Here’s a slow-burn trend: fine-dining chefs shunning the white tablecloth game in favour of something more casual. We’ve seen Harry Kolotas do it at Cavalier 2.0 in St Leonards, Clayton Wells at A1 Canteen in Chippendale, and Lee Li (formerly of Tetsuya’s and Kensington Street Social) at Meet Mica in Surry Hills.

Joining the list now is Pyrmont’s milk- and moss-coloured Calla, a first-time venue from Max Bean (Est, The Bridge Room, Restaurant Mason) and Vicki Melitas (Palings, Bar Topa, Little Bistro).

“I did all my fine-dining experience knowing I never wanted to open a fine-dining restaurant,” says Bean. “They're out of trend; they don't make as much money anymore.”

They didn’t really want to run a regular cafe either. There’s not a single poached egg in sight – instead it’s brown-butter scrambled eggs and house-made pork sausages. The closet thing to avo on toast is the sourdough stack of heirloom cherry tomatoes, caramelised garlic puree (some customers are encouraging them to sell it by the jar), fermented chilli and whipped ricotta. And that’s just the cafe-standard half of the menu.

Then there’s the unexpected fare, like the house-made smoked-salmon terrine and the breakfast crème brûlée topped with candied granny smith apple, cranberry jam and a crumbed, seed-filled biscuit. “It's flavours and styles from all the venues we've worked at; all unique dishes to here,” says Bean. “We're trying to bring fine-dining flavours and techniques to a cafe environment.”

Besides that terrine dish, everything’s priced under $20 too. “That was one of the key things for us: make it approachable so you can come two or three times a week,” says Melitas.

They do have plans to flex their fine-dining skills over a multiple-course set dinner in future, but they’re committed to keeping Calla’s vibe casual.

55 Harris Street, Pyrmont
(02) 9566 1931

Tue to Fri 7.30am–3.30pm
Sat & Sun 8am–3pm

This article first appeared on Broadsheet on May 20, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.