Darwin’s cafe scene is changing – think croques, not crocs. Rachel Bartholomeusz visits local favourite that wouldn’t look out of place in a Melbourne laneway.

On Saturday mornings, the pull of Laneway Specialty Coffee in Parap, Darwin, is hard to resist.

I was here for a fix of Asian street food at the weekly Parap Markets, but soon enough the buzz enveloping this cafe just down the road had drawn me in, too.

It feels like all of Darwin is here and having a good time. There’s a queue out the door, a wait list for tables and a crowd hovering happily on the street outside.

Occupying a corner position in trendy Parap, the interior blends pared-back industrial chic with a nod to the tropical heat that’s fogging up the windows – jungle vines creep down from the ceilings and crates of fruit line the polished concrete floor next to the kitchen.

It’s been crowded since the day Adam and Danielle Mann and Lisa Heames opened their doors in July 2014.

The trio met working in a Darwin restaurant 15 years ago, and spotted a gap in the market.

They had spent time in Sydney and Melbourne, and felt Darwin lacked the great cafe scene of those cities. The site in Parap was spotted, and Laneway was born.

I order my Campos Coffee to take away, and you don’t need to be a coffee snob to know it’s good. The novelty of this sleek cafe in hot, humid Darwin is not lost on me, and a few days later, I’m back.

The smoked belly bacon and egg roll ($13) is so good it’s almost a shame to eat it sans hangover.

The bacon is crisp and caramelised, the runny yolks of two fried eggs mingle with mustard aioli and spicy house-made relish, and – the sign of any good burger – then runs down your arms.

Well, not mine, my fiancé’s. He orders the roll, and I opt for the smug kale and haloumi salad ($18). I’m something of a kale sceptic, so it was a panicked, out-of-character choice when told that the lunch item I wanted could not be ordered for another 10 minutes.

Thankfully, the crunchy almonds, salsa verde, perfectly cooked asparagus, soft-boiled egg and golden slabs of haloumi helped to avoid most of the bacon and egg roll FOMO (though I needed a few bites of said roll for research).

For lunch, the wagyu burger ($15) is a popular option, as are the colourful salads packed with all the things that make salads fun – roast vegetables, haloumi, Persian feta, spiced chicken, soft-boiled eggs, candied pistachios and more.

It’s a menu full of things you want to eat.

The team’s simple formula of good coffee, good food and good service works, and they’ll be opening a second cafe soon in the northern suburb of Winnellie. “It’s very un-Darwin,” a regular tells me on my way out the door.

Hopefully not for much longer.

The details: Laneway Specialty Coffee

Where: 4/1, Vickers st, Parap, Darwin, lanewaycoffee.com.au

Verdict: Laneway is one of a handful of places invigorating Darwin’s cafe scene and bringing coffee culture to the Top End, with Campos Coffee, beautiful food and a slick fit-out.

Score: 4/5

We rated: Friendly service, plus there’s a more diverse and interesting group of customers than you’d find in an inner-Sydney or -Melbourne cafe (Air Force pilots in uniform outnumbered yoga mums in uniform).

We’d change: Darwin’s steep prices for coffee and food – $4.50 for a coffee is standard (other places charge $5).

All AT reviews are conducted anonymously and our writers pay their own way – so we experience exactly what you would.

Australian Traveller issue 68

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