Single O, Surry Hills

Two filter coffees, one either side of a glass of cold brew, all served on a small tray along with two information cards for the coffees.Sydney was my final stop on this year’s Australia trip and, in many ways, I’d saved the best until last. Good coffee abounds in Sydney and top of my list was one of the city’s pioneers, Single O, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. And where better to start than Single O’s flagship café in Surry Hills, the place where it all began 20 years ago? Except, of course, my first introduction to Single O came five years earlier at its Tasting Bar in the Single O Roastery in Tokyo. Oh well…

The Surry Hills café is long and thin, split into separate sit-in and takeaway sections either side of the central counter. There’s also plenty of seating outside. Originally the back of the café was home to the roastery. This is long since gone, but Single O still roasts all its coffee, with two blends and a rotating single-origin on espresso, two single-origins on batch-brew filter (both on tap!), plus cold brew and two tasting flights, with all the beans available to buy in retail bags. There are also juices, beer and wine, while the large all-day brunch menu means you’re equally well catered for when it comes to food.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • Single O, on the north side of Reservoir Street in Surry Hills, Sydney.
  • And here's the view from the other side, opposite the corner with Hands Lane.
  • There's plenty of outside seating on Reservoir Street, both on the pavement...
  • ... and on the street itself, protected by a row of solid, waist-high barriers.
  • There are six two-person tables on the pavement, extendng to the left of Single O...
  • ... and five more on the side of the street, with an occasional extra stool.
  • The view towards Hands Lane showing all of the seating on Reservoir Street.
  • Half the seating is in front of the Single O cafe, with the rest extending to the left.
  • It's full table service, so you can't just grab a table. Instead, you need to head to the...
  • ... door which is on the corner, although if you are...
  • ... only looking for a quick coffee or a takeaway, keep on going around the corner...
  • ... and onto Hands Lane. There's limited outside seating here on this side of the street...
  • ... with a little bit more on the other side...
  • ... including this neat bar along the side of the building opposite.
  • However, the main reason to come down here is to visit the takeaway counter...
  • ... which is at the back of Single O, on the right. This is a coffee shop in its own right...
  • ... with its own till and dedicated La Marzocco Linea espresso machine.
  • You'll find the menus in the corner...
  • ... with food (top) and coffee (bottom). The food menu is quite extensive...
  • ... while there are also hot pies (top) and cold drinks (bottom).
  • If you want filter coffee, it's all on tap, with two hot (right) and two cold (left) options.
  • There's even a full selection of retail bags of coffee on display out here.
  • While I'm not a fan of disposible cups, this is a quite a neat solution for their storage.
  • However, I had come to stay, so it was back to the door for me...
  • ... where this polite sign invited me to wait to be shown to a table.
  • Single O is split in two by the counter, which runs down the middle, so this...
  • ... three-person window-bar on the right is actually for short stays.
  • There's plenty of choice on the other side for those who are sitting in, starting with...
  • ... a line of three two-person tables in the windows at the front.
  • There's also a row of two-person tables along this padded bench on the left-hand wall.
  • This runs all the way to the kitchen at the back.
  • There are eight tables in all.
  • Of course, pairs of tables (or more) can be pushed together for larger groups.
  • A view from the back.
  • There's one final seating area, with four bar chairs along the side of the counter...
  • ... where you get a good view of the La Marzocco Linea on the takeaway counter.
  • So many grinders!
  • However, if you're staying, your coffee may well be made on these two Modbar...
  • ...  group heads which are located right at the front of the counter.
  • If you are interested in the coffee, then Single O has retail shelves built into the counter.
  • The recessed alcoves highlight specific single-origins, like this Manos Juntas.
  • It's also worth looking up, where plants hang from the ceiling.
  • Meanwhile, this lighting display hangs at the front next to the 20th anniversary sign.
  • You also need to check out the various little folk parachuting down from the ceiling!
  • To business. You'll find menus on each table, with an introduction to Single O at the front.
  • There are pages dedicated to coffee (left) and other beverages (right)...
  • ... and two pages for the all-day brunch menu...
  • ... with another two pages at the back for a glossary!
  • I visited twice, first for coffee, when I had the filter flight.
  • This consists of two batch-brew filters made with different beans and a cold brew.
  • The two coffees each come with their own information card. This is for the Shantawene...
  • ... while this is for the Finca La Julia, which was also used for the cold brew.
  • On my return the following day, I went for the Double-down. This is an espresso...
  • ... and a flat white, both made with the Manos Juntas that we saw earlier.
  • However, I'll leave you with my brunch, which was as good as it looked, if not better!
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Single O is split between Sydney (roastery, Surry Hills café and a Saturday Farmers’ Market stall) and Tokyo (café, plus the roastery, home to the Tasting Bar which I visited in 2018). The Surry Hills café is a few minutes’ (uphill) stroll from Sydney’s Central Station, where I’d arrived by train from Melbourne. Located on the corner of Reservoir Street and Hands Lane, Single-O is long and thin, the short side facing Reservoir Street, where there’s plenty of outside seating.

This is split between the pavement and the side of the road, where customers are protected from the passing traffic by a row of solid, waist-high barriers. In all, there are five two-person tables on the street with another six on the pavement, three in front of Single O and three more to the left. Single O offers full table service, so if you’re staying, present yourself at the door, which is on the corner at 45°. Here a polite notice asks you to wait to be seated, while a more jovial sign points around the corner for “takeaways & short stays”.

Taking this option leads to a separate takeaway counter at the back of Single O, facing onto Hands Lane, where there’s additional seating in the shape of stools and a bar on the opposite side of the street. The counter has its own three-group La Marzocco Linea espresso machine, along with batch-brew filter on tap, a full set of retail shelves and takeaway food options, including hot pies.

Inside, a central counter runs from the back wall to just short of the door. Everything to the right is for “takeaways & short stays”, including a narrow, three-person bar at the front. Meanwhile the seating to the left is reserved for longer stays. A row of three two-person tables lines the front window, while eight more run along the left-hand wall opposite the counter, ending at the kitchen at the back. Finally, you can sit at the counter itself on one of four tall bar chairs with views across to the Linea. However, if you’re sitting in, the chances are your coffee will be made on one of the two Modbar group heads at the front of the counter.

I visited twice, first for coffee, returning the following day for brunch. On arrival, you’ll be shown to a table, where you’ll find the extensive menu, which includes an introduction to Single O at the front and a two-page glossary at the back. On both occasions I was drawn to the flight options: the filter flight on my first visit and the Double-down (an espresso and flat white) on my return.

My filter flight consisted of the Shantawene, a washed coffee from Ethiopia, and the Finca La Julia, a double diamond processed coffee from Costa Rica, plus the cold brew (made using the Finca La Julia). Served on a tray, each coffee had its own information card. Both were really fine, with the Finca La Julia the sweeter, fruitier and more full-bodied of the two, while the Shantawene was cleaner, with a lighter mouthfeel. The cold brew, meanwhile, confirmed that cold brew still isn’t for me.

The following day, I was presented with the Manos Juntas, a naturally-processed coffee from Colombia. As an espresso, it was excellent, with a fruity, front of mouth taste and a touch of sharpness. It also made for a very fine flat white, the flavours of the coffee pairing well with the oat milk, which I’d found over the course of my three weeks in Australia to be much more to my taste than dairy.

However, the last word goes to my brunch, an excellent poached eggs on toast, with avocado and mushrooms.

60-64 RESERVOIR STREET • SURRY HILLS • SYDNEY • NSW 2010 • AUSTRALIA +61 (0) 2 9211 0665
Monday 07:00 – 15:00 Roaster Single O (espresso + filter)
Tuesday 07:00 – 15:00 Seating Tables, Counter; Tables (outside)
Wednesday 07:00 – 15:00 Food Breakfast, Lunch, Cakes
Thursday 07:00 – 15:00 Service Table
Friday 07:00 – 15:00 Payment Cards Only
Saturday 08:00 – 15:00 Wifi No
Sunday 08:00 – 15:00 Power No
Chain International Visits 10th, 11th May 2023

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  1. Pingback: Single O Tasting Bar | Brian's Coffee Spot

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