Wednesday, December 28, 2011
The first day that Cornersmith opened, the cafe managed to smoke out everyone I know from their nearby homes. Most new places are slow to be discovered, but this joint was full-blaze packed from the start. Maybe it says something about the pent-up hunger for a good new place to get coffee and breakfast in Marrickville. And maybe it says something about the worthwhile things on offer at Cornersmith.
The cafe is run by James Grant (previously at Allpress Espresso and Mecca) and his wife, Alex Elliot-Howery (who makes the in-store preserves with her friend Jaimee Edwards; prior to this, Alex started Pigeon Ground with Agatha Gothe-Snape). On the garage roof behind Cornersmith, the couple keeps an urban beehive. The collected honey, so thick you could sculpt it, makes the short trip to your plate when you order the excellent Ricotta, Baked Peach, Almond Toast ($8) – the knockout sweetness of the ultra-cooked fruit is especially moment-stopping. Other great sandwiches that have appeared at Cornersmith include the Two Cheese and Pickle ($7), a melty merger of vintage cheddar, goat's cheese and chilli-preserved zucchini; and the combination that sees Apple Jam and Goat's Cheese spread on toast and sprinkled with sesame seeds ($8). There's also a Mulberry Yogurt Shake ($3 for kids/$6 for grown-ups) to remedy any post-carb thirst.
These items have been part of Cornersmith's limited (but excellent) selection since it started two Saturdays ago. Like most cafes at this time of year, it's now on a break and its doors open again on Tuesday January 10, with a new menu and shelves restocked with home-made pickles and fresh-made condiments. So far, as a small-scale preview, Cornersmith has been doing brilliantly. Bring on the full-strength 2012 reboot.
Cornersmith, 314 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville NSW (02) 8065 0844. You can also follow Cornersmith on Facebook.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
It turns out that there's no cap on how awesome Bourke Street Bakery can be. The team behind that Sydney institution has a new spin-off, Wilbur's Place in Potts Point, and not only is it great – you don't need to practice your poker face when you get the bill. It's refreshingly affordable: lunch starts from $7, desserts from $5 and dinner will still score you change from a $20 bill. The menu is, with the exception of bread, completely different to Bourke Street Bakery's usual line-up. Pop in after 6pm and there's a very likeable take on eggplant parmigiana that's only $14, and its secret weapon is the toasty, fried crunch of sourdough crumbs – delicious grit to the lovely mess of melted cheese, pesto, grilled eggplant and tomato. Do ask about the specials, as that's how I got clued in about the Flourless Chocolate Sponge – a total superhero of a dessert in that its meringue surface masks its knock-out power: the nutty praline base and jackpot seam of passionfruit mousse. And if you don't have time to take a seat at the counter or the communal table outside, don't worry, as "We are all about take-away" says the kitchen's sign. I'm not sure whether I'm going to "grab and go" on my next visit, but I forecast a high probability of an order of the Toasted Brioche Ice Cream Sandwich ($7).
Wilbur's Place, 36 Llankelly Place, Potts Point NSW (02) 9332 2999, www.wilbursplace.com
Monday, December 12, 2011
The Gelato Messina Lab is finally open. There are no test results or case-cracking white coats on show, just low-temperature patisserie treats. There's an ice-cream burger, a "villainous" dessert called Mini Me (it deceptively harbours Dr Evil Chocolate, dulce de leche jam and peanut butter biscuit on top of a "grassy" base of pop rocks) and Messina's own version of Bombe Alaska ($7.90), which has torched Italian meringue and white chocolate and hazelnut croccantino.
From the smart-alec team that gave you gelato flavours such as Elvis: The Fat Years, Isn't That A Salad? and Hansel He’s So Hot Right Now, the patisserie menu also features wise-cracking names, such as a sweet called Ugly Balls (no explanation necessary) and a rectangular-shaped ice-cream sandwich that has a forgivably Dad-joke-like title: Darlo Bar.
My favourite, so far, is the Samurai ($7.90), which doesn't involve any swordplay – just a yuzu sorbet coated in orange-scented chocolate, with blood-splatter-like splashes of caramel. For a dessert that obviously has gory origins, it makes an elegant impression. And the peppery-citrus/sweet-choc combo is so zippy and fine that you're quickly left with just a paddle-pop stick and a flash memory of the Samurai's visit.
With so many sweet-tooth-seeking gems on offer, you inevitably end up with a mental bottleneck of what to order … Or a fixation with future purchases – I've already pre-thought-out my next pick: it'll be the Kova Pavlova ($11.90) with its passionfruit-dusted meringue, vanilla gelato and raspberry jelly.
I first found out about the patisserie lab in April, when I interviewed Gelato Messina's Nick Palumbo. He had been thinking beyond the world of scoops and cones for a while, but there was some training needed to get people adjusted to making deep-freeze desserts. "All the pastry chefs go 'yeah yeah, I know what I’m doing', but they forget that gelato melts." Incorporating other elements with ice-cream also comes with its own headaches – getting a macaron to stay crispy in a sub-zero cabinet is a tricky affair, for instance. You might get a sense of how these things come together when you visit the lab, because the workspace is merged into the actual patisserie – entry into the shop can feel like scoring a guest pass right into the kitchen.
So, that's the Gelato Messina Lab. No need to run any complicated tests to know why it's worth a visit.
Gelato Messina Lab, next door to Shop 1/241 Victoria St, Darlinghurst NSW (02) 8354 1223, www.gelatomessina.com.au. You can also get 'Flavour Alerts' by following Gelato Messina on Twitter or Facebook.