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Newcastle coffee bar keeps things splendidly simple

THE RIGHT BALANCE: Hamish Gibson at Newcastle West favourite, Sherwood Coffee Bar. Picture: Max Mason-HubersThis August marks the third birthday of a cafe that many will tell you is the best and most consistent in Newcastle.
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Sherwood’s reputation as an exceptional purveyor of espresso and a stylish and cosy brunch spot is its own remarkable commodity – a coffee stock that instantly shot to a high value and then stayed there. It is common for novel offerings from the newest cafes to generate a burst of noise and custom but it is a rarity when that noise simply refuses to die down.

Sherwood in Newcastle West owes a large part of their devoted following to the simplest of things. Their coffee never seems to dip below the highest of grades. Their roaster, The Grounds of Alexandria, enjoys their own enviable reputation built upon a commitment to ethically sourced, fully traceable beans from the most carefully selected of origins. So dependable are The Grounds as a roaster that Sherwood has streamlined their espresso menu to offer only the one seasonal blend.

Hamish Gibson

When so many cafes around Newcastle are striving to treat their coffee crowds to as many exotic coffee origins as possible, Sherwood are priding themselves on doing the opposite. It is a choice that reflects a broader philosophy, one that takes its shape from stripping back the decorative and cherishing the basic elements that lay beneath. Coffee. Food. Service.

As manager Hamish Gibson explains, his team want every new day at Sherwood to be as good as the last: “Our goal is simple. We pride ourselves on fast and consistent coffee. We serve simple but high quality food. We set out to give all our customers an enjoyable experience every visit.”

Hamish Gibson, owner of Sherwood Coffee Bar. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

But somehow it feels like there is more to the Sherwood story than that. When they use the word simple it is spoken from a place that can only be reached after mastering the hardest things first. Offering service that is so good that your coffee arrives before you even notice. Pouring coffee that is so consistent that it can spoil you into expecting everywhere else should do the same.

On my visit I ordered two things that could more or less be ordered anywhere. A double flat white ($4.50). A lamb roll ($15). No obscure single origin coffee. No deconstructed disassembly of ingredients splayed across a wooden block.

The slow-roasted lamb, jammed into a salty wedge topped with pickled onion and creamy tzatziki, was served on a milk bun nestled in a small cardboard box. The box doesn’t matter because to the kitchen everything else so obviously does. Simple.

In the cup was a drum-roasted, custom-blended, full body of flavours as good as anything else ground in town. Buttery, smooth, chocolatey almond sweetness poured into a plump, coppery rosetta pattern. Just keep an eye under the pages of your newspaper. Your coffee might already be there.

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