Kings Cross by day is very much a lucky dip. Potts Point's well-heeled rub shoulders with party-hardy backpackers, while the odd straggler can be seen wandering about doing the walk of shame, looking lost and confused by the daylight. Throw in a few of the city's fringe dwellers and the rainbow's complete. But look beyond the neon and fishnets of the red-light district and you will discover a capillary system of laneways and malls that offer a gentle reprieve from the main drag.
Duck into Llankelly Place and you may be forgiven for thinking that you had briefly teleported to Melbourne. Miniature cafés line the pedestrian mall alongside bars, restaurants, shops and gallery spaces and hanging above it all is a festive light installation in red, amber and green. Right in the midst of this fledgling hub sits Ithaka Kafeneion, an espresso bar serving up quick snacks and frappes to passersby and a fair number of Sydney's Greek community.
Caffeine is king at Ithaka. The menu is dominated by traditional Greek coffee, espresso, and frappes - instant coffee, sugar, water and milk over ice - that are the house specialty. Fear not, there's nary a Nescafe tin to be seen, and we are assured that only the traditional Greek variety will do. The end result is creamy rather than icy and barely touches the sides on a hot day.
This isn't a spot for a long lunch but the homemade pastries and biscuits make for a tasty snack. Just getting one of the seven odd tables can prove a little tricky as the older customers, furnished with a coffee and the weekend papers, are clearly in no great hurry. The Greek yoghurt (yiaourti) comes with a liberal topping of cinnamon, honey, walnuts and dried figs and is definitely not for the flavour shy, while the sandwiches are proof that a ham and cheese sanga is much the same no matter where in the world you hail from. The crowning glory is undeniably the house baklava. The long fingers of pastry filled with nuts and honey are a shining testament to Hellenic desserts and are a damn sight kinder to your clothes than the almond shortbread coated in icing sugar.
New café owner Nia Mothoneos may still finding her feet but for those of us who tire of the standard café quick fix - a bacon and egg roll and flat white to go - perhaps a spanakopita and frappe is just the Euro-trip your taste buds need.