Saturday, 4 February 2012


Before we go into the details of the interview, let's start with a brief history of the place where the cafe is located. Pyrmont is an inner city suburb, part of the Darling Harbour region. Some of the more famous attractions of the Darling Harbour region include the newly renovated Star (casino), Maritime Museum, Powerhouse Museum and Google office.

Pyrmont as a suburb is a mix of commercial and residential. Following the redevelopment of the area, Pyrmont has became more multicultural. Based on the 2006 Australia Census, 38.4% of the residents are born overseas and 4.5% are born in China.

Union Street which is the street that the cafe is located, used to be a track which will run from Harris Street to the foreshore where people will take the ferry to get to the city. As part of the Better Cities Program, union street was closed to traffic from Harris Street in 1998 to form what is now known as the Union Square. As for the building that XXII is operating from, it has been registered as a heritage property in 1999. For more details of the heritage of the building, please go to the Australian Government site. Heritage Details

Union Square

Okay now that we got history out of the way, time to focus on the cafe. How did I discover this place, as usual I was on my weekend hunt for cafes and I decided to drive around Pyrmont and just park anywhere on the street. I am a resident of Sydney city for the last 14 years but this is actually my first visit to Pyrmont Union Square. 

I must have passed by the place zillion times but yet I have never stopped to walk around the area. For many tourists it would have probably been the same as well, they would probably stop their discovery of the area at the Casino when the cafe is only a stone throw away from them. 

So based on a cup of takeaway cappuccino on the Sunday, I took a liking to their coffee and their customer service, and so I decided to contact the owner to arrange an interview. Nina returned my invitation with a very welcoming "Yes" and an arrangement was made for the interview to happen on a Monday morning. Sam who is the owner of XXII spent a good 45 minutes to tell me the story of XXII, which is very much appreciated. 

By the way, I think he looks like Ian Thorpe, Have a look at the 2 images, and tell me what you think. 



Cafe Name: XXII

Coffee beans: Espresso Anonimo (Watch lovers, please do not mix up with the Italian watch brand. Anonimo in this case is to illustrate the idea of anonymous).

What is the story behind the name?

XXII = 22 in the roman numerals

The cafe is called XXII because it is located on 22 Union Street

Why is the cafe located here?

The cafe started in 2001, there were not many cafes in the area then and the junction was an ideal location.

Barista Name: Sorry readers, like the beans it is anonymous. So instead of Barista, we will talk about the owner instead. 

Owner Name: Sam

His passion for food and coffee was the reason why he bought XXII. He tasted the coffee at XXII and decided that it was so good he has to buy it. Readers, you need to know that other than XXII, only 1 other Italian Restaurant is serving the Anonimo beans, so it is pretty exclusive. 

Is important to note that XXII is not your usual cafe, because it is cafe by day but fine dining by night. It is also a cafe that is very much about serving the community that the cafe is located in. 

With regards to the cafe's fine dining, you might struggle to find a menu. That is because, the menu is not on a board, it will be dictated to you instead by the staffs. In addition to providing a more personal experience by having the staff talking through the menu with you. I suppose another practical reason is also because there is a high frequency in the change of the menu items. 

Sam mentioned a saying during the interview: you can resolve the biggest problem in the world over coffee because at least they have coffee as a common ground

He also mentioned a philosophy: coffee brings peace and calm for him, which I agree too. On a hectic day, duck into a cafe and just there with a cup of coffee can be the most zen thing to do. Can you just imagine yourself sitting in this stone cottage and enjoy your coffee on a winter day and just watch the world pass by on the oustide. 

From the 45 minutes interview, it is clear that Sam takes feedback very seriously. Why did I say so? I requested for a latte with art on it and when he asked me what I think about it? I told him it's alright. This happened at the beginning of the interview. At the end of the interview, he suggested that I try the cappuccino which is also a better option for creating patterns. In a short moment, 2 cups of cappuccino were served with 2 different patterns. Why 2? Just in case I don't find one of the pattern good enough, at least there is a second option. From that action, you can see how serious the team at XXII takes their customers' feedback. An immediate improvement action is taken to ensure that I will leave with a good impression of the cafe. 

First cup that I comment "it's alright" - Latte - classic variation of leaf

Second cup - Cappuccino - classic variation of leaf 

Third cup - Cappuccino - classic heart

If this is how serious they are about their coffee, you can only expect better from their fine dining restaurant which I am sure has gone through many many rounds of improvements based on previous diners' feedback. 

Finally, what is your favourite coffee?


Cappuccino price index: AUD $3.40

Can you see the symbol "XXII" in the picture?

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