Monday, March 24, 2008
Strangers With Candy, Redfern (and other Sunday breakfast spots)
Eating out for breakfast is one of those great weekend-centric activities (along with sleeping in lots, being a night owl with your friends and doing regrettable things that you have a whole extra day to get over). So it's weird that a lot of breakfast places are closed on Sundays (all you get is extra stomach rumbles if you turn up to Two Good Eggs, Vargabar, Cafe Sopra and other such eateries on this day). So, I thought I'd list a bunch of good places where you can tuck into breakfast on a Sunday (after a good dozy sleep-in, of course).
Strangers With Candy is the best kind of wake-up call. Even though I love prospecting for new breakfast joints to try, this cafe is the place I keep bounding back to.
Tabitha once said to me that after a while, eating out for breakfast is just one samey blur (how many ways can you have eggs and toast, really) but this is where Strangers breaks with that crusty old notion. Sure you can get your traditional fix of yolks on bread, but I am completely smitten with their inspired Avocado & Tomato Salsa Breakfast Bruschetta ($16.50). While the word 'salsa' might bring up this horrid image of tomato mush that haunts bad Mexican food, the salsa here is more like a zesty capsicum relish, paired with generous avocado arcs and parmesan shavings on char-grilled chunky bread. The smoky, sublime dollop of eggplant puree on the side is just an extra note to make your tastebuds hum. It is easily the best vego breakfast dish I've ever had and I've seen many friends converted by it in a simple bite. The home-made baked beans are a good side dish to crowd onto the plate as well.
Even though it's wimpy and middle-of-the-road to always order the same thing, I'm so swayed by this bruschetta dish that the idea of ordering anything else seems like an act of tastebud treason. Will is similar, he always has eggs on toast, with double smoked ham and the roast tomatoes (which impressively come with their own spunky mohawks).
We've been to Strangers With Candy for dinner too, but the menu is a lot heavier and richer, and I prefer the light, zingy flavoursome feel of their breakfast. We did have some truly stunning home-made ice cream though. And good to know the mohawked tomatoes still get a showing at night too.
96 Kepos Street (corner Phillip Street), East Redfern NSW (02) 9698 6000,
Two blocks from Strangers With Candy is Wah Wah Lounge. In the same way you can accessorise what you wear around a shirt you really like, everything I order at this cafe plays supporting role to my love of their juices ($6.50) and Crispy Chat Potatoes ($6.50). Their Breakfast Bruschetta With Poached Eggs, Roast Tomato, Basil and Parmesan ($14) is like the William H Macey does-its-job-quietly equivalent to Strangers With Candy's limelight-stealing megastar (a la Vincent Chase) Avocado & Tomato Salsa Breakfast Bruschetta. It's not as blow-out amazing but it is a much nicer alternative to the yuppie-esque Danks Street Depot , where everything is pricey (think $6.50 for a side of mushrooms) and just reading the menu is enough to make your arteries clot on impact (there are dishes featuring the holy heart attack trinity of cream, butter and oil - think Creamed Eggs with Roasted Mushroom and Truffle Oil ). I used to love going to Danks St as a treat, but the last few times, I was overwhelmed by how pretentious and pipe-clogging the menu sounded.
Thankfully, Wah Wah Lounge is a more casual affair (any place named after a rock-out guitar pedal has to be). I mean, their strawberry-and-mango frappe is called the Wah-zu - there's no way an uppity eatery could cope with scrawling that screwball name on their fancypants menu. I could happily spend all day attacking their 'taters and sipping away on their drinks, like the cheesily-named The Pal (pear, apple and lime bliss!) or In The Pink (a blitz of watermelon and pineapple) which does the thirst-sating trick too.
Wah Wah Lounge, 1 Danks Street, Waterloo NSW (02) 9699 3456
The UN may have declared 2008 to be the International Year of the Potato, but that doesn't make my potato-hog tendencies any more respectable than they really are. It's good to know my weakness for spuds isn't a sole freaky affair though. Once at Bitton, when one of Sally's roesti potatoes ($3.50) slid clean off her plate and swooped straight onto the floor, she was compelled to apologise to the crisp-fried tater for letting an aerodynamic misfortune turn it into inedible fare. It's not such a weird thing to be so vocally sorry in such a circumstance because the roesti is pretty good at Bitton. It can be a little too well-oiled (perhaps explaining its easy flight onto the floor) and you probably need to let the grease sog up the paper before attacking the stack, but the golden crumbly pucks aren't something you'd order if you were feeling diet-saintly anyway.
Bitton's one of those places that does the trad eggs-and-toast-and-sides thing very well, while adding some inspired breakfast options too - think Savoury Crepes with Mushrooms and Bechamel Sauce with Salad ($13). If the menu doesn't clue you to the fact, Bitton is a bit of a French affair and I love that when France were doing really well in the last soccer World Cup, the ABC news didn't just quiz the usual sports commentators about it but actually asked the Parisian-born cafe owner, David Bitton, for his two centimes on how the French team would do.
It's hard not to stretch your appetite to waistband-tight extremes at Bitton - but if you don't walk out of Bitton clasping an over-fed stomach, you can always stock on oils and condiments from the Bitton empire and other groceries at the gourmet food store next door.
Bitton, 37a Copeland St, Alexandria NSW (02) 9519 5111, bittongourmet.com.au
Bodhi, like any kind of yum cha, is a complete lottery depending on what bamboo steamers and small plates end up on your table. One plus about Bodhi is that it's out in the open, so it has that bonusly breezy weekend feel. The other plus, if you're a vegetarian or vegan, is that you don't have to cross-examine the waitress on whether each dish passes the dietary minefield or not - everything is vegan.
You have to be a bit prissy when at Bodhi - you can't say yes to everything or you end up with a big pile of dishes you can't finish and an eyebrow-raising bill to boot. (Lisa and I once did this, where we ended up with an $80 bill between the pair of us.) When you've got a big table of hungry people and everyone's vocally campaigning over whether to take up the wontons or dumplings or Chinese donuts that the waitress has bought - it can be quite fun. Like Yum Cha Idol, in a way.
I remember once meeting a Jewish person who said they would fight to the death for the "pork" buns at Bodhi, such was their yum cha loyalty to the kosher-friendly pastry. As with any yum cha experience, some dishes are brilliant and others can be so-so, but my favourites include the Tofu Salad which comes in a soy pocket and gets slathered with satay sauce, the Steamed Greens (the key to enjoying this is drowning it in the sweet sauce) and the Passionfruit Jelly. The Coconut Jelly is also good, but the problem with these wobbly sweets is their Teflon-slick surface can result in a Bitton-style aerodynamic accident, where everything glides straight from your spoon and launches straight onto the ground, becoming a dessert fatality. I guess you can only be Zen about it.
Bodhi, Cook and Phillip Park (downstairs from the forecourt in front of St Mary's Cathedral), Sydney NSW (02) 9360 2523
At Le Petit Crème, you can order a Croque Monsieur, a Croque Madame or better still, the fabulously named Croque Boum-Boum ($11). Or you can go for other Frenchy delights, such as a Camembert Baguette with Salad ($10) or Crepes with Calvados ($8.50) or an Onion Soup. Of course, my first potato-centric thought is, bring on the Frites. Ask for them and Le Petit Crème serve up these delicious potato discs. I used to dream about these frites all the time when I used to work nearby, and I would even say that they are contender for best chips in Sydney.
Just to trigger a skip down French holiday memory lane, I had the Omelette Provencale with Salad ($12), which had garlic and tomato generously folded into the creamy yet light, fluffy eggs. Omelettes can feel like a slight rip-off because they fill you up for only an hour, but this left me satisfyingly full. Will had the Potato Omelette and agreed. Bien (or Boum-Boum) indeed.
Le Petit Crème, 118 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst NSW (02) 9361 4738
OK, yes, Cafe Sofia also serve potatoes on their breakfast menu and I admit to liking them very much. They also have a lot of great vego dishes and a Vegan Breakfast ($10.50) to boot. But it's the Poached Eggs With Potato and Spinach ($11.50) that is always top of my ordering list.
Will is a fan of their Muesli ($6.50), nicely presented with fanned fruit.
Cafe Sofia, 7 Swanson St, Erskineville NSW (02) 9519 1565
I know I've already blogged about A Little On The Side, but it's such a breezy place to go to, I can't help but drill this notion in a little further. Sure, I love their Haloumi Burger, but I also love the fact they do these extra little things they don't have to. Like when Will and I decided to go halves on their Hotcakes With Passionfruit and Mango special, they divvied it up onto two different plates for us. Or that they've frequently given away their housebaked muffins for us to take home, because we're one of the last diners of the day.
I think there'll be quite a few more Sundays I'll be spending there.
A Little On The Side, Corner of Boundary and Ivy Lane, Darlington NSW (02) 9698 2342