Some inner-west devotees will tell you that once you leave the café heartland all hope for a great coffee is lost. They couldn't be further from the truth. Dare to venture beyond the confines of your regular brunch haunts and you may just uncover a hidden gem in the least likely of locations.
One such treasure is Swallow Coffee Traders in Rockdale. Nestled in a tiny nook just next to the station, this wee café sees off the hordes of morning commuters with powerful espresso shots and quick breakfast snacks. Opened in November last year, it boasts a street-art inspired mural, milk crates covered with fashionably repurposed printed hessian sacks and industrial interior that would be right at home on King Street. New café owners Angus Nicol and Jessica Hol have instead set up shop just off the thundering Princes Highway.
The beans at Swallow are Single Origin and it is clear that Hol and Nicol have more than a passing interest in coffee. Right now the order of the day is espresso but looking beyond your standard shot there are plans afoot for pour-overs, siphons and cupping – specialty extraction methods that include test tubes and Bunsen burners among other strange and wonderful paraphernalia.
On the weekend there's a full breakfast menu that we will most definitely return to investigate, but as our visit falls on a weekday we opt instead for the delicious spread of baked treats and sambos. The fruit toast with ricotta and honey is a dense brown loaf packed with huge chunks of fig, dried apricots, apple and macadamias that will see you well into the afternoon before hunger pang strike again. The sandwiches are equally hearty with thick-cut slices of sourdough filled with ham, brie and sun-dried tomatoes or roasted vegetables and cheese. If you're in a serious hurry there are house-made muffins of the day, but by the time we arrive they've all been snapped up and only the tantalising smell of baking pear and cinnamon linger to tell the tale.
Sure, Swallow Coffee Traders could have easily found a home in any number of established café suburbs but Nicol and Hol's pioneering spirit has been well rewarded already with a strong local fan base who have welcomed a little bit of the inner west to Rockdale.