This Marrickville newcomer is from Charles Cameron, formerly of Brewtown Newtown, and its retro design is inspired by the milk bars that once dotted the inner west.
“We aren’t a milk bar, but we wanted to reference the diversity of the area with the design of the place,” Cameron tells Broadsheet, adding that Australian cafe culture wouldn’t be where it is today without the legacy of immigrant hospitality operators.
The Greek-Australian milk bar is a national icon and a testament to the success of diasporic enterprise and multiculturalism. Milk bars peaked in the 1930s; they were where locals blew paychecks on steak and eggs and malt milkshakes before the theatre. But recently their numbers have dwindled (the closure of Stanmore’s Olympia is a recent casualty).
The space is designed by Luchetti Krelle (Longrain Tokyo, Banksii, Terminus), and imposes its presence on the street with open bi-fold doors, colour and texture. There are green velvet chairs tucked under a large crimson-tiled communal table. Two bulbous lamps hang overhead, holding the fort while the place waits for the arrival of an impressive Art-Deco chandelier feature. The marble and wood-panelled bar curves its way from the service area to the kitchen’s pass, presiding over a room where linoleum surfaces are in abundance: a textural nod to last century’s milk bars. From the sky-blue floor to the orange table tops, the theme is considered rather than emphatic.
A timber banquette occupies the space opposite the open kitchen where chef Michael Smith (ex-Otto and Brewtown) is serving a concise menu. For breakfast, hazelnut brioche is used to make French toast, which is served with caramelised banana and orange buttermilk ricotta. There’s a coffee-rubbed pork hash accompanied by poached eggs, or a Persian rice kedgeree tossed through with currants, goat’s cheese and rose petals.
From 11am the hand-rolled saffron pasta comes with hot smoked salmon, kale and tomato, and specks of bottarga. A classic Reuben is enhanced with crumbed eggplant and is best paired with draught beer from local brewery The Grifter Brewing Co. The fried-chicken burger is tempered by pickled onions and served on a brioche bun. Double down on the poultry and order it with a side of popcorn chicken.
Clarissa Capriati brings experience from Bennelong to the pastry kitchen. There are savoury muffins, brioche knots and a hemp brownie the staff has dubbed “the space cake”. Dietary requirements are accommodated, most impressively in the form of a dairy-and-gluten-free lemon meringue pie, which is made from aquafaba (a chickpea foam), so it’s vegan, too. “We didn’t want to serve vegan or gluten-free options as an afterthought,” says Cameron.
Coffee is roasted at Collective Roasting Solutions under the consultation of Sydney coffee consigliere Sam Sgambellone (Soma, Mecca). Served with milk, the house blend is designed to taste like Neapolitan ice-cream. There is a rotating menu of single-origin options for espresso and filter coffee.
As for the name, Cameron sees a trip to the local cafe as a crucial act in the theatre of the weekend. “Brunch is essential here. It’s the daytime show: the matinee, if you will.”
23–29 Addison Road, Marrickville
(02) 9519 7591
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