Hi Omotesando - thanks for your very thoughtful comments here - most welcome!
Agree with most of your comments, although just one point - with respect to Coffee Guide - we take their ratings with a grain of salt for the simple reason that [at least until recently] many of their reviews were paid - and I wouldn't expect them to give a truly objective rating to a cafe that had paid them!
Also, they write nicely, but I have no idea as to the experience or quality of their reviewers from a professional coffee point-of-view.
Yes, with regards to that so called Coffee Guide I found the Sydney version to be lightly unprofessional and off the mark to be honest, as you can see with my massive scoring differences with them? Not sure if its 'paid reviews' related or just because they were not professional enough. I actually find the Melbourne version for their book to be slightly more relatable but still objectively speaking, not consistent enough. Just reading some older threads since I'm new here and realised some of what you and others mentioned are similar to what I think. For example you mentioned that Mecca Espresso worked well as a D.Ristretto but not for Double Flatwhite. I had virtually the same experience, now that's independent judgment.
I actually believe different people develop their coffee senses from a different base and most pertinently it develops over time. I must admit there was a time when I began with Starbucks and Gloria Jeans and did think their coffee was okay. Then there were times that I enjoyed Coffex or Vittoria or Genovese, etc. Took time to build it up. So when I review coffees, I try to review it both for myself (and stick to the good ones!) but also consider the fact that not everyone else have developed palates or knowledge as the experts or aficianados.
With Sydney's coffee, one trend I noticed is that out of the Top 5 or 10 coffee places, barely a few roast their own coffee (except Single Origin and Campos). In fact the coffees I liked the best were not roasted in-house. Furthermore none of the ones I visited offered single-origin beans to the customers as an experience. Both these things were very different to the Melbourne coffee scene, where most shops offered both or even if not self-roasted, still offer various beans from various regions for trying. I also feel the Sydney coffees are overly sweet, caramelly or nutty and fail-safe in approach in general. If customers up there are happy with it then I must assume they are in a learning phase of knoing coffee as I once have gone down that path.
Additional review that I forgot to add previously:
In the Cafe, Chatswood - Jack and the Bean
This smallish coffee shop has some basic food and the coffee bean they used is roasted by Jack Henna, the 2007 World Latte Art Champion. He wasn't there on my day of visit but apparently he surfaces sometimes on the weekends to do your coffee. I tried his espresso as well as a Cap. No latte art by the way, although not a bad coffee by the girl barista there by any measure. Reddish crema, slightly acidic, pleasant mouthfeel but not overly impressive aftertaste. Cappucino was slightly better, in fact I quite liked it, reminded me of a berry and chocolate character. Its another odd one out in Sydney for me. Someone mentioned to me they didn't enjoy this coffee at all, whereas I thought it pleasant in a way even if unimpressive. Heading in the right direction?
My Rating: 18/25.
Also tried some unknown shop selling a blend of Dane's coffee (a roaster in Sydney I believe). Was actually quite pleasant as well, very thick and very rich, poured like syrup, long aftertaste but not much sophistication, mostly chocolate.