they’re part of the same complex). It’s a great building in its own right, with vast, almost science fictional floating spaces carved out of its side. At ground level right there you will find Salon GMT. Like Intermezzo, this cafe enjoys very high ceilings. I’m a big fan, although the pressed tin of Mecca’s exterior awning, part of the Hotel’s original facade, is also really lovely. Inside, Salon GMT feels kind of retro, but not in a particularly studied way. Really it is just down to a couple of pairs of low swivel chairs over along the frosted glass wall that made me think of Larry Tate’s office in Bewitched, if I’ve got that name right. Darren’s boss, anyway. Very cool chairs. We sat on two of them and had a fine old time, and two fine coffees, before reluctantly heading off to start the day.

I’ve had three coffees today – two more than usual but still nothing like the old days – and I feel fine, another dead giveaway sign of quality coffee. In fact, I could almost have another…

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