{Sydney cafes} If you like Cornersmith, The Grounds and Sideways….

Fleetwood Macchiato
+ If you like Cornersmith (Marrickville), try Fleetwood Macchiato (Erskineville) – another small space with serious coffee, delicious, seasonal food and an emphasis on fresh, homemade and locally sourced ingredients. Like Cornersmith, the menu is quirkier than most, so instead of say, a bacon and egg roll, you can order a smashed egg roll with seasonal ingredients (on the new Summer/Autumn menu, it’s soffrito, tomato, basil and mustard aoili, and you can add their good quality ham or chorizo). The vibe is cool and laidback, with rustic/industrial decor like old metal school chairs. And despite being ‘cool’ the service is really friendly and unpretentious which is so refreshing.
+ If you like Sideways (Dulwich Hill) try Excelsior Jones (Ashfield). On the inner west’s outer reaches, Excelsior Jones straddles the Ashfield/Ashbury border, and is also a stone’s throw from Dulwich Hill, Summer Hill and Hurlstone Park. It’s in a very residential pocket with no cafes or shops in sight – it must be such a welcome relief to those in the neighbourhood (and a boon for the owners!). Just like Sideways, it’s in a converted corner convenience store and all light and bright with lots of glass. It serves delicious Five Senses coffee and top-notch cafe fare – see this week’s review in Good Food for more.
+ If you like The Grounds of Alexandria, try Bread and Circus (also in Alexandria). Tucked away in a post-industrial building housing a very busy Campos cafe (across the road from Alexandria’s Dan Murphy’s), Bread and Circus is all about seasonal, organic, quality ingredients, much like The Grounds. It’s a little on the ex-y side (think $9 for a smoothie) yet the quality of every little ingredient and detail is evident. It’s gorgeous. At the moment you have to get a takeaway coffee from the adjoining Campos cafe to bring to your table, but on the weekend we were informed they will be serving their own coffee very soon – which if it’s anything like their great food will be worth going back for.
Hmm… wonder what other neighbourhoods are crying out for a decent cafe? Can you think of any?

Cool Campsie find: Snow Monkey frozen yoghurt

Inside Snow Monkey

Snow Monkey fro yo

Fro-yo seems to be a food trend that won’t die. When we were living in Saigon a couple of years ago frozen yoghurt stores arrived with a vengeance, suddenly appearing all over the city. Now they’re popping up in King Street, Newtown, and other random Sydney spots, like Campsie! After a Malaysian lunch at Albee’s Kitchen (think ginormous serves of authentic laksa and stir fried noodles with sambal and seafood) we came across a cool frozen yoghurt cafe called Snow Monkey nearby. There are fake palm trees, table tops made of surfboards, a collage of colourful pictures drawn by its pint-sized clientele and there’s even a slippery dip inside. A quite generous ‘small’ scoop of fro-yo is only $2.50, with flavours including pomegranate and mango, and it’s 50 cents for a topping ranging from virtuous fruit to more junky options. Snow Monkey reminds me of the unique, quirky little places you stumble across in cool neighbourhoods in southeast Asia, like Bangkok’s Siam Square. If you happen to eat at Albee’s (and if you’re looking for a Malaysian fix, you should!) it’s a sweet little spot for dessert afterwards, sliding optional.

Snow Monkey, 270 Beamish Street, Campsie, tel: 02 9789 0227

Snow Monkey Yogurt on Urbanspoon

New in Dulwich Hill: The Hub House Diner

Hub House Diner

The Hub House Diner is the much anticipated new kid on the Dulwich Hill block, who are luring in the punters with their funky signage, hung so promisingly for a month or so pre-opening. (Yay – something new! And cool! In Dulwich Hill!). With the kids in tow we headed there for dinner on the weekend, but despite arriving early (like 5pm) the buzz of the new meant it was already quite full, not only with families but couples ranging from 20-somethings to 60-somethings – a diverse crowd for a wonderful melting pot of a suburb.

The food is American-style diner fare – burgers, wings, sliders, tacos and the like. We tried the popcorn chicken, small fried morsels of good quality chicken served in a cute metal bucket with sides of fresh, crisp coleslaw and an aoli dipping sauce. Salty, fried comfort food – it disappeared a little too quickly. We also shared some fries, pork sliders and fish tacos – all good, but all in need of a little hot sauce boost, which the friendly staff assured us we should just ask for next time (we will!).

For next time, the burgers sound amazing, and the word is out on their delicious brunch offerings. The Hub House is a breath of fresh air in a rapidly gentrifying suburb, home to some good cafes but still lacking many decent places to eat for dinner, bar a few pizza and Asian joints. And they’re licensed, with some interesting Greek wines a refreshing inclusion on the drinks menu. Happy days.

The Hub House Diner, 404 New Canterbury Road, Dulwich Hill, tel: 02 9518 1887

The Hub House Diner on Urbanspoon

{Cafe Crush} Reuben Hills, Surry Hills

Reuben Hills ticks all the cool cafe boxes – Surry Hills location, industrial-style fitout, seriously good baristas and a menu of zeitgeisty Latino/Americana style eats. Instead of boring old cafe standards the dishes here are all interesting and enticing sounding. The crab tacos are bursting with the fresh flavours of seaside Mexico, while the nachos with chorizo grits are a richer, heartier take on a Tex-Mex favourite. For dessert there’s the highly understated sounding ‘dog’s breakfast’, an icecream sandwich (think a thick wedge of vanilla icecream encased in chocolate brownie slices) served with a generous curl of delicious salted caramel. All importantly, the coffee here is strong yet smooth. Swoonworthy!
Reuben Hills, 61 Albion Street, Surry Hills, tel: +61 2 9211 5556

Reuben Hills on Urbanspoon

Art and eats: A tale of two Sydney suburbs

Chippendale and Fairfield are two Sydney suburbs a world apart, yet both fascinating and well worth exploring. In inner-city Chippendale, cafes and galleries are found dotted down narrow laneways amongst terrace houses, converted warehouses and new apartment developments. It has a downtown New York vibe with its creative community, high density housing and cool venues like Freda’s and Cafe Guilia. Our reason for this Chippendale wander was to check out the latest exhibition at White Rabbit Gallery, a firm favourite in our family, with its private collection of contemporary Chinese art. The latest exhibition is Double Take, featuring a mixture of previous works and compelling new pieces. We then checked out some colourful, contemporary works at nearby NG Art Gallery, housed in the character filled ‘Mission’ building above a tapas restaurant.

Next, we headed to fascinating, multicultural Fairfield in the western suburbs, offering a much different vibe to the urban hipster playground of modern-day Chippendale. With Fairfield’s fascinating mix of cultures there’s inevitably an excellent array of eateries to explore. Sydney’s only Iraqi restaurant can be found here, there’s a fantastic Afghani bread shop, some cheap as chips Lao restaurants and even a Burmese grocery store. After sampling the delicious fare at Lao Village on our last visit, it was the suburb’s smattering of South American businesses we were keen to check out this time.

Afrer contemplating Peruvian at Misky Cravings, we settled on lunch at Paula’s, an old school Chilean diner featuring snacks like tamales, papusas, empanadas (with some at only $3 a piece) and burgers with lashings of roast beef, avocado and mayo. We sampled all these and more, with the papusas our pick of the bunch (a stuffed pancake emanating from El Salvador, served piping hot fresh from the grill with a coleslaw side). Paula’s also has a dessert counter groaning with manjar-filled delights (manjar being the Chilean version of dulce de leche i.e. caramel heaven), but we skipped it in favour of a much needed walk and sampling another Fairfield institution, the long running Argentinian cake shop La Torre, where we loaded up on all things dulce de leche.

Exploring the emerging art scene in Chippendale then the authentic eateries of Fairfield was like a journey around the world and back in one afternoon – the ultimate Sydney experience.

La Paula on Urbanspoon

Brunch with a twist at Runcible Spoon, Camperdown

Breakfast at Runcible Spoon
I have fallen in love with Runcible Spoon, a cafe hideaway with a quirky name taken from a whimsical line in Edward Lear’s The Owl and the Pussycat (‘they dined on mince and slices of quince which they ate with a runcible spoon’). Located down a side street behind Parramatta Road’s Deus Cafe, it has a crafy, homespun vibe with plants in repurposed pots, interesting portraits on the walls and a rustic bookcase stocked with jars of spices and food books. The menu is excitingly left of centre, with all-day breakfast offerings including Thai style fried eggs with pork belly, and a fabulous Mexican-style concoction (my meal of choice – pictured) with pureed black beans, avocado, tomato, poached eggs and salsa. The coffee is strong and flavoursome Golden Cobra, and there are some enticing desserts like a popcorn and salted caramel slice. Low-key, friendly and with an ever-changing menu, Runcible Spoon is well worth the quick detour from Newtown. Love!
Runcible Spoon, 27 Barr Street, Camperdown, tel: +612 9519 2727

Runcible Spoon on Urbanspoon

More cafe crushing…


Some Sydney cafes I’ve loved lately – in Enmore, Marrickville (again!!) and Rosebery:

Silverbean Cafe
A downhome cafe with a rockabilly vibe, Silverbean is a wonderful place for brunch, served all day. Hearty options like breakfast burritos and hotcakes piled with bacon and doused in maple syrup are for lovers of comfort food, Americana style. There’s also delicious Sacred Grounds coffee, served with a dose of fifties flair.
Silverbean, 99 Enmore Road, Enmore, +61 2 9557 0006

Whole Bean/Coffee Roastery
Another notch on Marrickville’s ever-expanding cafe belt, Whole Bean (the sign says Coffee Roastery) claims to have ‘the second best coffee in Marrickville’. It has some stiff competition with Cornersmith, Coffee Alchemy and Double Roasters in the ‘hood, but nevertheless serves wonderful coffee and tasty food like a pickle-laden roast beef sandwich – yum. The space is fun (a Vespa, LP covers on the walls, and best of all – couches!), the vibe super-casual and friendly, and there’s even a counter devoted to syphon coffee.
Whole Bean Coffee Roastery, 38 Chapel Street, Marrickville, tel: +61 2 9565 4063

Kitchen by Mike
The much-lauded Kitchen by Mike is everywhere lately (as in food media and blog-land) and for good reason. Set in a converted warehouse in up and coming Rosebery, Alexandria’s lesser-known neighbour, the cafe features fresh, seasonal produce of the highest quality served up cafeteria style. You queue, you order, then sit at one of the communal tables for a veritable feast of flavour. I had the eggs benedict of my dreams here. Post-meal and coffee you can browse adjoining Koskela, an art, furniture and design store featuring highly covetable wares by local designers.
Kitchen by Mike, 85 Dunning Avenue, Rosebery, +61 2 9045 0910

{Sydney Eats} Hartsyard

The coolest kid on the Enmore block, Hartsyard is a husband and wife run venture with an emphasis on all things fresh, homegrown and locally sourced, with more than a hint of American influence (think po boys, ribs and southern fried chicken). There’s a bar with innovative cocktails (like the Hartsyard Manhattan with bacon-infused Jack Daniel’s), there’s cool decor, there’s a non-pretentious, bustling atmosphere, and it’s the home of one of my favourite meals of 2012 to date! A standout dish was the crispy pigs tail with hot sauce – succulent, smoky, and so, so good. For a touch of downtown NYC flavour, some ridiculously good lamb ribs, and if this much talked about article on the fatification of Sydney’s restaurant scene just made you want to try all the restaurants mentioned, get yourself to Hartsyard… I can’t wait to return.

Hartsyard, 33 Enmore Road, Enmore, tel: 02 8068 1473

Hartsyard on Urbanspoon

{Sydney Eats} New hidden gem, Foley Lane

On a recent Friday night I was surprised to find available seats at the small bar and restaurant, evading the usually tricky ‘no bookings’ curse of queuing and listing and waiting. From the enticing menu featuring Spanish favourites with a creative injection (priced from $4) we ordered:What do you get when take a nautical, art deco style corner building tucked off busy Oxford Street, add a cool industrial style fitout, serve a blend of great Spanish and Australian wines and feature a ridiculously good menu of tapas? The gorgeous, pint-sized temple to tapas perfection, Foley Lane, that’s what!

+ chicken tostada with avocado and coriander
+ spanner crab and piquillo croquette
+ braised longaniza and pimento
+ scallop ceviche with chives and macadamia
+ patatas with paprika alioli
+ cabbage with mint and feta
+ calamari with rocket sauce and chilli
+ morcilla with poached egg, mahon and truffle oil

…then for dessert, the churro with manjar (i.e. a sugared donut stick dipped in dulce de leche, caramelly goodness). Magical.

The entire meal was perfection, punctuated with heavenly wines (we stuck to Spanish) from cava to tempranillo. The service was ultra-friendly, the space inspiring and the food, all so good. The smoky, spicy potatoes was one of the simpler dishes but one of my favourite, and I’m going to attempt to recreate the cabbage, feta and mint salad – so refreshing and the perfect dish to offset the richer meat dishes (like the heartstoppingly rich morcilla).

I highly, highly recommend seeking out Foley Lane before there are queues winding their way around Taylor Square, I can see it already.

Foley Lane, 371-373 Bourke Street, Darlinghurst, www.foleylane.com.au

Image: Foley Lane

Foley Lane on Urbanspoon


Update: Foley Lane has now closed