What’s the formula for a successful cafe in cosmopolitan Sydney?
It may not be as simple as a good eggs Benedict on the menu. Sydneysiders are a fickle bunch of eaters and every popular cafe is trying to woo customers with a signature brekky. Many Sydney cafes now offer all-day breakfast and supplement this with an extensive lunch menu.
To me, the formula for a good cafe is simple – the enjoyable experience reminds us on a bleak Monday morning that it was a good weekend.
We are invited by Paula Gordon and Robert Knight to The Chalkboard Cafe, their new venture housed in the PYD building in Waterloo.
An Englishman, Robert’s pedigree in the kitchen includes stints in boutiques hotels in London, Queenstown in New Zealand and more recently Hamilton Island in Australia.
Paula is the face at front-of-house and prides herself on providing service excellence through her many years in the hospitality industry.
“I’m very passionate about making good coffee” she tells us.
“Some of our breads such as the white pendasal and the orange vanilla biscotti are house baked by my father in our kitchen too” she adds.
The menu at The Chalkboard Cafe includes classic breakfast favourites such as eggs Benedict, brioche French toast and buttermilk pancakes. It also features a mix of light snacks including a house-smoked salmon with potato rosti, goat’s cheese and tomato salad as well as crispy pork belly that comes with a seasonal Asian salad.
The coffee here is from boutique roaster Double Roasters in Marrickville. Paula’s barista skills come through in the bold coffee aromas in our flat whites.
An elegant touch is the house-baked orange vanilla biscotti that comes with each coffee you order here.
“Try our Wake Me Up” says Paula as she offers us a fruit juice made of celery, apple, orange and ginger that adds a bit of attitude.
It is certainly a nice way to start our breakfast on a lazy Saturday morning.
The menu looks exciting and rather than ordering a breakfast and lunch between the both of us, Paula suggests we sample flavours across a range of items on the menu.
The tasting portions (not on the menu) orchestrated by Paula is an excellent way to introduce Robert’s food to us.
Granola with mixed berries must be one of the healthiest and tasty breakfast cereals I’ve had in a long time.
Crispy baked roll oats, nuts and honey are paired with blueberries, strawberries but the green apples and tamarillo give it a lovely tart finish. The luscious, creamy and chilled vanilla yoghurt brings this simple breakfast cereal together.
Chalkboard Benedict with bacon and House Cured Smoked Salmon Benedict arrive in its signature yellow hollandaise sauce topped with chopped chives.
The hollandaise sauce is fresh, thick and rich as it should always be.
Drizzled over a poached egg sitting on a pillow of potato cake, I’m quite sure this dish will tempt the hardcore sleep-ins to jump out of bed for breakfast.
The smoked salmon is subtle and succulent and the bacon is how I like mine to be – crispy with a slight chew.
But the star of the show is the wobbly free-range egg nestled under the rich hollandaise. With a gentle yield of my knife, the thick gooey yolk oozes out in all its eggy glory. Instead of toast, the soft and creamy pototo cake is a nice mop for the egg.
This is a definite must-try dish at this cafe.
Save for the butter, the white pandesal that comes with orange marmalade and raspberry jam are all made in-house.
Pendasal is a popular bread in Paula’s native Philippines and this one is freshly baked by Paula’s father here in the kitchen.
A simple goat’s cheese and tomato salad looks vibrant as the ingredients are fresh with a good lashing of extra virgin olive oil.
The tender House Cured Smoked Salmon is given some texture with a crispy disc of potato rosti. Sour cream and tangy capers give this smoked salmon its classic combination.
A rectangular chunk of braised pork belly sits on a bed of roasted onions and three spears of grilled asparagus and cider cream. The pork rind can be a lot more crispy. Although the meat is succulent, the aroma is slightly gamey.
As Paula continues to dish out tasting portions of the mains, we are experiencing the range and versatility of Robert’s cooking in each dish.
I am not a big fan of caramelised onions because of its sweetness but when paired with chunky cubes of seared beef fillets in this open steak sandwich, it works extremely well with the sauteed mushrooms and toasted sourdough.
Paula tells us this is one of the most popular items on the menu and it’s easy to see why.
A citrus cake with orange and lemon is a light and fluffy way to end our tasting lunch at this cafe.
Housed in a stylish space in the PYD building, the high ceilings and an open-spaced dining room at the foot of a large staircase give this cafe a sense of openness. Designer furniture and modern home decor shops surround this cafe on the ground floor of the building.
You can definitely find a funky piece of ornament for your home but I think the food at The Chalkboard Cafe should really be the first point of call when you visit the PYD buiding.
So dear readers, do you have a favourite coffee or cafe in Sydney and if so, what is your dish recommendation there?
ChopinandMysaucepan dined as guests of The Chalkboard Cafe. All views and opinions on this blogpost are our own.
Tel: + 61 2 9698 2553
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday 7am – 4pm Thursday & Friday nights 5pm – 9pm