Inner-urban professionals savvy enough to fold the mirrors flat on their cars when they park in the narrow surrounding laneways – well, most of them, oops – frequent this slick, hidden coffee hot spot.
Espresso 3121 was established two years ago by coffee-passionate, self-trained barista Eamon Sheahan. He’s rumoured to be starting a new operation in Camberwell – and 3121 is now in the capable hands of former aviation industry professionals, husband and wife Domenic and Diana Caruso.
They took over late last year, working with Sheahan for a couple of months to hone their skills. Domenic is a former aircraft engineer who spent many years working in his brother’s café, and Diana was a flight attendant who had experience in restaurants.
The café has given them a chance to do something together, says Domenic. Diana has extended the café’s food offering to include daily soups, pastas, salads, baguettes, wraps and cakes, while Domenic works with the team of five baristas, operating two three-group La Marzocco espresso machines.
“The mornings are a mad rush,” says Domenic. “But we have a lot of regulars in the IT, design and professional fields. Most of them want quick, healthy food and some come in three, four, five times a day, for breakfast, coffee, lunch, snacks and more coffee.”
Eugene Ye breaks down his coffee making into three phases over the past five years. He says he spent the first three in limbo, moving from café to café trying to discover the secrets of being a good barista.
Two years ago, after entering a local latte-art smackdown, he met the right people and found his way to The First Pour, Veneziano’s roastery café in Abbotsford.
“Maybe I just hadn’t been lucky enough to find a good teacher until then,” he says.
Through the generosity of some of the company’s prize-winning baristas (including 2012 Australian Barista Champion Craig Simon), the world of specialty coffee was revealed.
Ye worked at the company’s café for a year, and has spent the past year at 3121, where he works in a team dedicated to consistently turning out first-rate coffee.
The Estate Blend makes a great long black, with a chocolatey body and a nip of dark cherry and walnuts, and there’s a single origin on offer every couple of days.
Rear 98 Balmain Street, Cremorne
Phone \ 9421 5657
Barista \ Eugene Ye
Coffee \ Veneziano
Barista’s choice \ Three-quarter caffe latte
Open \ Monday to Friday, 7am-4pm
Caffeine-induced energy emanates from this hidden former warehouse. It’s there in the hum of voices around the broad communal tables, the impatience of the time-poor takeaway patrons and in the frenetic operations around the central espresso machine. The slick industrial workshop look – polished concrete floor, metal-topped tables, hard timber stools and exposed-brick walls – is given character by an exterior trio of espresso shelves and a huge painted postcode reference. There’s a flat-screen TV displaying live Twitter feeds and more activity in the compact kitchen. A raised platform under the original roller door is a great spot for a bird’s-eye view.