You might not know the name David “Stix” Allison, but it’s likely you’ve eaten some of his food (or at least wanted to). For the past 22 years, Allison has been running Stix Catering, a successful company with more than 200 staff, some of which are this city’s best cooks. In addition to all the usual events, up until last December it was also contracted by Rockpool Consulting (with Neil Perry) to cook a majority of the inflight meals for Qantas’s first and business classes, which it did for nine years and to critical acclaim.
Allison is now behind new Marrickville cafe, Stix – a decision that’s been a long time coming. During his twenties, he fantasied about buying a deli that would be an urban market by day and restaurant by night. At one point he got close, but decided he didn’t really have the time.
“I bought a space in the city. But because all of our corporate customers … I was working seven days a week, 16 hours a day. I couldn’t open a restaurant and give it the attention I wanted,” he says.
But with the Qantas contract finishing up and an abundance of kitchen space at Stix HQ, he decided it was time to take the plunge.
The cafe is in an industrial area not far from Poor Toms, in what was a formerly an under-underutilised loading dock. The schmick canteen-style eatery looks like a modern barn, and behind a slate-coloured roller door there’s a clever use of timber to accentuate the high, vaulted ceiling. Diners eat at dark timber, communal tables, with full view of the glass-enclosed kitchen and a counter display packed with goodies.
Apart from seafood dishes, everything is made with produce and protein from Allison’s 100-acre, fully certified organic farm on the banks of Hawkesbury River just north of Sydney. Or, if it’s a type of oyster mushroom, it’s been freshly harvested in a hidden incubation room upstairs of the cafe.
Stix Farm, which cultivates rare-breed pigs, free-range chickens and organic vegetables, not only supplies seasonal produce for Stix’s kitchens but also to some of Sydney’s favourite restaurants, including Firedoor, Saint Peter, Fred’s, Poly, Ester and 10 William Street. “I was a chef and wanted my own business,” says Allison, who has had a hand in agriculture since high school. “The farm was part of having a sustainable business.”
Highlights of the breakfast menu include a warming bowl of chicken-and-sweet-corn congee topped with poached egg and tamari chilli; and an omelette with miso eggplant and ginger-shallot dressing. At lunch there’s a scotch fillet steak sandwich with beetroot relish, and a blood orange-cured kingfish with beetroot, kale, radicchio and smoked goat’s cheese.
The display of sweet treats was created by head pastry chef Daria Nechiporenko, and it includes almond croissants, Russian caramelised honey cake and Nechiporenko’s signature white chocolate-covered zen cake with yuzu and black sesame.
The cafe also has a mini retail section. Shelves are packed with fresh, organic produce picked from Stix Farm and freshly baked sourdough bread. There’s also a fridge stocked with jars of take-home relishes, pickles and condiments, whole cakes, butter, cured meats and fish plus pouches of ready-made meals for two.
In the next few months, the cafe will be hosting seven-course degustation dinners to showcase the produce from the farm and the Hawkesbury region. These dinners will be available to be booked exclusively by groups of up to 20 people.
Work is also underway to open a second outpost of Stix Cafe in Hunters Hill in the next three months. They’ve nabbed a 50-square metre space with a mini courtyard that will serve as a boulangerie and patisserie, with a small offering of salads and sandwiches.
20 Chapel Street, Marrickville
(02) 9550 2772
Tue to Fri 7.30am–2.30pm
Sat & Sun 7.30am–3.30pm