We wouldn’t go so far as to call Wahroonga, the leafy little slip of a suburb in Sydney’s north, a dining destination. But both locals and those from further afield are flocking to the area to nab a table at The Butcher’s Block, a casual yet brilliantly designed cafe on the main street.
George Karnasiotis, with his son Anthony, jumped on the venue when the suburb’s local butcher came up for lease. “Because it used to be a butcher shop, a lot of the design (by Sydney firm Giant Design Consultants, who have leant their hand to venues such as Red Lantern on Riley, Li’l Darlin’ and Workshop Espresso) went into maintaining the original feel of it,” says Anthony. [fold]
Indeed, the team have preserved the history of the building in some unexpected ways. The wait staff’s aprons display the quintessential blue and white stripe traditionally reserved for purveyors of meat, and the original butcher’s meat hooks – rusty and worn (and only a little bit reminiscent of Wolf Creek-style weaponry) – that were discovered in the roof, are strung along rails at the edges of the space. Various glinting knives, knife sharpeners and all things slice-and-dice hang suspended from them. A set of shiny scales sits front and centre in the cafe’s entrance (a welcome gift from another local cafe) and the walls are brushed with signs for pork chops and quality meats.
The previous butcher (and now landlord) started there as an apprentice, “so it means a lot to him that we kept the name and the butcher theme”, says Anthony. And it shows, for as we sit sipping our coffee, in he strolls (as he does most days, apparently) for a chat, a laugh and an update on progress. It’s nice to watch, a landlord popping in to say hello and give his blessing.
“One thing we really wanted to build was an outdoor area, in the sun, away from the traffic,” says Anthony, so the Karnasiotis’ have extended the building, constructing a broad terrace out the back of the cafe, strung with overhead bulbs that will cast a soft glow when the cafe opens for dinner in the upcoming months. The terrace is rimmed by boxes of soil, planted to mint, chives, chilli plants and juvenile lemon trees as well at other herbs, which both provide fodder for the kitchen and a buffer between the cafe and rear car park.
“We’ve had people come down from the Central Coast, from the eastern suburbs, all around,” says Anthony, as his staff breeze between tables at the busy cafe. It’s clear the area was yearning for a casual spot like The Butcher’s Block, and when they open for dinners of laidback (with a touch of Greek-influence) share plates, Australian wines and friendly atmosphere, we predict this family affair will be busier than they predict.
But for now, stop in for hearty fare, with a slight lean to the meaty side of things. Perhaps a chunky beef and red wine pie, pappardelle with house-made meatballs, or sliders topped with various cheeses. Mornings see Brasserie Bread fill the toaster and Allpress coffee handled with finesse.
The Butcher’s Block
15 Redleaf Avenue, Wahroonga
(02) 9487 8136
Mon to Sat 6am–5pm