Hot in the City: East Row Specialty Coffee is a triple threat

Sophia Brady 17 November 2020
East Row Specialty Coffee

East Row Specialty Coffee opened their doors last week in Civic. Photo: Ashley St George.

Taking over the abandoned corner at London Circuit and East Row in Civic, a triple threat has opened with killer coffee, food that pops, and the jackpot of attentive knowledgeable staff. It also has an enviable interior to match – the inside was gutted and refurbished to bring out the historic details of the Sydney Building and make it a desirable place to linger.

East Row Specialty Coffee opened their doors last week and I booked myself in for a solo lunch on their first day of trading. From the moment I stepped inside, the atmosphere was serene and welcoming.

It is a big space that they have respectfully transformed, embracing the style of the historic Sydney Building and the story of Canberra. There is an industrial aesthetic throughout, using a simple palette of concrete, exposed brick, timber and white complemented by large windows and natural light.

Co-owner Michelle Xue said, “We wanted the venue to provide a modern offering to Canberra, while also respecting the history of the building.”

“We’ve reflected the iconic archways in our shelving and raised the height of the ceiling to ensure that the entirety of the arched windows was captured in the space.”

Sydney Building

The space has been respectfully transformed, embracing the style of the historic Sydney Building. Photo: Ashley St George.

I cannot go past the window bar seating and prop myself up with a view to those iconic Sydney building arches and the eclectic comings and goings of London Circuit.

Being a specialty coffee house, there is a small separate coffee menu that reads like a wine list with tasting notes on each option. The supplier of choice are none other than local legends ONA Coffee, all brewed up in-house by barista and award-winning latte artist Brian Zhang.

Chef and co-owner Yokas Wu said that as a specialty coffeehouse, it’s essential that they opted for the best beans.

“We truly believe that’s ONA Coffee,” he said.

“Their techniques are ground-breaking, their training is world-class and you can guarantee an ONA Coffee’s quality time and time again. It’s a bonus that they’re local too.”

One side of the coffee menu is ONA’s classic hits and seasonal blends. Options include having coffee milk-based, black, filter or batch brewed.

On the other side is the reserve coffee menu where the crème de la crème of coffee beans feature. With five options available, these are limited small batch productions. Representing the utmost respect for the ingredient, everything in the process has been treated with care and precision from the selection of the beans, to roasting and perfecting the grind and brew.

I feel like I am in safe non-judgemental hands at East Row Speciality Coffee and make my first foray into trying a filter option from the reserve menu. It arrives on a tray with a glass jug of the steaming coffee, a cup for pouring, and a small glass of sparkling water. I need instruction on how best to consume which Brian graciously obliges. To best appreciate the flavour of the coffee he recommends drinking the water first to cleanse the mouth. Then pour and stir the coffee taking time to sip and appreciate the flavour taking note of the change once it cools down. Like a fine wine, the taste is a soothing symphony of delicate flavours rather than the jolt I get drinking my morning espresso.

ONA Coffee

The coffee supplier of choice is none other than local legends ONA Coffee. Photo: Ashley St George.

The food menu was conceived by Chef Wu. Using his 11 years’ experience in the industry, Chef Wu has brought to life dishes that are set to become local favourites like Donut French Toast, Pulled Pork Benedict and Butternut Pumpkin Gnocchi.

“The dishes are designed to be an experience in the way they look and the way they taste,” he says.

“Take the Veggie Pot, for example. It’s like a multi-coloured forest and an adventure for the senses. Every meal has something special about it. Something that will wow the customers from the moment it’s been served to their last bite.”

As much as I am curious to experience the Veggie Pot (the forest features an olive and chickpea soil), my Russian heritage can’t go past the combination of cured fish, beetroot and rye bread that the Salmon Gravlax promises.

Colourful Salmon Gravlax

Colourful Salmon Gravlax. Photo: Sophia Brady.

When the dish arrives, it is a joy to look at. Edible florals have been added as a flourish to the already colourful dainty plating of the beetroot salmon gravlax. It is served with a light airy lemonade foam, zesty cucumber and lime salsa, and the thinnest, crispiest dark rye crouton perfect for scooping up the ingredients.

The passion is on display in every detail at East Row Specialty Coffee and it is a literal light bright spot in the city for repose, coffee and food, whether you are in a hurry or there to linger.

East Row Speciality Coffee dishes

The dishes are designed to be an experience in the way they look and the way they taste. Photo: Ashley St George.

East Row Speciality Coffee is open Monday to Saturday from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm.

For more information, visit their Facebook page.


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