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When discussing and researching inclusions, Brickfields was an easy choice.
There’s something about the light in Brickfields. Filtering in from the broad leaves of the street’s London plane trees gives the store a perpetual late afternoon feel: cool and relaxed. It’s a good trick considering the five-year-old cafe and bakery is on Cleveland Street, and never seems to have a quiet moment. Traffic clatters by and the coffee and lunch trade spill out the front door.
When Brickfields founders Simon Cancio and Paul Geshos (Mecca, Soma) opened the business, the neighbourhood choice was a wild card. “Chippendale is an island, cut off by roads that are big arteries of the city. It was sort of a forgotten part of Sydney,” Cancio says.
Geshos was roasting coffee in the space, and when Cancio joked they should join forces, with him as the baker, they decided to take a risk. (Cancio worked the ovens at Bourke Street Bakery before opening Luxe Bakery.)
In spite of being isolated, or maybe because of it, Brickfields has thrived as one of the best places in the area to get a coffee, a pastry, or a loaf of sourdough.
“I think the key is we’re at the end of a cul-de-sac,” Cancio says. “It’s the perfect meeting point for the community.”
The fact the food is delicious doesn’t hurt either.
The pastry display contains flaky croissants; neat rows of black sesame cookies dusted with confectioner’s sugar; and tarts with fruit tumbling over crumbly pastry. In the window, stacks of dark, slightly irregular loaves of bread tower in such abundance it’s hard to imagine them all selling, but they do. It’s slim pickings at the end of the day.
The bread is the base of menu mainstays, such as the streaky bacon sandwich with manchego, pickles and lemon aioli served on a seeded ciabatta roll. While Brickfields’ staples are sandwiches, salads and pastries, Cancio takes every opportunity to let the diverse backgrounds of the staff inspire the menu.
“Right now, we’ve got some Korean chefs and they’ve put a home-style bibimbap on the menu,” he says.
The Brickfields take on this popular Korean dish features flavourful black rice, fermented chilli, shredded carrot, onions, zucchini and a fried egg.
Although Cancio and Geshos’ experience is the driver behind Brickfields’ success, Cancio pays homage to the Brickfields “crew”. “If you look at the best, most inspiring institutions, success is never up to one person,” he says. “You have to have the courage to try something, make mistakes and move forward as a crew.”
In the Sydney cafe scene, five years is a long time to stay open and popular. Change is fast and constant, and it’s hard to stand out amid the distraction of new venues.
“You have to be like water and go with the flow. As long as you have your creative hat on, that’s your opportunity to make it,” Cancio says.
Creativity is important, but so is the receptiveness of customers. Cancio says people today are more curious and knowledgeable about food. “We’re lucky Sydney’s community is so diverse and multi-cultural,” he says. “It’s got huge momentum. Punters are driving the food scene, and they’re discerning, so you’ve got to provide a pretty solid food offering.”
Even with a good thing, resting on your laurels isn’t an option. Brickfields is always looking forward to the next step, which right now is opening for dinner. “I’ve been talking about dinner for the past two years,” he admits. “It’s easy to get distracted by running the business, but ultimately we’re into food, we just love it. Opening at night will be an exciting phase.”
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206 Cleveland Street, Chippendale