The atmosphere at Old John’s is one of anticipation and excitement, as if an entire population of coffee enthusiasts are breathing a collective sigh of relief. It’s an energy due in no small part to the fact that Coffs Harbour locals have developed a potent appreciation for both specialty coffee and this atypical café in such a short space of time. And it’s easy to see why. Old John’s is liberating the minds and palates of hordes of Coffs Harbour sub-cultures and providing a focal point for Sydney/Melbourne expats, bohemians and coffee aficionados all along the north coast.
It’s something of a privilege to stumble across a free seat in here mid-morning, as droves of locals file through the door and clamour for what is unquestionably the north coast’s finest coffee.
An irregular line of original artworks runs along the wall as you enter. Not the average assortment of local watercolour artists, but an understated and tasteful selection of well-curated illustrations, photographs and paintings, including some unexpectedly prominent artists e.g. Damien Hurst. A smattering of rustic and stressed furniture gives an offhand vibe, while an immaculately maintained Synesso speaks volumes about the professionalism of the café. How a small café on the far north coast of New South Wales ended up with a Synesso, let alone an entire cavalry of world-class baristas is not only surprising, it’s profoundly exciting.
Artfully twisted to accommodate slightly more discerning tastes, a fluid specials menu backs up a host of fixed classics like free range scrambled eggs with marinated goats feta, parsley, crispy pancetta and truffle oil.
At night, this thriving café environment converts into an equally popular cocktail bar. And, if the palpable energy of Old John’s day trade was impressive, its electric aura after sunset is particularly stirring. Attracting an even larger crowd and tendering some awesome deals, there really is little reason to leave this place — ever.
In a city characterised almost exclusively by beach life and surf culture, it’s certainly satisfying to see a café take a quantum leap towards specialty coffee, particularly one so far from any existing coffee culture hub. For anyone passing through Coffs Harbour, make Old John’s your one and only stop.
360 Harbour Drive