Portafilter at Mayfield hits the spot

Ready to serve: Portafilter, near Waratah train station, has carved out a coffee niche in Mayfield. Pictures: Simone De Peak
Ready to serve: Portafilter, near Waratah train station, has carved out a coffee niche in Mayfield. Pictures: Simone De Peak

Tucked away on Hanbury Street, Mayfield, lies another clue that Newcastle's industrial past is slowly rusting away as entrepreneurial, coffee loving individuals install themselves into abandoned shop fronts in seemingly out-of-the-way locations and serve a range of edibles alongside a customary cappuccino, latte, flat white, and so on. I think it’s called caffeine-fuelled gastronomic gentrification, by any other name…

At your service: Danny Fitzgibbons, barista and owner of Portafilter.

At your service: Danny Fitzgibbons, barista and owner of Portafilter.

A portafilter (or group handle) is the name of the bit that helps to make your morning cup of joe. Portafilter is the name of the Mayfield cafe where Danny and Ofa Fitzgibbons have set up shop, much to the delight of early morning commuters and drowsy afternoon serfs looking for a fix of the world's most consumed psychoactive substance - coffee!

A bit bigger than a hole in the wall, Portafilter is a long, narrow space that blends in well with its industrial surrounds. Edison lights hang down from the ceiling in the front dining room and kitchen, with its black-tiled splashback.  A stack of earth-toned bricks supports a fine timber bench-top counter where a food cabinet, coffee machine, and a Darth Vader doll sits on top... obviously. White and black metal chairs are tucked into dark timber tables and a long bench occupies the front where people sit, sip and catch-up.

Local colour: Artwork on the fridge, done by a customer.

Local colour: Artwork on the fridge, done by a customer.

If you come for the coffee, stay for the food. Coffeewise, you can get a short or long version of your favourite ink, including ristretto, espresso, macchiato, flat-white, latte, cappuccino etc., as well as cold brew and a few signature house coffees, like the black fizz (piccolo iced long black with sparkling water) or the bastard (flat white in espresso cup). If you prefer to refrain from dairy there's a range of milk alternatives, such as soy, nut milks, and coconut milk to enjoy with your favourite style of coffee. Portafilter serve more than just java; hot chocolate, spiced chai, traditional and herbal tea, frappes, and a range of cold press juices, organic soft drinks, and sparkling water will revitalise the non-coffee lovers.

Every time we’ve been there, the coffee has been strong.They are consistent, which makes me think it's their signature style.

The food menu features a great selection of vegetarian and vegan options. Choose from a bowl of nourishing cereal (puffed grains, coconut, nuts) with (or without) milk, yoghurt, or coyo (coconut yoghurt), overnight rolled spelt (spelt grains soaked overnight in liquid, like milk, yoghurt, etc) with apple, stewed berries, nuts. There's also toast loaded with fresh ingredients, like avocado, cherry tomatoes and Danish feta, or, peanut butter, banana, sultanas, and maple syrup, which you can add a couple of slices of crispy bacon to, if you want to... and I would want to. It all looks and sounds delicious, and is a good excuse for repeat visits. The last time we visited was early and we ordered a plate of vegan pesto, cherry tomatoes and Danish feta, and a serve of the slow cooked tomatoes and habanero chilli.

A single slice of toasted sourdough is spread with emerald green pesto and stacked high with feta and chopped cherry tomatoes. It's crusty and crunchy, but also soft and creamy, courtesy of the fresh tomatoes and feta. It's a little dry, but could be easily fixed with a splash of olive oil. 

Danny warns us that the habanero chili and tomato dish is very spicy, very hot, and he's not wrong. Soft, yielding red tomatoes and kidney beans swim in a rich chilli sauce topped with pure white feta that comes with a couple of slices of toasted sourdough and a small pot of butter. The dish is full of spicy, herbaceous flavours, which isn't at all compromised by the heat.

It’s clear Portafilter’s passions lie with the mighty coffee bean and all its potentially vitalising variations. The food menu is simple and delicious and will cater for all tastes, including the kids. It’s a welcome addition to Mayfield’s burgeoning café culture.