One of the cafe lords of Castle Hill: The Baron.
The Baron has an industrial, modern hipster atmosphere with concrete floors and a bare, exposed wall on one side and a white tiled wall on the other side. Lighting was minimal with the grey clouds obscuring the sunlight from pouring through the windows and small yellow lighting fixtures placed strategically over tables and counters that paired with the yellow wall décor. Walking in, the first thing you see is their “corner shop”, literally placed in the corner next to the counter. There you can purchase environmentally friendly coffee cups, coffee beans, honey and the like. All these items were placed in a casual manner, placed above milk crates and beside a retro fridge that provided a minty green pop of colour.
The tables were situated very close to each other with two communal tables: a tiled bench and a large wooden table where people can gather around. There were fresh greens situated on shelves and communal tables that brightened up the area despite the lack of lighting.
The staff were young and trendy, not donning a uniform but showcasing their individual styles. They were friendly and efficient, but we did have a small difficulty grabbing a server’s attention to order our food. It seemed like a fun environment where friends could work together or where friendships would be made.
The music was pumping but as the café wasn’t bustling with people yet, we were able to talk over the music but if the café fills up it may be difficult to carry meaningful conversation amidst the noise. There’s always the option of sitting outside but then there are the buses that come and go, never mindful of the conversations happening around them.
The menu was printed on tri-coloured cardboard with an explanation of The Baron’s local food and drink sources. The food is seasonal and limited, with the drinks menu taking up two-thirds of the page. I got the Baron Roll and a cappuccino and my friend got the Avo Toast with a long black. At the bottom of the menu was a tiny notice indicating a surcharge, but I didn’t believe it applied to us as I assumed it would only be for public holidays or a small card surcharge. However, upon receiving the receipt, I saw that I had been charged 10% for a Sunday surcharge.
The Baron Roll was a bacon and egg roll with avocado, mayonnaise, and their tomato chilli jam that was made in-house. The roll became difficult and messy to eat but flavour-wise, it was fresh, balanced, and tasty; although I would have liked to taste some more of their tomato chilli jam. The Baron Roll suited the café’s casual and laidback atmosphere.
The Avo Toast was not your standard avocado toast; their addition of garlic and chilli greens and a side of lime gave a fresh and interesting twist. The heat from the chilli and the garlic in the greens gave a great kick in my mouth that lifted the flavour of the avocado. My friend said that the heat accumulated as she finished off her meal and recommended asking for less chilli if you can’t take heat very well. The rye bread was perfectly toasted, maintaining its integrity under the avocado and greens. The lime tied the dish together and lifted the flavour notes to another level. An informative paragraph on the menu outlined that the kitchen takes inspiration from different cultures, striving to make the dishes new and interesting.
The coffees were also excellent and served quickly with a smile. I also ordered a brownie for dessert and it had a beautifully crumbly crust, but the inside was dense and chewy. The chewiness was delightfully interrupted by hard chunks of chocolate. It was quite a rich brownie and I’m glad my friend was happy to share it with me; although I would have been just as happy to save some for myself to eat later.
Pros and Cons
The location is very convenient, being right outside Castle Tower and next to the bus stops so it accommodates for people wanting a sit down meal or a quick take-away coffee before running off. The cafe is spacious and is baby friendly with high chairs available but when it gets busy it might be difficult to bring in a big pram. Due to its popularity, The Baron does get quite busy and noisy and so it might be difficult to have an intimate conversation but that might allow you to focus on the delicious food. The menu is seasonal and ingredients fresh and locally sourced but it means that you might miss out on some dishes if you’re too late!
Our visit to The Baron was pleasant: a casual atmosphere with high-quality food that made it feel like a treat. The service was cheerful and laidback, characteristic of a local café. Despite others who claimed to wait a long time for their food, ours came out within minutes of ordering. While the menu seemed a touch on the pricier end, it was easy to justify it with The Baron’s focus on sourcing fresh produce that supports our local farmers and businesses. Although it’s a café that’s been familiar to locals for years, for those visiting the Hills, it’s worth popping by The Baron as a treat to enjoy with loved ones.