I was recently down in Sydney for six weeks. During this time I received no less than five texts from friends keeping me up to date with the movements in the Darwin cafe scene. Yes, we now have a cafe scene. I head down south for five minutes and someone learns how to bake organic sourdough. I should obviously go away more often.
The cafe generating the most buzz is the absurdly named Laneway (4/1 Vickers St) located in the old Corner Store (rest its soul) in Parap. No laneway in site. Positioned on a corner. Perhaps, like one customer was overheard to say “it’s named after the cool lane way cafe in Alice Spring?”
Illogical naming aside, The Laneway is the hottest foodie destination in town and it really does feel fresh. The look is understated industrial design with a big communal table, hanging plants and wooden counter tops made from old bowling alley floors. A huge cold brew coffee maker sits in the middle of the table dripping caffeine like a high school science experiment.
On a Saturday morning – and I hear it’s like this every day – there are people everywhere. Locals lining up for takeaway coffees, couples perched at the window bar and big family groups entertaining their kids with babycinos and mini chalk boards. Plus the huge team of staff are incredibly present (or maybe we’re just used to a dire lack of floor service) running around in their branded Laneway shirts. After a bit of a wait and murmurs of a ‘list’ (which seemed a little OTT given the two empty tables that could have been pushed together for our group) we finally got a seat and before I could say ‘I have to Instagram this’ there were coffees and green juices in jam jars on the table.
A word on the coffee. It’s from Sydney’s Campos, a fact that flew over my head, but made my friend Bryan grin like a crazy man for our whole breakfast. Even more so after his third cup. And now to the food. It’s hip, it’s well presented, local where possible and it tastes bloody good. The menu is pleasingly short and the all day breakfast runs from egg and bacon on a black sesame roll to shakshuka; baked eggs with feta, chilli, tomato and dukkah served hot in the pan. Those concerned about gluten can tuck into a bowl of quinoa muesli, while the rest of us can enjoy another piece of the fantastic Alley Cats sourdough. In a city that still believes in ‘stacking’ I was also pleased to see that avocado is ‘smashed’ with the smoked ocean trout dish. And high fives to The Laneway’s commitment to both happy chickens and little people. All eggs are free range and their kids menu is sophisticated. They also have at least four high chairs on the go. Lunch offers more slick cafe fare with a few surprises including a BBQ chilli chicken roll, and spicy eggplant and ricotta bruschetta with toasted walnuts, sweet grapes and herbs on rye.
It is obvious to many of us that this is the type of cafe that Darwin has long deserved. Four Birds and The Pearl in town are doing it well but what’s happening out in the ‘burbs, especially on the weekend? Now with the Laneway we can skip the market laksa and indulge in a relaxed brunch and great coffee….until, wait for it, 4pm. Now this is what I call rethinking the future of northern Australia!