32 Leigh St, Adelaide
Over-catering has become something of an Achilles’ heel for many local operators. Too often well-intentioned ‘enthusiasm’ for a customer’s dollar manifests as a messy attempt to offer a little something for everyone, while in fact achieving precisely the opposite – a whole bunch of stuff no-one really wants. You know it; the laminated menu as big as a broadsheet, covering everything from schiacciata to sashimi… Instant deal breaker. Focusing on a few things done well seems to be the riskier option, but as Coffee Branch proves, can be worth the reward.
Nestling into a cosy corner in Leigh St (Adelaide’s current ‘it’ strip) a few years back, Coffee Branch opened with modest, yet considered offerings, tailored well to it’s target demographic of suits, cyclists and scenesters. The tiny espresso bar has since earned a reputation for great coffee (above all else), speedy service and just being damn cool.
Clearly coffee is their bread and butter (um, what?); the cool steel of a 3-group Synesso greets customers before they reach the till, and the unit is usually manned by the bar’s animated owner, Josh. Having recently opted for a custom blend from 5 Senses Coffee, the brew is sweet and rich. Espressos are pulled exclusively through a naked portafilter (it’s the little things you know?) and are bright and fruity, without smack-you-in-the-mouth acidity. The blend also cosies up perfectly with milk for what is the bulk of their trade. Aside from the house, seasonal and guest coffees come and go and the baristas are happy to engage you in geeking out over “jasmine and grapefruit hues” – or not.
It’s giving the people what they want that counts, and Coffee Branch has this down to a fine art with a stream of commuters filing religiously past the machine all day long. Josh and his team utilize the space as best they can, ensuring peak hour traffic flows in and out effortlessly.
A few quick lunchy things (mostly of the “between bread” variety) are made on site, and delicious pastries / cakes / tarts appear courtesy of local kids From Scratch Patisserie who can also be found in pop-up mode alongside Coffee Branch on Friday mornings (guaranteed to sell out sharpishly, so set your alarm). Local burger masters Burger Theory also have a permanent Leigh St gig once a week, and the van always draws a crowd. These clever partnerships have allowed Coffee Branch to essentially outsource a part of their food service and provide unique and engaging experiences, while focusing on what they do best. More than this however, they’ve enabled a dynamic sense of community to germinate amongst their precinct’s clientele.
Seating indoors is limited, but with Leigh Street now closed to traffic, their outdoor sprawl has expanded to include two generous trestles alongside their existing timber fixtures. Of course, if you can’t find a place to park it, you can always grab a takeaway and pop next-door for a barbershop shave.
This ethos of sticking to a basic but successful formula is something more operators might look to adopt. If you serve amazing Korean food, then do that – and allow people to go elsewhere for their morning coffee. If you have a genuine love for coffee, the best way to communicate that to your customers is by serving them great coffee, and not muddying the experience with copious culinary clutter. Coffee Branch occupies their cosy little niche happily (both physically and gastronomically) and their customers demonstrate their respect with understanding, loyalty and access to the insides of their wallets.
Thanks for dropping by. Be well, TV.
PS Coffee Branch also won “best food stall” at The Garden Of Unearthly Delights in 2012 and will no doubt appear there again during Mad March 2013. Check them out for a post-show brew.