In Short: Expertly crafted coffee; tasty uncomplicated food; friendly neighbourhood vibe.
Ever been to Brooklyn? Seen it in movies and never thought of it as a foodie destination? Well, it’s time to rethink your travel plans! Brooklyn has been going through a transformation that has seen it become a gastronomic treasure trove, and Aussie-inspired coffee is at the top of the list. For those who don’t realise that one of Australia’s most valuable exports are its baristas, then a trip to New York to see how Aussie coffee culture is helping to drive a revolution in the U.S. café scene will make you realise just how good we have it down under!
Opened by Melburnian Alexander Hall, Milk Bar in Brooklyn has been one of the early cafe culture immigrants forging the movement to bring good coffee to America. Moreover, it’s the entire café experience that these Aussie influencers are transplanting. The food, atmosphere, service, and yes, the flat whites.
Ubering it to Brooklyn from Manhattan, we find Milk Bar nestled on the corner of a quaint neighbourhood street and a funky food-focused main drag. Opening the door, we’re greeted by a voice from home, as an Aussie accent susses out that we’re fellow countryman looking for a hit of the good stuff. Andrew, a talented barista with a friendly smile, suggests we grab a bench outside, as the place is chock-a-block. In the cool shade of the trees that line the tranquil side streets, we place our order and await a little taste of home.
The steamy midday sun means something icy is called for, so the Australian Iced Coffee is first on the list. A double shot espresso over ice cream and blended with frosty milk delivers a creamy, nutty and refreshing glass of yum. There’s just enough sweetness to make it a naughty treat, but no so much that you feel the need for a blood sugar test. Sipping it slowly through a straw, as the summertime streets provide plenty of people watching entertainment, can make you lose track of the hours.
Milk Bar’s blend of choice today is Hologram by Counter Culture Coffee, based out of Durham, North Carolina. Hologram brings together Sipacapa, La Roca (Nicaragua), and Hambela Natural (Ethiopia) beans into a blend that cultivates dark, rich, fruit notes. This dominant flavour profile is driven by the Ethiopian beans that are sundried still encased in their coffee-cherry fruit.
To showcase this delightful blend, Andrew expertly baristas-up a perfectly poured cappuccino, and the blend comes to life in the mouth. The “Cap” tickles the upper lip with a silky froth and follows with those promised rich, bold, fruit-infused sparks on the tongue. The balance of milk to espresso is on the mark and can’t help remind us of the cappuccinos waiting for us on our return to good ol’ Oz.
Nibbles are needed with such good coffee, so we go with the obvious companion to a good Aussie-style cappuccino, an “Avo Smash”. Well, it’s not quite that mundane at Milk Bar. The avocado salsa on toast with poached egg takes it all up a notch, and goes down so well with every sip of the “cap”. Fresh and light in the mouth, the taste is close to a vibrant, zesty guacamole. Resting on a crispy, seeded slice of multigrain toast, we topped it with an expertly poached egg, all dusted with a little chili spice.
Taking a tack away from the familiar Aussie fare, we steer toward more “state-side” flavours in the cheddar biscuit breakfast sandwich. For our Aussie readers, clear your mind of Tim Tams and Iced VoVos, this biscuit is a moist, spicy, warm cherub of chilli-infused cheesiness. The soft, yet textured biscuit is full of flavour and spice as it cradles a filling of fluffy eggs, Applewood smoked bacon, and yes, ooey-goey, melty Swiss cheese. It’s a perfect handful, and somehow really works with the iced coffee.
As the friendly neighbourhood mutts waddle up for a slurp out of the doggie bowl thoughtfully positioned for Milk Bar’s discerning canine clientele, we figure it’s time to make room for their human entourage and free up some much sought-after table space at this very popular slice of Brooklyn café culture. Milk Bar might be a welcome oasis for us coffee refugees a long way from home, but it’s also a beacon for a new generation of quality café culture that is sweeping across the big smoke and well beyond.