Jaffles and Milo: they’re what you might have found on a cafe menu 20 years ago. But Milo flavoured with rosewater, and a jaffle filled with Levantine sausage slices, Danish feta, olives and cheddar definitely belong in 2016.
Meraki Merchants is the name of the new cafe in Parramatta blending Sydney cafe trends with the flavours of the eastern Mediterranean. “The jaffles are something I had as a kid,” says Toufick Chami, Meraki’s owner. Chami (ex-Circa and Ona) is Lebanese, so he includes flavours not usually associated with modern-Australian cafe menus. His granola is tossed with cardamom; milo is mixed with rosewater; and the rotating jaffle and sandwich menu uses sujuk (a Levantine sausage), currants and other elements of Lebanese dishes.
Despite the flavour mixing, it’s a relatively simple affair. The menu is only six-items long with a few specials here and there, such as a fruit gazpacho-like creation with orange blossom blended with watermelon, seasonal fruits, almonds and coconut yoghurt.
One reason for the menu’s brevity is surely the space. Meraki runs out of a tiny corner on the floor of a new residential building in Parramatta. “We just kept it really simple,” says Marjan Chami, the cafe’s designer and Toufick’s wife. Despite the small space and odd spot (it’s a few blocks from Parra’s main strip), they’ve done well to make it feel warm and inviting. The outside space (a bench, a few stools and some greenery) is mottled (because of the old street). Inside it’s clean, white and simple. “We were over the whole rustic thing. We wanted a fresh look,” says Chami.
Instead of banking on Toufick’s previous employers, Ona, or an industry big gun for its beans, Meraki Merchants has gone with fellow newcomers, Stich Coffee Roasters in St Peters. It’s not just regular black and white coffee being served, either. Toufick makes his own almond milk; does batch brewing; and serves a mint affogato and a cardamom-blended turmeric latte.
5/111 George Street, Parramatta
Mon to Fri 7am–3pm