The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry | A Sydney Food Blog

Joe Black, Surry Hills

August 29th, 2011  |  Published in Cafes  |  6 Comments

Joe Black, Surry Hills

Just when you thought Surry Hills was at maximum cafe capacity, along comes another great new addition: Joe Black.

With a mural showing the evolution of human caffeine dependency, this place takes its coffee ultra-seriously. The blackboard offers two Single Origin special brews a day and a house blend, there are take-home packs galore and you may find yourself sitting near a ditting machine or siphon bar. And besides the usual orders, you can ask for a cup of Magic ($3.50). “Not real magic, just ask”, says the menu. Turns out it’s a 3/4-sized double ristretto flat white; so after a few sips, it performs quite a disappearing act. Hence the “magic”.

Joe Black, Surry Hills

This, I’m told by Joe Black’s staff, is a “Melbourne thing”. And the moustache logo on all the takeaway cups? Another influence from that city, too. It’s a jokey tribute to the fact that many baristas in Melbourne each sport a mo.

And while the two brothers behind the counter (mischievously) won’t own up to who actually runs Joe Black, they will admit that the cafe isn’t named after them. Joe Black might as well be the coffee-toting man in the mural.

Joe Black, Surry Hills

And even with all this talk about a certain caffeinated drink, Joe Black is not so singleminded about roasted beans to forget that there’s more to a cafe than this.

The menu, while currently short, is pretty good (and quite funny). The Pikelet Stack With Stuff ($11), despite its amusingly vague title, is filled with noteworthy ingredients: airy ricotta, a lovely jam-like berry compote and a good topping of strawberry and apple slices. It’s an excellent breakfast option and quite fun to structurally demolish with a knife and fork. (And its greatness estranges it from the dreaded vegie stack of the 1990s, of no flavour relation.) Like this dish, there are other offerings with amusing commentary on the menu: Granola with Diced Apple & Berry Compote (very fancy) ($8.50) and Chivi Steak Sandwich with Graviche (it’s French for yum) ($13). And yes, Joe Black’s Milkshakes (bring the boys to the yard).

Joe Black, Surry Hills

I also really enjoyed the Mushroom & Hummus on Rye – a great vego sandwich. The surprise layer of parsley-flecked mushroom pate just bumps it up an extra notch. And the home-baked White Chocolate & Raspberry ‘Blondie’, made by barista Gemma, is an excellent treat; as you cut into the slice, the raspberry bits bleed all over the chopping board, as a sign of how satisfyingly sticky and sweet it is.

Joe Black, Surry Hills

This is just part of the limited selection on offer at Joe Black; surely it can only get better as the cafe expands to a full-range menu?

Joe Black, Surry Hills

This tiny joint has only been open for two weeks and its likeable approach inspires “hope this place does well” feelings. Besides its fine menu, Joe Black also has wit and personality on its side (how could you not like a cafe where the staff addresses familiar faces as “gangsters” and chooses to decorate the walls with a picture of JFK, an eye chart and a poster of Peter Norman?). We may have only just met, but Joe Black is someone I’d want hanging around for a long time.

Joe Black, 27 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills NSW. Follow on Facebook or Twitter.

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  1. YUM! Definitely going to try this out, as I adore pancakes.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Actually they are using Five Senses beans, not Single Origin, although they do offer two different single origin beans daily

  3. leetranlam says:

    Thanks for your comments! And Anonymous, thanks for picking that up – I didn’t realise it was single origin (the type) and not Single Origin (the brand). Corrected the link, now!

  4. Love a cafe with a touch of personality!

  5. Amy says:

    I like the sound of this place… especially the pikelet stack. Must add it to my list!

  6. vanessa says:

    Joe Black, I look forward to meeting you. Thanks LTL!

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Hi, I'm Lee Tran Lam. When not blogging with my mouth full, I'm usually writing, presenting Local Fidelity on FBi radio, making zines, producing podcasts or continually breaking promises about how I really am gonna get through my book pile one day.

All the good pictures on this blog are by photography ace (and patient boyfriend), Will Reichelt, (all the dodgy ones can be credited to me)!

The lovely banner is by friend and ultra-talented illustrator Grace Lee.

This site redesign was made possible by the next-level generosity and expertise of Daniel Boud, whose code-tinkering ways are only outranked by his seriously inspired way with a camera.

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This is a blog I do for pure fun and zero influence – there's no sponsorship, sneaky advertorial or advertising. I pay for all the food mentioned, 'cos it seems the ethical thing to do.


This is a blog about eating and drinking in Sydney, Australia (with the odd cross-border or off-topic detour). BYO appetite.

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