Coffee. That dark brew, that aroma, that comfort from the first sip of bitter, acrid liquid.

Sydney, Australia has long had a friendly (and occasionally not-so-friendly) rivalry with Melbourne over the title of "cafe culture capital" of our wide brown land. Both cities boast a truly world-class and excellent array of cafes, restaurants and patisseries. Due to the authenticity of different cultures and their extension through food and drink, thankfully due to large numbers of migrants that have chosen Oz as their home, Australia is blessed with some of the best "foreign" food in the world.

In Sydney (and Melbourne), you can find drinkable coffee just about anywhere. What do I define as "drinkable"? What do I define as "coffee"? I mean espresso coffee, created from 100%, ground Arabica coffee beans, prepared in an espresso machine, with optional steamed, frothed milk. The result should be a coffee with the bittersweet, acrid taste of the brown liquid, a caffeine hit, and an aroma that engages your sense of smell to reinforce the fact that coffee is your friend.

Aside: In my recent trip to the US, I have decided that, unfortunately, they do NOT know what good coffee is. I'm sorry, but that's my opinion. Starbucks is NOT good coffee. As a demonstration, Starbucks is not even considered BAD coffee in Australia. You only go to Starbucks if there is absolutely no other cafe open within sensible travelling time. And considering Hernandez... well, I won't spoil the surprise.

Even the humble sandwich shop or take away can usually make you a half-decent (and sometimes ONLY half-decent) cup of espresso coffee, and although it won't be something you tell your grandkids about, it will taste like it should and give you the pick-me-up you want (need ARE ADDICTED TO *ahem*). But what happens if you want more than a half-decent cup of coffee? Where can you go to find a coffee shop that comes recommended by a barista of 7 years, a trusted E2 member and gentleman who has partaken of thousands upon thousands of tiny porcelain cups in his life?

Cafe Hernandez

Firstly, the boring and factual stuff. Cafe Hernandez is located at 60 Kings Cross Road, Kings Cross, NSW, Australia, 2011. They can be telephoned on: (02) 9331 2343 or faxed on: (02) 9360 4304 and more information can be gleaned from their website, .

With that out of the way, what can you expect? Cafe Hernandez (just "Hernandez" from now on) is a wonderful, friendly cafe in a ... "bohemian" location on what I consider the fringes of Sydney's red light district - an area that also boasts memorials, dodgy clubs and perfectly normal people eking out a life. It's actually NOT that seedy an area. Hernandez is set in to the side of an apartment block heading on the road toward Rushcutters Bay (parallel to Bayswater Road, away from the heart of Kings Cross). If you are looking at the "world famous" Coca-Cola sign, simply follow the road to the right and it is one block further.

What makes it so special, in a city of hundreds of cafes?

Well, you can judge a place by how busy it is and their clientele. First, and most importantly: Hernandez is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Just think of that one more time. Any time of the day or night, any day of the week, they will be open. As to how busy they are, I've kept some pretty odd hours in my life, and NEVER SEEN IT EMPTY. Not once. As to their clientele, one rule is "if a cabbie (taxi driver) goes there, it MUST be good". Taxi drivers are people who appreciate quality, service, price and availability. Given its proximity close to major transport links (and a popular destination like The Cross) it attracts a decent number of cabbies, at all times of the day. Additionally, people from all over Sydney find their way to Hernandez - poets, lovers, families (somewhat), friends. All have found Hernandez and all will come back.

I'm intrigued. You are really going on about this place! Tell me more.

Hernandez is wonderful - quirky, crowded and a must-see for coffee lovers. Their floorspace means that you feel blessed to find a table - with just 4 outside tables seating 2, and 7 indoor tables that you can barely cram 4 people around, they somehow (miraculously) always seem to have JUST enough to squeeze you and your friends in. The cafe itself has a coffee machine and cake display to the left of the tiny, ricketty door you squeeze through to get in and a raised area at the back with one of the indoor tables on it. However, the back of the seating area is bounded not by a wall, but rather a piano and a coffee bean dispensary. More on that later. On every single wall, however, are dozens of paintings, aged, yellowing ("browning" due to the coffee, more likely) and ecclectic. Landscapes, portraits, still life - all are represented, all by unknown (and probably local) artists, all fitting in wonderfully.

Throughout the cafe is the most wonderful aroma imaginable of freshly roasted beans. It envelops you, taking you in and wrapping itself around you like a comforting friend. For hours you may find yourself sitting, musing, drinking, staring out of the windows at the modern landscaping hiding the new Cross City Tunnel, oblivious to the cars wooshing by below, hidden by the gardens and 15 meter drop to its exit.

Sounds lovely. What can I expect in terms of goods for sale?

Taken from the website: "Joaquin Hernandez began Café Hernandez in Sydney in 1972 having been quality controller in his country of origin – Spain. His style of roasting and blending is distinctive while freshness is paramount. This has kept him popular for over 30 years." Spanish coffee is extremely similar to Italian coffee, yet has (to this authors taste anyway) a richer and more flavourful taste. Joaquin and his staff serve their own blend of coffee, along with Spanish food and more traditional cafe fare. Some examples include: Chorizo and potato "tortilla" (resembling more of an omlette or quiche than what most people imagine), or a traditional churros - a Spanish "donut" of star-shaped batter deep fried and rolled in cinnamon and sugar. A 3am toasted cheese and tomato melt? No problem. Cake? Soup? Focaccia? Cinnamon scroll? All done, freshly prepared.

Beyond the traditional cappucino, latte, flat white (the Australian term for cafe au lait) or straight espresso (long or short black), you can also get a Cafe Bombom - traditional modern Spanish coffee made with sweetened condensed milk instead of frothed milk. Or an affogato. Or ristretto. Machiatto. You name it, they can make it.

Love your coffee? Make a proper espresso yourself? Then you need top quality coffee beans, or grounds if you don't have your own grinder. Thankfully, Hernandez imports, roasts, and grinds a variety of beans from around the world. They offer SEVENTEEN (17) varieties! They have "origin" coffees, straight from the growing country, be it Honduras, Costa Rica, Blue Mountain (New Guinea), Guatemala, Ethiopia, Brazil Santos, or Colombia. They offer TWO types of Kenyan coffe - Kenya Pearl and Kenya Royal, as well as a highly-roasted Caramel Espresso. They also have created their own popular blends - French Mixture, Spanish Blend, American Blend, Nicaragua Blend, Cronulla Blend, and for those wanting quality coffee flavour without the caffeine, they offer a Swiss Water Process Decaf.

Their staff are always friendly, their clientele too. Their food and coffee are top notch, and they are open ALL YEAR AROUND. If you're able to make it to Hernandez, you'll be rewarded with a truly amazing coffee experience.

2006-07-29 Diabolic says re Cafe Hernandez: This makes me miss Spain. Coincidentally, that potato omellete is called a "Tortilla" in Spain, and all that stuff is available in half the cafes in any major city there. I'm glad to hear that you've had the chance to try a spanish cafe.
For moongirl - and her inspiration...

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