Reuben Hills is a coffee roastery as well as a cafe that does great food in a converted house on Albion Street in Surry Hills. It’s one of those by now not so new places that I never get to until it’s not cool anymore. Except Reuben Hills is still cool. It’s so achingly hip, you feel like you need to hit up the dollar store for that fake beard and tattoo sticker first. The space itself is quite nice. The front entrance itself doesn’t look like much but then you enter and it’s a long space. Dark timber slatted ceiling reinforced black beams with all exposed concrete and brick everything and the neu-industrial vibe that’s sweeping the city of Sydney is what’s going on in here. Behind the long counter is 1/3 kitchen, 2/3 coffee bar and then it opens up into the bright back, which would’ve been the garage in times past. A communal table  adorned with the most massively obstrusive vase with tree inside (this dude kept flicking a branch away from his toussled mane) sits in front of a wall lit up with different coloured flourescent tubes that looks like James Clar on a budget. The job Herbert & Mason did is a lot better than my pithy excuse of a description. This house is to Sydney what a nice loft is in New York. It’s fucking perfection.

You feel like you’re in that guy’s house. The guy who knows the band members and not just the bands, the guy who’s into all the cool stuff. It’s not really super pretentious but it definitely gives off distinctly trendy vibes. A custom La Marzocco Mistral is what does the business and acts as the centrepiece for the entire operation. The owners used to run The Source in Mosman and they roast the coffee upstairs. They moved to Surry Hills because, well who doesn’t? Me, it seems.

1st trip. We get a table bang in the middle. My girl forgets her phone on the cab. I have to get out to get the cabbie back. This costs me $10 and my mood is dour. Thankfully, the menu comes to the rescue and I quickly forget. I order a Not Reuben ($16) sandwich, which is rye bread (Brasserie) plus wagyu brisket, coleslaw, Manchego and horseradish cream plus a salted caramel milkshake ($8.50). My girl gets the Dirty Bird ($15), which is brioche, grilled chicken, tomatillo salsa, pickles, cheese and chipotle aioli plus a flat white ($4). Yes you read correctly, salted caramel milkshake motherfuckers. The trend flavour for 2012/13. Incidentally, you really ought to smash some Salted Caramel White Choc at Gelato Messina if you haven’t.

But back to the Hills. They’re alive with the sounds of hip-hop. The water comes in milk bottles printed with vintage graphics. A shelf is filled with cutlery, plates, Tasmanian Leatherwood honey (the ones with the brilliant flower adorned cans), sriracha and more. It’s a carefully curated selection of condiments that look as good as they taste. The plates we get are like from some hipster bitch’s tea party collection, vintage as fuck. My sandwich comes in a red plastic basket lined with greaseproof. The place feels like a diner, only too cool for school. I actually hate the plates because they’re light as fuck and you struggle trying to cut stuff because the plate keeps moving.

You can see the influence of South American cuisine on the food. The guys source a good bit of coffee from Central/South America, so I suppose it makes sense to combine the two, even if it does seems a little of the moment. The Dirty Bird is a good sandwich. The pickles it contains appear to be the same coleslaw as in my Not Reuben. I suppose it’s called that because it’s not a Reuben sandwich, which is rye, corned beef, cheese, russian dressing and sauerkraut but it’s sort of um similar? It’s not. It’s good. The slaw is strongly pungent of cloves and spices. I bit into some. This is not super cool but the flavour of the slaw is great. The brisket is well done and everything goes well together. This shit isn’t on some next level blow your mind tip, it’s just sambos done justice. The milkshake is pretty bomb. It sort of split after a while but that’s the nature of the game I guess.

2nd trip. We get breakfast on Easter Saturday. It’s a half hour wait for a table with a lotta people just waiting outside. I worried I wouldn’t get a feed after a starving morning but it we just perched ourselves on a steel beam that served as a waiting bench. We get seated at the window this time, looking out at babies and people strolling past. I opt for the Baleada with Eggs, Queso Fresco, & Black Beans ($11). My girl tosses between Scramble on Rye ($12) with Heirloom Tomatoes ($5) & Berkshire Ham ($6) or a Chorizo Grits. She went for the former which I think is pretty damn expensive. $12 for a dry style of scramble sitting on one slice of rye toast although my girl thought she saw someone else getting something really creamy (coulda just been another dish). This was a probably near creamless scramble with brunoise onions running through it, it’s tasty but it’s hard to justify the money. The toast is sufficient whilst the sides are good, albeit pricey again. $5 gets you a quarter of a punnet of lightly cooked premium organic mixed variety cherry tomatoes and they taste great. $6 gets you a couple thick slices of lightly grilled ham, which is good but not great. My baleada is pretty good though. Soft tortilla with the same scramble as on the scramble, just a half portion worth plus a generous amount of heavily spiced black beans and a good helping of cheese is pretty tasty.

Drinks wise, we went with a strong flat ($4.5) and an Espresso & White Choc Milkshake ($8.50) which is good but doesn’t beat the Salted Caramel. I also got a cold pour over ($5). The coffee is a clear standout for me. They offer filter, espresso and cold pour over and a variety of beans plus they also sell whole beans etc. My espresso has a great, distinct fruitiness which I thought set it apart from most other coffee joints in the city. Their house blend appears to be what most other places would offer as a special instead. It’s a style of espresso (slightly lighter roast, brighter flavours) I think is a lot more common in Melbourne. The pour over came in a sake jug with froth on top to keep it cold I presume. But they also give you a regular sized mug so the tendency will be to pour it all out in one shot anyway. It’s good though, blackberry/blackcurrant brightness and quite refreshing.

I’m very attracted to the menu. I think it’s pretty extensive feeling and it’s not a poached eggs only kinda joint. It also tends to bigger, richer flavours, which is what I’m into as well. I’m keen to keep going back to try their Baked Eggs, Fried Chicken and their Dogg’s Breakfast, which is an ice cream sandwich with salted caramel, which perhaps is dedicated to Nate Dogg? I also count 2 fuckings on the menu. One for the fried chicken and one for the pour over. Plus one cray for the affogato. It’s clear they are earnest in their vernacular.

Is it worth the hype? Yes. I think this is how you make a cool spot, with good food, good coffee and a great vibe. More than anything, this is the sort of place I wish I opened.

Alright, 3rd trip in like a week? I must like this place maybe. I had the Really fucking great Fried Chicken with chilli in a basket ($16) and the girl had the Soft Baked Eggs with Jamon, Spinach, Ranchero & Rye ($17) plus a Root Beer Float ($8.50) to down it all. First, let’s get it out of the way, 8 and a 1/2 is a lot for a scoop of ice cream and root beer but I like it with fried chicken. The chicken comes in a basket with a spicy mayo plus a salsa. Both the condiments are good but the swearing on the menu isn’t justified. I mean, as a self professed fried chicken expert, this is good but not great. The chicken is deboned leg meat and crumbed in a spiced crumb that has got fennel and anise and shit in it. It’s not particularly crispy and is a touch too salty. The flesh is tender and overall, it’s nice but it doesn’t come close to beating out Korean Fried Chicken, like the mind shatteringly crispy shit I had in Yongsan. But it ain’t fair to compare with real masters of chicken frying. The baked eggs, I’m happy to report, are excellent. It arrives in a earthen bowl, with two slices of Brasserie rye sourdough. The eggs are nice and soft, sitting on a bed of well spiced salsa plus you get spinach and uncooked jamon, which is very good in my book. Slopping up a bit of everything with the bread to mop it up is great. This is how you do a good baked eggs, which is a big trend in Sydney cafes for a while now but a lot of places do a piss poor version.

Again, I don’t know exactly why but I just feel the need to stress that nothing on the menu is mind blowingly good. It’s mostly consistent 7s all round with a few 7.5s here or there. I personally think that breakfast here is great with excellent coffee and either the baleadas or baked eggs being superb choices. The sambos are good and most of the stuff is reasonably priced but if I have to suggest one must, it’s the salted caramel milkshake, which maybe gets an 8.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements