Good news – Ashfield has finally broken its 'Good Cafe Drought' with Excelsior Jones. I lived in the 2131 postcode for seven years – grateful for the easy access to handmade noodles and Shanghai specialties – but hoping one day there'd be a worthwhile place to order a sandwich, coffee or settle in for a lazy breakfast.
Now that cafe shortfall has been corrected by Anthony Svilicich and James Naylor, who both could be counted on to do something great, given they used to be at Le Monde in Surry Hills. With Excelsior Jones, they manage to ace all the essentials - good coffee (courtesy of Five Senses), affable staff, likeable fit-out and a menu you want to get strongly acquainted with.
There are lots of fine ways to start your day here. The Sourdough Pikelets ($13) are banked up with strawberry compote, and ready for you to drizzle with a jug of custard. The Sauteed Field Mushrooms ($14) are so very addictive, cooked through with a buttery puree and lightened with snips of chives. And Will strongly endorses his Bacon and Egg Sandwich ($10), which stands out thanks to the aioli and sweet-and-savoury pep of capsicum relish.
Beyond breakfast, there's a summer-light salad of heirloom tomatoes, white beans, buffalo mozzarella and green olives; sandwiches stacked with slow-roasted lamb or marinated haloumi; and, if you do a visual sweep of the room, you'll notice many cafegoers nursing the Cheeseburger which comes with a hefty entourage of fried spuds. (Given that a neighbouring diner calls this dish "obscenely good", no wonder it's a near-permanent fixture on tables.)
There are also malted milkshakes ($6.50) or lemonade spiders ($6) that'll help you chase away the heavy-going heat of summer. As for Excelsior Jones, it provides a good case for hanging around in the 2131 postcode.
Excelsior Jones, 139A Queen Street, Ashfield NSW (02) 9799 3240, www.excelsiorjones.com