There are two sounds we like to hear floating around an espresso bar: the resonance of coffee banter and the sweet clanking of cowbell. There’s something about enthusiastic coffee dialogue mixed with the sporadic use of cowbell that braces us for new and exciting tastes. And when it comes to the finer points of specialty coffee or strapping a cowbell to your $20,000 espresso machine, few operators can wax lyrical like the owners of TopHat Coffee Merchants.
Co-owners Jess Hol and Angus Nicol are well established within Sydney’s specialty coffee scene, having already caught the attention of South Sydney with their venerated first project, Swallow Coffee Traders. Now, with this latest endeavour, they’ve moved to enlighten the east coast and expand on an already sterling reputation.
Needless to say, the coffee at TopHat reaches well beyond the realms of orthodox espresso. Their credentials include a second generation Synesso Hydra espresso machine, a house-blend by Single Origin Roasters, multiple filter coffee options (including cold-drip and Aeropress) and a selection of rotating single origins to boot. Black coffee arrives with a measure of sparkling water; a simple but discerning touch aimed at cleansing your palate between sips. It’s one of several elements contributing to the cultivation of what is a very engaged and coffee experience.
Sporting impressive diversity considering their limited kitchen space, TopHat’s menu comprises a range of fresh, simple options, breakfast plates, handcrafted sandwiches and some outstanding breads (baked in-house). TopHat also proclaims the triumphant return of the jaffle, offering an egg and bacon twist on the long lost favourite.
Featuring timber, white tiles and semi-polished concrete, the fit-out itself is a simple but clever scheme spotlighting industrial design elements, whilst paradoxically maintaining a bright and polished atmosphere. A black and white mural handles the subject of specialty coffee with inspiring grandeur and there’s a thoughtful balance between natural and artificial light accenting the space.
The attention to detail and standard of coffee being produced at TopHat puts them well within the top-tier of Sydney’s specialty coffee bars. The fact that they’re positioned a stone throw from the beach is another bonus.