Black & White Espresso Bar launched in 2014 as a hole-in-the-wall takeaway joint in Wynyard, serving up coffee and snacks to CBD workers. Now it’s upgraded to a more spacious, relaxed venture on George Street in The Rocks precinct. After the obvious setbacks of Covid-19, the launch of the new store prompted owners and lifelong friends Matt Gellert and Josh Clark to shut up shop in Wynyard.
“We started building this and the morale for everyone got really high … we fell in love with being down here and decided it was better to just keep one [location],” Gellert tells Broadsheet.
There is a lot to love. Tucked directly behind the Museum of Contemporary Art and mere steps from Sydney Harbour, Black & White Espresso slots right into the historic architecture of The Rocks with its high ceilings, marble flooring and light tonal finish.
It’s a beautiful, sophisticated space, yet the atmosphere is casual and warm. Fronted by a wide footpath planted with greenery, there are large wooden picnic tables shaded by vintage-style beach umbrellas for al fresco dining. Beyond the glass shopfront, you’ll walk up a set of worn marble stairs that were part of the MCA building before its 2012 expansion.
“It’s got this sort of gravitational pull. It’s intriguing – so many people have walked up those stairs in its life,” says Gellert. “You naturally go straight up the stairs to the coffee machine, and you’re greeted there.”
The fit-out, designed and built by design firm Marsh to Mansion, maintains the look and feel of the pre-existing building, with exposed stone walls and creamy colourways. The communal table bases were made by pouring concrete into large tubes, with the sheeting later pulled away. Light-coloured timber features throughout, and there’s a raised platform holding additional seating, a feature Gellert says disguises the slight incline of the original floor.
Black & White is all about easy, accessible cafe fare. “We’re just doing a real simple sort of operation, with a lot of our classics that we did back in the day that worked,” explains Gellert.
Single O coffee is still the focus, while the food options include a tight all-day breakfast and bagel menu (supplied by Brooklyn Boy Bagels). Enjoy these with a range of spreads (including jam, peanut butter and Vegemite); classic lox and cream cheese; or avocado, tomato and feta.
Dishes such as hearty corn fritters and the Good Morning breakfast roll (bacon, fried egg and avocado), both decked out with a house-made harissa relish, have come over from the old menu, while newbies include a fruity Bircher muesli and a spicy Reuben sandwich on Brasserie bread. Baked goods come from Tuga Pastries – yes, including its famous Portuguese tarts. There are fresh juices and smoothies, too. Nothing on the menu is over $16.
Gellert is excited about the move and the evolution of the cafe. He says The Rocks’ community is strong, and he’s passionate about the precinct becoming more of a daily meeting point for workers and local residents, catering to those beyond the tourist crowd. With cocktail wizards Maybe Sammy close by, modern Asian restaurant Sergeant Lok residing in the former police station across the road, and new distillery Hickson House soon to open, the area looks set to evolve into an all-day dining hub.
“Where else do you get open skies like this and fresh air where [the city] is still quite dense?” Gellert says. “When I take the garbage out, I walk past the Opera House and it’s almost comical that this is my route to the garbage room. It’s hilarious.”
Black & White Espresso
Shop 2.03 140 George Street, The Rocks
Mon to Fri 7am–4pm
Sat & Sun 7am–3pm