Big glossy spaces are all well and good, but recently, hole-in-the-wall espresso bars are trending above traditional cafe layouts, brewing boutique or house-blend beans. Broadsheet went out to find the city’s best mini coffee spots - not just for caffeine but on-the-go fare as well.[fold]

Chapter Five Espresso
Stop at this former roller door garage to find a recycled workbench barista bar, patterned wall tiles and dimmed birdcage lights. Grab a wooden footstool on the footpath while you sip robust, house-blend coffee and snack on jaffles and sandwiches like smoked wagyu beef on rye with pickles, mustard, sauerkraut, spinach and mayonnaise. Those of the gluten-free persuasion are taken care of here, with bites like zucchini and Barossa gypsy ham slice and Persian orange and pistachio cake. An after-school smoothie packed with banana, Fair Trade chocolate, yoghurt and milk is ideal for hot summer afternoons.

Workshop Espresso
Situated within the former stairwell of the Galleries, conveniently exposed to the pedestrian traffic along George Street, Workshop is similar to the traditional stand-up espresso bars of Italy. The small space mimics the rustic textures of a country shed, while the house blend (roasted by Toby’s Estate) finds itself in varieties like ristretto or doppio, chalked up on the boards next to alternating single origin drops, affogatos and iced beverages. With bar stools only, tuck into a chorizo roll with onion jam, rocket, grilled red capsicum and feta at breakfast or Sonoma sourdough sandwiches bundled with rare roast beef, tomato, rocket and horseradish cream at lunch.
500 George Street, Sydney

Coffee Tea & Me
First seen at a former barbershop in Redfern, Coffee Tea & Me’s second space along Potts Point’s Macleay Street is just as tight. An old-world glamour has been added to the interior with drapes hanging from mirrors, stools fashioned from recycled bicycle seats and ironing boards taking the place of tables. Coffee comes via Campos’ Superior blend, while T2 tea arrives in porcelain floral tea sets. Try a toasted sesame bagel with fillings like haloumi, avocado and tomato or bacon, egg and cheese. Venture to the glass cabinet for iced gingerbread hearts, lorentines and pistachio slice to finish.

Table Sixty Espresso
Situated adjacent to Wynyard station, this new CBD espresso recruit is the third venture by the Steel Bar and Grill team. Boasting a communal barista bar with neutral timber, spiralling lighting and a shelving wall of eclectic framed photographs, coffee takes pride of place at the cafe with boutique roaster Di Gabriel’s beans on display. Takeaway eats include homemade croissants with prosciutto and fontal cheese, or Panini of smoked ocean trout with cucumber, rocket and a mustard, honey and dill dressing. Sliders filled with barbecue pulled pork, cucumber, radish and coriander are easy to eat table-free on the footpath. Afternoon sweets include mini apple galettes and spelt and berry scones.
Ground Floor, 60 Carrington Street, Sydney

Joe Black X
Secretly tucked behind the heritage Louis Vuitton building, King Street’s Joe Black X has a simple message chalked on their streetscape blackboard; ‘Coffee Made with Love’. With a house blend roasted by Toby’s Estate, the coffee is smooth with subtle hints of caramel. You won’t find any seating here, and the menu (written up on butcher’s paper on the wall) is designed for those on the run, with everything prepared onsite to order. Start the morning off with house-baked cinnamon and maple muesli topped with yoghurt, honey and mixed berries, or a breakfast panini with boiled egg, avocado, tomato and basil. By midday, generously portioned free-range roast chicken salad boxes arrive, plus sandwiches filled with Sicilian olives, globe artichokes, tuna, preserved lemon and rocket.
70 King Street, Sydney

Cafe Nookie
Don’t be fooled by this shoebox-sized haunt along Surry Hills’ Cleveland Street, coffee is taken seriously here with a house blend prepared by Toby’s Estate, served rich and bold. With its olive green brick facade, radiant timber sign above the serving window and blackboard-fronted door, service is personal and friendly. Pick up a cookie by Luke Avenue or an almond croissant or cherry danishe. Pies, sausage rolls, quiche and sourdough rolls are freshly baked each morning, packed with chicken and brie, prosciutto and bocconcini or vegetarian-friendly beetroot with cheese, avocado and sundried tomato.