The Steam Engine (Chatswood)

Coffee: 17/20
Whole experience (cafe + coffee): 34/40

What’s the thing that Sydney train stations and the suburb Chatswood have in common? A reputation for quality coffee. Much like the art gallery paradox I talked about in my previous post, coffee shop owners know when they have a captive almost desperate audience they can produce a weak but profitable product.

The Steam Engine found within the interchange at Chatswood (below the station) blows both of these assumptions out of the water.

Like something out of Surry Hills (and a little reminiscent of Sample Café), Steam Engine has a hole-in-the wall feel with great mix of coffee flowing.

While it may look more ‘takeaway’ to you north shore folk due to its size, don’t be alarmed it’s not. Do as I did and grab a table and/or chair, that may feel like you’re nearly sitting on top of someone, and pull out the paper.

Coffee ordering during the normal flow of things is via the counter. However, I managed to get an order at my table. A piccolo was on its way.

Judging by the people asking for it, the Steam Engine has developed a bit of a cult following for single origin coffees. It seems like demand is well outpacing supply and they were out of them on my visit.

The piccolo came to me pretty quickly and was made using their house blend, which the barista told me was a bespoke roast by Toby’s Estate.

Looks wise, it was spot on. A small, well proportioned, drink with simple heart, reasonable heat to it.

The aroma was quite rich and a little dirty, there was a clearly something a little fruity/ sweet to this drink.

Taste wise, it was delightfully sweet with a high level of acidity to it, which given the 4 or 5 standard brands of beans in Sydney is unusual for a house blends.

Flavours sat/fluctuated somewhere between a sweet stone fruit like a nectarine and something honey sugar like – caramel perhaps?

The only thing I was disappointed by during my experience was the lack of a glass of water with the coffee. However, it was not until sitting in front of the tap for a while that I figured out the jars and the thing that looks like an industrial pipe is the tap – perhaps I am getting old?

What topped off the experience was the barista coming to have a chat with me to make sure I was enjoying my drink. It’s the small things, which add to the experience.

Overall, there is a lot to love about this café. The staff are charming and seem to be interested in this customer’s experience. The coffee is solid and given the demand for the single origins I am sure they are worth giving a shot if you’re here on a weekday. While the café may not be built for an ideal North Shore dine in experience, if you’re an eastern suburbs or inner west nerd like me, the small cramped conditions will make you feel right at home.

1. Coffee score
Style (look and feel): 8/10
Experience (taste and smell): 9/10
Coffee total: 17/20

2. Cafe score
Style (what’s it feel like): industrial hole-in-the-wall
Cool?: 8/10
Service: 9/10
Cafe: 17/20
Whole experience (coffee + cafe): 34/40

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