A cosy café in Redfern’s heartland

In need of a boost in your day?

You’d be hard pressed to find a better destination than Social-Laneway Espresso in Sydney’s Redfern.

Tucked into a sunny wedge of a space opposite the railway station, front-of-house Rob Ian Bonnick is enthusiastic in his greeting, which is well matched by co-owner (and barista) Marina Agustina’s warmth and charm.

“Rob and I wanted to create a sense of community and belonging in an urban setting, so we’ve gone for a cosy and rustic feel,” says Marina. “Plus we’re writing our favourite quotes on the chalkboard to add inspiration to everyone’s day.”

With a feature wall made from stacked reclaimed timber, and a bench and bench tops constructed from timber recycled from Warragamba Dam, the space has a strong ‘urban meets village’ appeal. “The look of this place is all about the wood,” says Marina. “Our carpenter Harry Dinis was the true hero of the fitout. He went above and beyond his role in helping pull the project together in the five weeks it took to complete it.”

And within days of opening, the locals and commuters seem to like what’s on offer.

A stream of well-wishers pass through, congratulating Marina and Rob on the fresh injection of style they’ve brought to a previously unloved patch of Redfern.

“It’s a great part of the world to be,” says Marina. “There are a lot of people interested and living and working in the area so we’re very happy to have created a friendly place for people to gather and enjoy a coffee or light meal.”

Many commuters passing by each morning have quickly caught on to Marina’s range of delicious freshly made rolls.

“For me, I’d rather keep it really simple and offer the very best quality ingredients like French camembert, Gypsy Smoke ham and fresh salad on artisan sourdough baguettes or olive and rosemary rustic bread,” she says. “You don’t need to have too many flavorings in one sandwich, as long as you have best quality with the main ingredients.”

Marina has been up at 5am each morning making the rolls and baguettes, and many customers have been buying them to take for lunch as they pass by to catch the train in the morning.

“Each day I make more but they’ve been selling out too soon,” she laughs. “Looks like it will be an even earlier start for me!”

Social-Laneway Espresso also offers organic steak, chicken mornay and spinach and feta cheese pies supplied by award-winning Byron Bay Pies. For those with a sweet tooth, there are chocolate and mango brownies as well as muffins (choc chip, raspberry with white chocolate and blueberry) from Black Poison.

Coffee is Marina and Rob’s own blend made from 60 per cent Ethiopian and 40 per cent Papua New Guinea beans. A range of specialty teas and chilled drinks is also on offer.

From Caféideas, Marina and Rob bought a blender, milkshake mixer, single and double door under bench fridges, under bench freezer, chest freezer, wine cooler, dishwasher, ice machine, soup kettle, cake display, toaster, grill station and bar cooler.

“We’d noticed Caféideas’ showroom as we were driving home from our previous jobs, so when it came time for us to buy the equipment for our café, we called in to have a look,” says Marina. “Straightaway we liked Damien’s energy and how helpful he was, so we were very happy to buy from Caféideas.”

Damien arranged custom-designed stainless steel benching to match the space and functional requirements of the café. Marina says she also worked with Cara from Caféideas, who helped plan which types of equipment would work best with the tight dimensions they had to work with.

“Cara gave us great advice about which equipment would suit us best,” says Marina. “Everything arrived on time and it all fits perfectly.” Social-Laneway Espresso is located at 157 -161 Redfern St, Redfern. It is open from 7am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, and 7am to 3pm on Saturdays. 

Excelsior Jones