In the first paragraph of his book titled 'Kings Cross' starting his author's note, Louis Nowra explains that one of the features of Kings Cross is how many name changes it has undergone.
"Once the area was known as Woolloomooloo Heights, Mill Hill, Darlinghurst, Queen's Cross, then King's Cross, and by the middle 1930s the apostrophe was being left out."
While Kings Cross doesn't officially have an Australian postcode (except for the Kings Cross post office boxes 1340) Kings Cross in Sydney is generally accepted and verified by Wikipedia to be the area bounded by Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay, Rushcutters Bay and Darlinghurst. Enclosed in this area, is the namesake Kings Cross Road where we start our best five coffee story.
Café Hernandez Kings Cross late night legend was established in 1972 by Joaquin Hernandez Snr who had been a coffee controller in his country of birth, Spain. The venue brought an early introduction of espresso coffee to Sydney-siders, as a roaster selling coffee blends wholesale and retail, as well as the renowned café institution which mostly operated non-stop 24 hours seven days a week throughout the years. Popular blends are expertly crafted and include New Guinea Beans, Colombia, Spanish Blend and Cronulla Blend as just a few examples. The artisan coffee is warm and rich and embracing, like the welcome the family gives to its guests.
Now as Kings Cross changes, Café Hernandez is still open seven days, with an all day menu that includes tasty reasonably priced toasted sandwiches, delicious empanadas, tortilla, lentil soup, Spanish meatballs, pastries and sweets such as churros, but now Café Hernandez operates until midnight with a later closing of 1am on Friday and Saturday nights. This week when we visited, floral tributes to Joaquin Hernandez Snr were on display from his memorial, his smiling family including son Keno (Joaquin Jnr) were proudly carrying on the family tradition. The café walls are full from floor to celing with paintings, and with a later addition of the 2011 First Prize San Pelligrino Sydney Café Society photography competition, which is based on the major artwork that sits next to it. Their Instagram account defines Café Hernandez Sydney as "authentic Spanish café, art and snacks" and it is and much more, and we will continue to celebrate the life of Joaquin Snr sharing in his passion for life and coffee, by joining with the community that he built at this iconic coffee establishment.
Café Hernandez, 60 Kings Cross Road Potts Point
Primary Coffee Roasters has the most contemporary vibe of the Kings Cross cafes, industrial chique in white monitone. From our hero bests it is the youngest Kings Cross coffee hit and hasn't reached its 2nd birthday yet. As the trend to the newer coffee houses holds, Primary is a daytime establishment, open 6am to 3pm weekdays and 7am to 2pm on weekends, grabbing its top spot through excellence. Founder Dan Kim brought expertise through his own hipster yet intensely knowledgeable heritage as head roaster at Brewtown Newtown. Yeup, he knows his stuff, as the constant flow of customers, that often sees it impossible to get a stool, attests. It's worth the wait for seasonal blends that sit happily alongside single origins, and even cold drips and excellent iced coffees.
Primary Coffee Roasters, Shop 1 / 9 Ward Avenue Potts Point
Jeremy & Sons is one of the newer coffee operators in the area and has two locations in Kings Cross. Jeremy & Sons at the original location on Bayswater Road just last week celebrated its second birthday. I'm a regular at their second location on Macleay Street simply because it is the closest place to my apartment that makes excellent coffee. The bonus at Jeremy & Sons Macleay Street is sitting at the pavement tables you get a view across the road to the marvellous and majestic memorial El Alemaine Fountain (and yes I am definitely biased about that). Both of the Jeremy & Sons locations share the same pricing and menu, with a large menu board of scrumptious sandwiches each $12, although the specials at the two venues can vary. I can vouch that Jeremy & Sons Macleay Street makes a mean Eggs Bennedict, when it's on offer; otherwise the scrambled eggs are always soft moist pillows and very good. And the coffee? Barista perfection! Crema de la crema.
Jeremy & Sons, 127 Macleay Street Potts Point + Shop 3 / 40 Bayswater Road Rushcutters Bay
Junnys may have a Darlinghurst Road address, but it's neatly tucked away, a hole in the wall on the right hand side of the entrance to Kings Cross Train Station. Junnys serves morning coffee and is closed by mid to early afternoon. It's a softer brew with excellent crema that serves a steady stream of commuters with take away only from as early as 5.30am on weekedays, 6.30am on Saturdays and 8am on Sundays.
Junnys, Shop 1 / 107-109 Darlinghurst Road, Potts Point
Piccolo Bar first opened as a café in the 1940s and with its current name in 1952. Not only is Piccolo Bar legendary as the first cafe in Kings Cross, it could possible be the first or longest operating café anywhere in Sydney. Over the years many famous celebrities have sat and sipped. Marianne Faithfull, Jeff Buckley, Boy George, Peter Allen, Mel Gibson, Judy Davis, Jeremy Irons, Richard E Grant, Geoffrey Rush, Jack Thompson, Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Turnbull, and Brett Whitely are just a few names to drop. Kings Cross local patrons have included Les Girls and Juanita Neilsen. Piccolo was open 24 hours and was a place to go after shows. The license was until 2am, apparently, but somehow this got stretched as customers sat and lingered until sunrise.
With the change in numbers and times of Kings Cross shows and operating hours due to lock out, Piccolo Bar is still open until midnight Tuesday to Sunday, but not open through the wee small hours. It continues its community feel all day through to evening BYO, music and other pop up performances. Alongside the cappuccinos, Piccolo Bar is famous for its cheesecakes, with a Scotch Finger base, which are made on the premises. There is a big selection to choose from on any given day. More than likely you will find 84 year young Vittorio Bianchi there if he isn't nipping out to do a yoga class. He first came to work at the café in 1964 when a new immigrant, and then was owner-operator until 2017. His renowned hand knitted scarves are still in the window and available for sale.
Piccolo Bar, 6 Roslyn Street Potts Point
Pictured are the iconic Café Hernandez and Piccolo Bar. All of these five coffee joints give a good hit and are worth a visit. Gosh if you are in Kings Cross why not make sure you give them all a go! Each has its own history, and individual coffee beauty in its own distinctive way.