Filament lamps, polished concrete, steel sleepers. We could be in any number of cool Sydney or Melbourne cafes. But we’re not. We’re in a converted mechanic’s warehouse off Darwin’s Stuart Highway.
Surrounded by furniture stores and car dealerships, Sweet Brew & Co is poised to become the next Grounds of Alexandria, Sydney’s seminal warehouse café conversion that turned an industrial suburb into a leafy inner city haven.
It’s not surprising to hear owners, and husband and wife, Brigid and Joe cut their teeth in Sydney’s esteemed kitchens. Working at Pendilinos and Icebergs respectively, before falling in love over the ovens at Infinity Bakery, this young couple moved to Darwin a few years ago to get away from the rat race. But in their words, they “got sick of working buffet lines and wanted more of a challenge.”
And there’s definitely not a buffet line in sight in any of their cafés. That’s right, they opened their first café, Alley Cats Patisserie, 18 months ago, and were so overwhelmed by the response they began looking for the second and third venues three months later.
Darwin has this couple to thank for supersized milk shakes, cold brew coffee, and giant Nutella infused cronuts. And now, with the opening of Sweet Brew Co, Darwinites will get their first real taste of trendy café life. Like the Grounds, Sweet Brew has its own parrot, named Pidgeon, and a florist out the back. The café itself is separated into several sections that pay homage to the original occupants. The mechanic’s “Showroom” is out front, bright with polished concrete, custom wallpaper (featuring the parrot) and tall bar tables. Walk through to the “Workshop”, where the bar, florist and more casual communal tables fill up the cavernous space.
Out the back is an industrial kitchen that’s the heart of all three cafes. The duo plan to run baking, pickling and fermenting classes in the kitchen but at the moment the fridges are filled with baguettes, perfectly rolled croissants and sour dough loaves waiting to go into the ovens. Joe also doubles as Head Baker and Pastry chef – you get the sense this is his playground. All of Alley Cat’s famous supersized muffins and pastries are baked onsite and make an appearance in a well-stocked pastry cabinet out front. The menu also gives baked goods a real chance to shine – a French toasted cronut is served perched on ricotta and bacon while the highlight of breakfast boxes is a pulled pork slider with a glossy brioche bun.
Other Darwin hotspots worth checking out:
As mentioned above, Bridget and Joe’s first Darwin café is famous for jumbo cronuts and decadent pastries, but also has plenty of great savoury options – think minted peas and poached eggs, or a hearty brekky burger. The cold drip coffee is a winner in the heat, or if you’re game, they’re also serving OTT milkshakes. Also keep an eye out for their baked goods at the Nightcliff Markets.
If you’re staying right in the heart of town, this friendly café is a great stop to fuel up for the day. Fill up on homemade protein bread and avocado smash before sharing an enormous gluten and dairy free choc mud muffin. The café caters to vegans and the health conscious, with breakfast bowls, slow press juices and refreshing ice teas, but also has plenty of café classics and a mean coffee.
Another new kid on the scene, Cold Brew Café is making a name for itself by serving up specialty coffee and Monster shakes. Owner Michael Wilson bakes a fair share of the moreish treats in the pastry cabinet, with local favourite Mr Brown’s providing the raw treats like lemon bites and brownies. Monster shakes are a new addition and already have the sweet teeth of Darwin drooling.
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