A road trip to the Central Coast has always promised plenty of sun, great surf and of course, close encounters with some venomous friends at the Reptile Park. Its laid-back and more affordable lifestyle (though prices are definitely on the rise there, too) have made it a popular sea-change destination for many city folk – particularly couples and young families.
These attributes make it an attractive setting for seasoned and budding small-business operators, encouraging the opening of quality cafes in the region in recent years. Unlike their big-smoke counterparts, the imperative here is less about being on-trend, and more about supporting local producers. Above all, these cafes are for good coffee. Here are a few places to try the next time you head up.
An old general store houses Avoca institution Like Minds. There’s a good reason why sitting at this cafe feels like sitting in your own living room. Local couple James Rolph and Melissa Morgan apply the same sustainable ethos they live by at home to their business.
“We are conscious of our impact on the environment, and this comes straight from our hearts,” Morgan says. “It’s how we live at home, and so it’s important that it’s how we run our business.”
Few eateries can truly call themselves zero waste, but Like Minds comes very close. All food and coffee scraps are fed to the backyard chooks, worm farms and the compost.
The house blend and rotating single origins are roasted by Sasha Jade from Sydney’s Fat Poppy Specialty Coffee. Morgan describes the flavour profile as “chocolate-coated blueberry”.
A no-fuss menu uses local, and where possible, organic produce. All condiments and pickles are made in-house.
Loo Loo’s Coffee Warehouse
It’s about the people as much as the coffee at Loo Loo’s Coffee Warehouse. Located inside the Kincumber industrial estate (look out for the real stag’s head), the cafe has since opened a second outlet at Mac’s Beach.
Loo Loo’s is by Looloo Forsyth, a qualified midwife and mother to four. Forsyth has a reputation as more of a surrogate social worker than a cafe operator.
“Right from the start, Looloo wanted to make time for people,” says Forsyth’s partner Instaurator. This is a serious coffee establishment (Forsyth’s brother-in-law has been in the game for almost 40 years with Forsyth Coffee & Tea in Sydney’s Naremburn). Using a classic, full-bodied, Napoli-style blend, the beans are roasted on-site to precise spectrophotometer targets, and cellared in climate-controlled surrounds to deliver consistency and a denser crema, explains Instaurator.
In contrast to this the food is kept simple, with baked treats by local French suppliers Ludo’s Gourmet Kitchen alongside Looloo's toastie: local ham, tasty cheese and gourmet relish.
An on-site bakery sets Green Tangerine apart from others in the area. The head baker churns out French loaves and pastries, which it also supplies to other local haunts.
Their stressful executive jobs led Kath Devaney and husband Aaron to chase the coastal dream, relocating from Chippendale six years ago with their two-year-old in tow. After two years of commuting, they opened Green Tangerine in 2014.
“My husband was a qualified baker once upon a time, so decided to utilise those skills. Combined with my love of cooking – here we are now,” says Devaney.
With an agenda to bring Sydney quality to the coast, they chose The Little Marionette as their bean supplier. The cafe’s warm, rustic and slightly cluttered interior make it the kind of place you could easily spend half a day in. The menu celebrates artisans (whose products are also for sale), such as Cornersmith and The Urban Beehive.
“We related to and respected their stories, and wanted to support and introduce them to the coast market,” says Devaney.
The Glass Onion Society
Named after the Beatles tune Glass Onion (co-founder Benjamin Wright is also a muso), this coastal favourite is part boutique and part cafe. It sits comfortably on Long Jetty’s vintage stretch, with all furniture either rescued from the roadside, plucked from garage sales or thrifted from local junk dives, says Glass Onion’s (and Wright’s) partner, Ana Koutoulas.
The all-day breakfast is a drawcard, with recent additions, such as the Karma Good Acai bowl (banana, inca and goji berries, coconut and hemp), and the Bliss Out Clouds (quinoa and coconut pancakes with spiced poached fruit), sitting next to classics such as the bacon-and-egg roll.
The bulk of the menu is made with ingredients from small businesses a stone’s throw away. Espressology in Seven Hills looks after the coffee. The house blend features dark chocolate, caramel and ripe-fruit notes.
Island Time Espresso Bar
20 years in the game means Paul Button knows about pleasing the locals. True to its name, the cafe is bright and breezy, and the menu features bursts of Hawaiian sunshine by way of poké bowls. The Waikiki bowl is a flavour-jammed rainbow of sweet potato, black rice, lotus chips, avocado and edamame.
Coffee is by Sydney’s Pablo & Rusty’s, so you can bet on your brew being ethically sourced. The smoothie bowls are popular, piled high with frozen yoghurt, seasonal fruit, shredded coconut and granola. There are decent lunchtime hunger-busters, too, including fish and chips and a pulled-pork burger – an imposing tower of crackling, marinated pork, pineapple slaw, pickles and mustard. Island Time favours local farmers and producers, with eggs laid at nearby Egg Shed and bread by Bob n Pete’s.