Review: Morena Espresso

Every tribe has its favourite places, and nowhere is that more evident than at Morena Espresso.

‘Morena’, meaning ‘brunette’ in Spanish and ‘good morning’ in Maori reflects the Latin-Kiwi heritage of its owners Bel Pesantes and Stefan Bradley.

Situated on an ‘awkward’ corner of the Gold Coast Highway in Mermaid Beach, you could almost miss the spot driving past were it not for the bright murals by Fa Bio and Barbara Farias Lama on the outside of the shop. Morena is not afraid to be seen, resplendent in its bright Spanish colours.

In another way, though, its location is great. Morena is located at the entrance to the T-shaped Cronulla and Karen Streets cul-de-sac,  a perfect spot according to owner Bel, as the streets house a cultural precinct including businesses such as 19 Karen Contemporary Artspace, The Borrowed Nursery, The Studio Entertainment and KoKo Coffee Roasters.

The café serves many functions: café and coffee house, co-working or learning space, chill out zone, free swap library and gallery shop showcasing local artwork and wares from independent makers of clothing, hats from Ecuador and beanies, jewellery, Mexican blankets, floor mats, candles, decoration items and homewares, about twenty labels in total.

Food on offer is mostly simple with a noticeable South American slant, the most popular item being empanadas, but you’ll also find homemade toasties, bagels, açai bowls and smoothies, locally made vegan and gluten-free cakes and treats and fresh croissants.

Coffee is a highlight, the smooth Morena blend from a local roaster, with Green Caffeen cups to put it in or vintage and hand-painted collectibles.

Cascading across two levels from the street down to the open back courtyard, there are plenty of nooks to relax or work in, as well as a huge communal table down the centre of the space. Stefan has made most of the recycled tables, recycling being a big goal for the pair. It’s a work in progress for its owners, the kitchen about to be renovated, and new murals soon to grace the walls.

The space is flexible enough for a multitude of functions, such as yoga and salsa classes, with Spanish classes held weekly. Events and installations all add to the space’s saleable assets as a place for hire for events such as engagement or birthday parties, workshops or brand launches.

“We sell experience,” says Bel. “Morena is not your normal café. It is cosy corners, awesome tunes, perfect coffee, yummy treats, cheesy toasties, art and gifts. What you see is us.”

Bel herself is a large part of the attraction, knowing many of the customers by name, relaxed enough to stop for a chat, and savvy enough to leave them alone, whatever their need may be. She’s the ‘alpha female’ of the tribe, genuinely present and welcoming, making sure that everyone knows that this is their place as well as hers. After all, she is ‘Morena’.

2550 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach Ph: 0421486915

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