Serving up food that’s hip to the core

Newcastle has experienced somewhat of a boom of cafes opening over the past 12 months or so. It seems our appetite for coffee and long, lazy weekend breakfasts won’t be satiated any time soon. And why should it? Glorious summertime and a relaxed beach-side locale dictates we indulge. Fortunately, we have some great places to do this. 

Core Espresso on Darby Street has nestled snuggly in where Honeybee used to be. It is the sister location for the team who first opened inside a Warners Bay gym and it is a welcome little addition to the eat street. 

Featuring an all-day breakfast menu, as well as being open for lunch, Core holds its own against the other cafes across Newcastle spouting the trendy, healthy, clean food ethos. Oh it’s got all those tell-tale signs of a inner-urban cafe. Vegan and gluten-free options? Got it. Health bowl? Got it. Bearded barista? Got it. Green smoothie? Check. But they’ve got something else – flavour and, to a certain degree, value.  

See all this healthy eating can really add up. Quinoa, kale, chia, almond milk, smoked salmon, etc doesn’t come cheap, and at another cafe I’ve topped $60 for a breakfast for two which is just unAustralian. But Core doesn’t hit those heights. 

Breakfast offerings total seven with an array of sides to individualise a dish. I can’t help but have the health bowl, despite my jibes about it being a cliche, I do love them. The Core version comes with two poached eggs, smoked salmon, kale, spinach, avocado and haloumi, sprinkled with lemon and red shiso. The bowl is colourful and fresh. The salmon pink and glossy. The poached eggs are round and bulbous; one is slightly overcooked, but the other is runny glistening goo. The bowl is loaded with spinach and kale and squeaky fat strips of haloumi. It’s very rich and very hearty.

To keep breakfast from being too pure, a double egg and bacon roll comes on a long panini with two fried eggs, yummy streaky bacon, relish and spinach. The bacon is salty but not burnt and very juicy. Wash it all down with one of Core’s protein supershakes and you won’t feel like eating until dinner. An Amazon Power has raw cacoa, maca powder, banana and flaxseed oil, but you can try fruit and nut versions too. 

The coffee is good and strong which is a requisite for any establishment hoping to last more than six months. There are cold pressed juices made on site too: the orange, turmeric, carrot and ginger creation adds some zing to your morning without the caffeine.  

Lunch time has more interesting fare. The ‘chicken and supergreens’ is a bowl of kale, spinach, lots of brown rice and chicken. It’s dressed in sesame seeds, a sweet soy dressing and fried shallots. I really like it.  A super grain salad comes with smoked salmon, sweet potato, quinoa, almonds, currants, chickpeas, broccoli, spinach and kale. It’s sweet and nutty and vibrant. If you’re sick of salad and quinoa, try the ham, cheese and mustard toastie. It’s thick and crispy and satisfying. 

With an intimate, bustling front room, you can wander through and see if there’s any seats in the courtyard. They do fit quite a few seats in considering, but be warned, they aren't super comfortable. It might be just me, but I can't hunch over a crate for too long, especially after a week sitting at work. 

While it’s not a place for lounging luxuriously, it’s perky and vibrant. Meals are a fair size and considering what comes out of a busy, tiny kitchen, they are keeping their cool.

SUNNY: The hidden courtyard at Core Espresso is a nice place to escape the bustle of Darby Street. Pictures: Marina Neil

SUNNY: The hidden courtyard at Core Espresso is a nice place to escape the bustle of Darby Street. Pictures: Marina Neil

FRESH: Core Espresso cold presses its juices on site.

FRESH: Core Espresso cold presses its juices on site.

BOWLS: The big salad bowls are perfect for summer.

BOWLS: The big salad bowls are perfect for summer.