Archive for November, 2010

By the Coast, a Lazy Lunch – Bells at Killcare

Steve Manfredi

Let me start by saying that this is not a review of Bells at Killcare. A review is something you do when you visit a restaurant unannounced, pay the bill with your own money (even better when it’s absconded from an employer), order a cross-section of dishes that you believe will demonstrate the true power and breadth of the kitchen, and enlist a critical eye that spans a lengthy mental checklist: cutlery, glassware, wine service, décor, presentation, flavours, skill, menu grammar, toilet hygiene, the dearth of cockroaches and fruit flies, whether or not your server has the uncanny ability to disappear except when needed, and more. Oh, and it ends with an angst-wrought rating, because you’re affecting someone’s business and you need to get it right.

Lunch companions - Front row, from left: Tasted by Two's Zina Zhang, Open House Magazine editor Ylla Wright, Good Living writer Carli Ratcliff, InsideCuisine's Rebecca Varidel, Gosstronmy's Michael Shafran (aka me), Fooderati's Mel Leong (and TOYS and FBI Radio food diva), Gourmet Rabbit's Denea Buckingham, Julie Manfredi. Back row, from left: Tasted by Two's Felix Sisavanh, He Needs Food's John Bek, and chef Steve Manfredi

Bells at Killcare was just about everything I’d hoped it would be, an opinion I share as an invited guest amid a gaggle of top Sydney food bloggers and writers. So call this a profile, a story, a shared experience. Whatever it is, I was picked up from the Surry Hills office by a van with bells on – yes, it actually said “Bells” on the side – and whisked to leafy Killcare, positioned in the only section of the Central Coast that enthrals me: the southern end near Copacabana and McMasters and a sensation little snorkelling spot called Pretty Beach. Here, somehow, overdevelopment hasn’t erased all traces of subtropical beach paradise. In other words, it’s lovely.

A city escape is welcome enough, but when it involves a lunch devised by Steve (‘Stefano’ to the Italophiles) Manfredi, it’s downright exciting. Steve is known to many a Sydney diner from his high-flying days as the chef at the once three-hatted Restaurant Manfredi and then Bel Mondo, a fantastic fine-dining Italian restaurant in a hidden sandstone building within The Rocks. When Manfredi sold the Bel Mondo in 2002, The Rocks lost a destination restaurant – it still exists, but has never recovered its skyward ratings – leaving Rockpool to act as its sole champion. And while Manfredi helped consult on various restaurants over the years, from Manta to Coast, Bells at Killcare feels like the first eatery in several years where he’s put down culinary roots.

And put down roots he has. Literally. Along the grounds of the 16-acre-ish estate, the chef has built two large vegetable gardens and a chicken coop, which drive a fresh, seasonal produce infusion to Bells that taps directly into Manfredi’s cooking ethos – as it would for any serious Italian chef. The chef gave our group a self-guided tour of the gardens, pointing out the various types of artichokes, pulling fresh turnips, red onion and garlic from the ground, and schooling us in the numerous types of greens and lettuces. “Italians like their leaves to be bitter,” he tells us as he bites into a torn sample. We pick and eat sorrel at its peak of juicy sourness, taste the bitterness from our fingers after handling artichoke leaves, and rush in to pick eggs from the chicken coop like overgrown children at a petting zoo. But my favourite animal turns out to be the resident Maremma sheepdog, a gorgeous white breed that hails from Italy and which instinctively protects livestock from predators.


To lunch at Bells at Killcare is to graze amid ocean breezes, whether via the open windows or doors or from a perch on the undercover veranda, which is understandably the most coveted location when the weather cooperates. The setting is a sea of azure blue tumblers, crispy white linens and delicate wine glasses. We fill the private dining room and nibble on olives as we await the seven-course set menu. First to arrive is a polpettine di melanzana, a crumbed ‘meatball’ filled with blanched eggplant and pecorino. It’s a pleasing morsel at the end of a knotted toothpick, first crunchy then pliant, and nicely seasoned with a salsa verde. The polpettine is paired with a glass of Falanghina, a minerally Italian white favoured by the Neopolitans. Picture a lively Hunter semillon with a broad flavour spectrum, and you have one of the top whites I’ve come across this year – Manfredi has it pipped as one of the next big things in wine.

Next, a softened, peeled tomato comes atop braised artichoke and a cannelloni cream, and a hit of dill pulls it all together. It’s simple, but I love it. A baby calamari stuffed with prawns is let down by sand grit and a murky polenta, but things quickly get back on track with little pasta parcels (‘sacchetti’) filled with lamb and dressed lightly in a tomato sauce that nicely pairs rosemary and, I think, sage.

The best dish of the day is the duck arrosto, roasted to ideal tenderness and placed in slices with pickled turnips originating from Bells’ gardens and braised turnip tops. It’s an atypical combination, but it works. Manfredi says the use of the turnip tops illustrates how Italians don’t like to waste anything. “Australia is one of the big wasters of food in the world,” he says, as food writer Carli Ratcliff vaguely recalls the amount of wasted food here to be something like $20 billion per year (later, back home, she checks and comes up with Planet Ark’s stats declaring that Australians throw out 3 million tonnes of food per year, or 136 kilos per person). While sipping on a pinot bianco blend and then a carignan-shiraz red, we talk about Bells’ steadfast use of compost from the restaurant, which is fed to the chickens and used in to fertilise the gardens.


We finish with baked cherry custard tart with a curiously pleasing pine nut-and-rosemary gelato, and a sensational Sicilian raisin wine called Zibibbo (“It’s like Christmas in a glass,” says Steve), then retire to the bar for cappuccinos and long blacks, made from the chef’s own Espresso di Manfredi coffee beans.

As this point comes my main complaint about the meal. I am ready for a long siesta, and really should be staying overnight at Bells to linger in a hammock and absorb such a delightful meal to the sweat sound of wind-rustled trees. We make unsubtle hints about next time and Steve’s business partner (and ex-wife) Julie Manfredi jokes about putting in bunkbeds for bloggers (excellent idea, by the way). We get back into the van with Bells on for the ride home, a box of Peroni to help pass the time. As we bid adieu, I’m already thinking about a return trip, when I can sneak in a surf or snorkel after my post-lunch nap, and stick around for a next-day lazy breakfast.

Bells at Killcare: Boutique hotel, restaurant & bar, 107 The Scenic Rd, Killcare Beach, Central Coast, NSW, +61 2 4360 2411, www.bellsatkillcare.com.au

Bells at Killcare on Urbanspoon

For Aussie Thanksgiving, The Ultimate Cornbread

Cornbread

While Christmas is the main holiday draw here in Australia, in the US it takes a back seat to Thanksgiving. It kinda makes sense. It’s non-denominational, so even the Jews, Muslims, Hari Krishnas, atheists, animists, Jedis, Satanists, druids and witches can participate, along with the Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans, Quakers and Mormons. And while people sometimes go on vacation during the holiday season, just about everyone goes home for Thanksgiving to be with family.

So even though I’ve been away from home for 10 years now, I still get those tugs of the heartstrings when Thanksgiving comes around. I yearn for family and the familiar. That’s why, even though I think of myself as much as a new Australian as I do a lapsed American these days, I suddenly have a craving for American football (call it gridiron, but no-one in the US does), turkey, pumpkin pie and other expat Yanks.

Thanksgiving at Bronte Beach

In years past I’ve put on some massive Turkey Day spreads at home, but I wanted something easy this year, so I followed up last year’s idea and hooked up with the Sydney Expat American Meetup Group via Meetup.com for a potluck dinner on Bronte Beach. The brief was simple: bring a dish to share, making whatever you want to cook or – for the time-poor – buy.

I knew there would be plenty of turkey, apple pie, pumpkin pie and mashed potato, so I decided to whip up a longtime favourite that has never failed me. One of my oldest cookbooks is Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen, by the famed New Orleans chef and very large individual who almost single-handedly brought Cajun and Creole food to a national, and then global, audience. That any of us can recognise jambalaya, etouffee and shrimp (prawn) Creole is largely thanks to his efforts. And for me, his sweet, buttery, Cajun-style cornbread is the definitive version.

This recipe is as easy as can be – all the work is in measuring the quantities and separately combining the wet and dry ingredients, then bringing them all together without overworking the mix. I bake mine in a glass Pyrex baking dish, and find that greasing it with Canola oil spray works much better than butter, since it doesn’t burn as easily at the edges. While the recipe calls for 55 minutes, I put the convection fan on and start watching the bread at about the 35-minute mark, pulling it out early just as the crust and edges darken without burning. It usually takes between 40 and 45 minutes.

Here’s the original recipe, which I’ve adapted only slightly for metric measurements and Australian terminology. And while the sugar is optional, it’s not the same without it, so unless you’re insulin-challenged, I suggest you go full throttle and enjoy that sweet-as flavour:

Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Cornbread

Makes 1 loaf
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cups polenta (“cornmeal” in the US)
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cornflour
5 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 1/3 cups milk (preferably full-fat)
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 small egg, beaten

In a large bowl, combine the flour, polenta, sugar, cornflour, baking powder and salt; mix well, breaking up any lumps. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, butter and egg and add to the dry ingredients; blend just until mixed and large lumps are dissolved. Do not overbeat.

Pour mixture into a greased 20cm-square baking pan and bake for 175C until golden brown, about 55 minutes [Again, I find it takes less time in my oven. Note: I actually use a 34cm x 24cm x 5cm glass dish for a thinner, rectangular cornbread. For Thanksgiving, I doubled the recipe for a bread that, after it rose, filled the entire dish. I then cut it and put it in a vintage cake tin so I could fit it in my Vespa's top box.] Remove from pan and serve immediately.

Cornbread

Before


Cornbread crumbs

After

Finally, a Fab Australian Butter

Pepe Saya butter

How can I put this in a politically sensitive way, so that I don’t offend anyone’s patriotic zeal? How’s this – Australian butter is crap. Honestly, it is. In fact, the only thing worse than our crap, bland, brainless butter is the crappier, lobotomy-white, lazy-ass-whipped, flavourless butter that they serve in US supermarkets. If you love your butter, you’re probably buying French or Danish – I keep Lurpak on steady rotation in my fridge, only using the Australian butter for menial tasks, like making clarified butter.

But I’m not here simply to rant (not that there’s anything wrong with that) – I’ve actually got good news. I was at Brasserie Bread’s Banksmeadow headquarters to meet with social media mavens and food hounds, Tony Hollingsworth and Lorri Loca, when Tony introduced me to the Pepe Saya butter that they’re now stocking here. I tried a taste on a piece of cracking sourdough bread, and it send my brain a-tingling.

I have no friggin’ idea who Pepe Saya is, but Senior Pepe churns a mean ‘handcrafted’ cultured butter. We’re talking rich and satiny, with a wide taste spectrum that tilts ever slightly towards sour – not so much that it’d put you off, but rather a subtle tongue play that makes you think, ‘More, please’.

A little read-up on the Pepe Saya website, and I learn that this kind of cultured butter separates the cream from the pasteurised Aussie cow’s milk. Then a lactic culture is ‘inoculated’ into the cream, which ferments its and brings our the sourness. Think of only the mildest hint of Jarlsburg. “The fermentation process produces additional aroma compounds,” the site says, adding that it “makes for a full-flavoured and more ‘buttery’ tasting product.” Hell, I’m no butter-making guru, but this kneaded butter is the bees knees. I also discovered that Pepe Saya’s butter scored the gold and overall ‘Champions’ gongs at the recent 2010 Melbourne Fine Food Show, so I’m not the only one gong mental over Pepe’s lactic fabulousness.

It cost about $8.50 for me to walk away with a 225g round of the salted stuff (an unsalted version is also available), which is certainly more expensive that your normal 500g cheapo block, but way more satisfying. I’d rather butter my toast with a 20-cent lashing of the good stuff, rather than devour a 10-cent shmear of mediocrity.

So now that I’ve found my first example of decent Aussie butter, I’m wondering, are there any others out there? I recently overheard some food folks gossiping about some killer Jersey butter that’s going around, and then Googled a lightly salted Jersey butter from NSW’s Over the Moon Dairy in Glen William, from the Upper Hunter. It’s spruiked at Harris Farms and a bunch of area farmers’ markets, so I’ll keep my eyes peeled. Has anyone tried it, or found another notable Aussie butter? Feel free to post any suggestions, and together we can ‘spread’ the love.

Pepe Saya, pepesaya.com.au

Silly Season is Go – Freelancer’s Lunch at The Burlington, Crows Nest

Melissa Leong and Jane Corbett Jones

Long lunching with Huka Retreats' Jane Corbett Jones, left, and Fooderati's Melissa Leong

There are times as a food writer that you feel that you spend all of your time scoping out the latest and greatest eateries, and sometimes you forget to check out other fantastic eateries that you miss along the way. That’s definitely the case with Lela Radojkovic’s The Burlington Bar & Dining. I never got there during the “news” window when she and then-hubby (now ex), Balzac chef Matt Kemp, first set up this fine Crows Nest bistro and then, admittedly, it got buried amid the new-and-notable circuit. I love consistency as much as anyone, but writing food news for MasterChef and other food mags often means I need to be timely. But yesterday I was in luck – a freelancer’s lunch of food writers and editors gave me a perfect reason to finally get there.

The gig was organised by Carli Ratcliff, who has not only recently scored the gong as the best new food writer at the 2010 Australian Food Media Awards, she’s also one of the most likeable people in the biz. And if you’ve been reading the Sydney Morning Herald’s ‘Good Living’ section of late, you’ll notice her byline plastered across countless pages. She’ll probably hate me saying that, but it’s true. She is a machine.

Lela greeted me at the door with a glass of bubbly and then I joined our happy troupe of food pros to enjoy a lovely, long three-course lunch. OK, so I possibly enjoyed myself too much to get very stuck into details, but suffice to say, the food was beautifully rustic, comforting and well-priced, yet with enough flair to keep things interesting. Highlights included a lovely, rich and earthy housemade ‘morcilla’ (much sexier sounding than blood sausage, that is) with scallops, watercress and peperonata, that stew-like mix typically comprised of capsicum, tomato, onion, garlic and olive oil. I say typical, because, like I said, I was too busy gasbagging and gave my critical food radar a leave pass for the afternoon. I also devoured my two-ways lamb, with its fall-apart neck and shoulder cuts, although I did have menu envy after I ditched my slightly under-set crème caramel – I shifted to someone else’s chocolate panna cotta, with its fabulous pairing of sweet milk chocolate ‘foam’ on top with hidden pieces of hazelnut ice-cream and a moodier foundation of dark chocolate panna cotta. If you fancy a peek at the food fest, here are some highlights:

Burlington paella

The Burlington's deconstructed 'paella'

Burlington morcilla

Earthy, crumbly morcilla with scallops and peperonata

Burlington salmon

Pan-friend New Zealand king salmon. Check out the midnight-black squick in gnocchi!

Burlington pavlova

A super-smooth pav with a spritzy 'strawberry soda' foam. What's not to love?

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Something to Chaat About – Coffee Garam in Surry HIlls

Coffee Garam bookshelf

It all started innocently enough. After blogging about another Sydney café last week, I was contacted on Twitter by a Surry Hills cafe I hadn’t heard of called Coffee Garam and asked if I could stop by for a visit. I’m a bit wary of places I haven’t heard about, since I generally know about a place if it’s worthwhile, especially when it’s in my hood, so I put it on my to-do list and thought little of it.

So on the way home to today, hooning on the Vespa to get out of the rain, it somehow came to me that this mysterious café wouldn’t be too far of a diversion. So I backtracked to Foveaux Street and made the obscure right onto Bellevue Street, and pulled in front of a lacklustre-looking windowfront. I peeked inside, saw two Indian gentlemen serving food to tradies and students, and backdropped by a cheesy-looking row of blackboards touting bland Australian café choices and cluttered with very 1980s generic paintings of produce and foodstuffs. If it wasn’t for the rain, I probably would have bolted.

Coffee Garam chaat

Instead, I resigned myself to enjoy the free Wi-Fi and order a latte made with Vittoria coffee – good enough, but not the kind of thing that gets you excited in a suburb teeming with terrific Single Origin and Campos coffee. My coffee came back, well, a lot better than I expected. And that’s when I noticed the innocently placed table placards with photos and descriptions of a few types of chaat, otherwise known as Indian street food. I also looked up to notice a fuller list of several chaat on one of the blackboards, squeezed between egg-and-bacon rolls and ho-hum sandwiches. I also noticed that they served pots of Indian masala chai.

I got up to order a chai and, erm, chat about the chaat. The chef, enjoying my curiosity, asked me if he could make me something that wasn’t on the menu. When chefs get excited, it’s always best to let them work their magic, so I sat back down and awaited my surprise. What arrived was an epiphany – a colourful, rich and moreish plate of papri chaat. Before me was crispy strips of deep-fried pastry (I’d actually call them noodles) mingled with pieces of potato, red onion, other crispy thin noodles called ‘sev’, coriander, turmeric-and-chilli flavoured yellow split peas and a coating of silky yoghurt sauce. The chef finished it off with a sprinkling of dried garlic and chilli. I scoffed every bit of it.

Coffee Garam Surry Hills

How, how I wondered, could such wonderful food be hidden behind uninspired café staples? I asked that very question to the owner, Harvey Parekh, a Mumbai native who quit his sales job at Fitness First to open this five months ago. He said he started with serving chaat, but the local customers only wanted food they were familiar with. It made me want to bash certain locals with a cricket bat, but before I could think of knocking some sense into people between the uprights, Harvey said that he’s looking at building a full kitchen and again expanding his array authentic Bombay treats. “In Bombay, chat is more popular than curries,” he tells me, bemoaning the lack of authentic Indian food in Sydney.

Coffee Garam masala chai

The chef, Raj Mehta, hails from Delhi and it’s obvious that all of his skill and joy goes into the chaat offerings. We’re talking dishes like bhel puri: puffed rice with tomato, green mango, onion, coriander and dual chutneys, one with green chilli, coriander and mint, and the other with palm sugar, fresh tamarind and fennel seeds. “It is originally from Gujarat, but nowadays primarily identified with the beaches of Mumbai (Bombay)”, reads the under-appreciated placard. Then there’s the sev puri: little puffed, fried rounds of dough (puri) stuffed with crispy thin noodles, potatoes, onion and yoghurt, accompanied by tamarind chutney and mint chutney, and spinkled with a chaat masala spice mix.

This is not your typical Aussie Indian food, and it’s a joy to discover it in such an unexpected locale, on the opposite side of town from Cleveland Street’s Little India row. At Garam, there’s also plenty of love given to the masala chai, formed with Hasmuckh tea imported directly from Mumbai – it turns out Harvey’s father is an Indian importer, and it’s his mum that mixes the tea with cinnamon, cloves, ginger and green cardamom. Masala chai appreciation classes will soon be offered, starting with a session this weekend for Twitter peeps.

Coffee Garam tea

I’m not sure Coffee Garam has gotten off to the right start, but it appears to be heading in the right direction. A post-Christmas renovation promises new, comfy couches, and an expanded kitchen that can pump out more diverse Indian street food, such as deep-fried spheres of ragada pattice, made with mashed potatoes, yellow peas, onion, turmeric and more. The Garam boys also plan to add a coffee blend dominated by Indian monsoon Malabar coffee, further boosting the Sub-continent flavours that will hopefully start elbowing out the substandard.

I selfishly inquire about the butt-ugly blackboards, and it looks like they’re potentially on the chopping block as well. Which is music to my mouth, since I’ve got a crush on some excellent Bombay chaat and I’d like for the two of us to be alone, with no distractions.

Coffee Garam, 29-37 Bellevue St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 8065 1941; coffeegaram.com
Coffee Garam on Urbanspoon

Cup Fever – Campos Coffee Cupping Room, Newtown

For all of Sydney’s talk about serious coffee, the city has never had a cupping room before. We’re talking the same kind of smelling, sucking, spitting and other ill-mannered gestures that have previously accompanied wine snobbery… and party pashes. Heck, even all of those Americans that Aussie like to take the piss out of for having crap coffee have cupping rooms in plenty of their newfangled Third Wave coffee houses. We better put the medal to the ristretto lest we get left behind.

Thankfully, serious coffee dudes Campos unveiled their shiny new cupping room – the city’s first – two weeks ago, and I was invited along today for a looksee. The room is upstairs from the barista-bustling Newtown flagship. Three of us were led up the dark, narrow staircase. We knocked on the door, upon which a slit in the door flew open, with eyes peering through like a Depression-era speakeasy. Nifty.

We entered the spacious, dark room, with all eyes drawn to the brightly lit cupping table, glowing with a halo effect – coffee heaven, I presume. I’ve been to other cuppings in New York, and in comparison, there are some serious pluses to the Campos version. Firstly, there’s lots of personal attention and education. Secondly, everyone gets their own cups and spoons, which is a nice hygienic approach compared to the NY method, with its shared cups between dozens of spoons kinda washed in mugs of boiled water that hopefully kill anything picked up from that taster’s ex-boyfriend. On the other hand, the NYC sessions were free, but I’ll pay $8.80 for piece of mind.

The cupping consisted of seven types of coffee beans, with grinds ranging from naturally dried Honduran to PNG, Kenyan, Indian ‘monsoon’ and even one from an unlabelled mass-producer. To start, we shook each cup of grinds to get a sense of their smell in their dried state. The characteristics varied widely: one was full of lime and citrus, another chocolately and yet another aromatic. The Indian monsoon – named because the beans are exposed to rains and winds so that they emulate the monsoon conditions when the beans used to be exported on clipper ships, which makes them pale and swell, and gain a unique, strong flavour – reminded me of leather and earth. The mass-market beans barely smelt of anything at all.

Next, the grinds were covered in 93-degree water, upon which a crust formed and floated on top. We were instructed to delicately break through the crust with our spoons, and each of us took note of the changes in the smell characteristics. Finally, the crusts were removed by Campos barista Todd McCarthy, who’s been charged with running the cupping room sessions. Lastly, we tasted the infused coffee water in each cup. I fall in love with the delicate, fruity Kenyan, but such purist thoughts aren’t so simple, as we’re taught about how roasters blend different beans to enhance flavours and create complexity.

We stumble out of the room, infused with a greater appreciation of how a specialty roaster like Campos controls its quality and builds intricate blends like a fine apothecary.

Each session runs 45 minutes, holds about four to six people, and costs a measly $8.80 “for now”, we’re told. Get in while it’s a no-brainer. And there’s good news for other Aussie capital cities: Brisvegas is getting its own cupping room at Campos’ two-year-old outpost there, and Melbourne will see its first Campos coffee house open later this week, popping up along Carlton’s Elgin Street. How good is it that you’ll be able to score Seven Seeds and Campos in a single coffee stroll?

Campos Coffee Cupping Room, 193 Missendon Rd, Newtown, NSW
Sessions: Tues to Fri at 7.30am, 9am & 1pm; Sat 8.30am, 1pm & 3pm
Campos Melbourne, 144 Elgin St, Carlton, Vic
Campos Brisbane,11 Wandoo St, Fortitude Valley, Qld
http://camposcoffee.com

Campos Coffee on Urbanspoon

The Robots Are Coming! – Robo Cog cafe

It’s been a disastrous month for breakfast in Sydney, with two of my favourite new cafes closing their brekkie business. First there was Redfern’s Moose General Store, which got rolled by Sydney City Council over its sidewalk seating, then Chalmers Street’s Eat House decided serving breakfast and lunch was too much and started focusing on dinners only.

So it is with great pleasure that I announce a week-old newcomer in Surry Hills called Robo Cog – as in robots and bicycle cogs. A natural combination, no? Well, the robots appear to be a bit of a fascination by the Bangkok boys (with unfairly cool names like “House” and “Jet”) who run this new café, with toy robots invading the shelving and various robot motifs on display, from the walls to the bathrooms.

Then there’s the cycling element, which is equally inspired. The operators are bike geeks who have been running a neighbourhood bike repair and maintenance service just down the road. In a beautiful, blatant lack of commercial viability, they work on bikes or help people service their own two-wheelers and charge – wait for it – a$3 donation for the honour. In a materialistic city like Sydney, such a transaction may cause people to feel like they’ve woken up in Bizarro World. In the café, there are bicycles hung along the brick walls, a weekly feature that rotates bikes by customers who want to store and show off their pedallers.

Many locals might not have even noticed Robo Cog’s arrival, as it subtly took over a cottage on Riley Street that has long operated as one the city’s worst cafés in one of the city’s best café spaces. No longer. Not only do the Thai barrisas pour a sweet cappuccino, but they’re also roasting their own coffee on premise, using North Ryde’s Green Bean beans. The house blend is a mix of Ethiopian and… erm, something else that I can’t remember, with a fruity, nutty taste that’s solid, although I get the sense that they’re still working out the best roasting process. With such passion about, it feels like it’s just a matter of time. The crew also showed me a bag of coffee beans grown in Chang Rai, in Thailand’s north, which they’re experiment with for a unique espresso option.

The other clincher with Robo Cog is the price. Food starts here a gold-coin prices and then tops out at $9. At most Surry Hills cafes, that will buy you toast, but here it gets you a full-fledged breakfast. I started with a bacon-egg roll that cost little more than my coffee – decent, if a bit pedestrian – and at these prices, I should be able to get through the rest of the menu in about a week. See you there tomorrow, and don’t forget to bring some change.

Robo Cog, 249 Riley St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 9281 2880

Robocog Cafe on Urbanspoon

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