In Short: Kyō Coffee Project in Braddon is the space to escape to for a focused take on breakfast. Start off with a carefully crafted pour coffee made by the man who roasts the coffee as well. Be sure to order up the soba noodles, and finish with a house soda. It’s friendly, peaceful and in the middle of Canberra.
If you thought another great cafe could not possibly thrive on Londsdale Street in Braddon, you are mistaken. We have enjoyed amazing breakfasts at Rye, Elemental and just recently at Barrio Collective Coffee. We can now add Kyō Coffee Project to the list. It’s hidden away under the immense and architecturally impressive Nibu building. In keeping with the Japanese derived name, a large Japanese maple sits out front and there is a real feeling of Japan with its petite, minimalist space. It takes me back to Nagano and slurping soba in the mountains in the middle of winter after a visit to the Togakushi Shrine. Owners Michael and Natasja spent time in Japan, and have embraced Japanese design as well as their cuisine, and have brought a little of the north Asian culture to Canberra.
While the coffee culture in Japan has only recently been on an upswing, rest assured when the Japanese attempt to do something, they will spare no expense and are meticulous to the nth degree. That Japanese-like work ethic can be witnessed with the approach to the coffee preparation at Kyō. Each week, Michael will make a trip up to Sydney to source and roast the beans for the coffee served at the cafe and other cafes in Canberra. For my first coffee, I tried a flat white. The blend is named Kikan, and it presents beautifully. I love the toasted caramel notes, with a distinct sweetness coming through. A comforting chocolate finish had me yearning for another cup.
From the aromas of coffee, I was distracted by another aroma, one that defines that Kyō experience and that is of the broth that’s used for the udon noodles. You don’t have to have a bowl placed in front of you to take it in. As you walk around the cafe, you can smell it’s enticing vapour. Placed in front of me, it was just irresistible. Thick, long noodles with an amber, golden broth and finely sliced mushrooms are the hallmarks of what I think is Kyō’s signature offering. Launching into the broth, I tasted a curiously sweet flavour first up, which was followed by the saltier flavour of soy and the earthiness of the mushroom. Roasted buttered corn adds a dimension of richness. The udon noodles are thick, yet pliable, and that perfect slurping texture. The clarity of the broth and its golden hues are quite special and truly memorable.
From hearty udon noodles we moved onto a green bowl, which was a rollercoaster of textures. Drawing on its name, the greens are represented by kale and edamame. They work harmoniously together to stamp a freshness on the palate. Pickled vegetables and seaweed deliver punches of flavour, and quinoa and black rice add volume,that are mighty tasty too. A pre-requisite of a complete breakfast these days is a perfectly poached egg, and finally hummus is a welcome surprise. It’s generous and tasted divine. This is a breakfast bowl done right!
While our little Sammi is slow to try new dishes, she does make the odd exception when there’s no bacon stated explicitly on the menu. She sampled the chicken roti and didn’t have too much trouble in downing the perfectly cooked chunks of chicken. It presented as an open faced wrap which just begs to be wrapped up and consumed. I had to help with the removing of the green goodness (which I didn’t mind!) as coriander, bean sprouts, and ribbons of pickled carrot really give this dish a bright, clean herbaceous kick. The roti is perfectly cooked, almost crepe-like thin, and would easily encase the chicken and greens.
From great food we finished with two delightful drinks. First out of the kitchen was a house soda. When you think of sodas you normally associate them with sickly sweet offerings, but not at Kyō. There’s still the effervescent sharpness of traditional sodas, yet a restrained sweetness of strawberry and peppery notes from the basil. It’s refreshing without the guilt of a half dozen sachets of sugar!
Having confirmed that Kyo do milk coffee outstandingly well, it was time to see how they fared on the filter coffee front. I tasted an Ethopian natural peaberry coffee using the v60 pourover method. Drinking it, I basked in its balance and smoothness. It delivered a subtle citrus-like acidity, and a sweet and spicy finish. It was a more of mellow and nuanced flavours, than say a Kenyan bean, and it’s that balance again that made it so enjoyable.
Kyō Coffee Project is an exciting addition to Lonsdale Street. It’s not a cafe that overwhelms with choice, rather, the focus is on a finely tuned food menu and expertly crafted coffee. Flavours of Japan run through the menu, and it’s hidden away location means you have a space that isolates you from the busy goings on at the street level, and delivers a zen like breakfast or lunch experience.