Galaktoboureko at Athena Cake Shop – $3
Even on a quiet day, Athena Bakery has a steady stream of regulars choosing their favourites from the trays of honey-drizzled Greek sweets in the front window. “We do things with passion like we do at home,” says owner Chris Ahtypis. “The business, my father and my mother started it. Many people they expand, but we’d rather stay natural and homemade.” A customer interrupts Ahtypis to request galaktoboureko, a semolina custard filo pastry. “My village man has a shop not far from here,” says the man, “but I prefer to come to Chris because his cakes are better than anyone else.”
412 Illawarra Road, Marrickville
Poached eggs at Cornersmith – $10
Poached eggs on toast aren’t revolutionary until they’re topped with seasonal chutney made by the Cornersmith’s skilled picklers. Pear and thyme chutney is on the menu for the winter. It’s spiced, sweet and savoury, enhanced by the woodiness of the thyme. Cornersmith serves only free-range eggs, sourcing them from small chicken farms in the Southern Highlands. The eggs are poached to a perfect state of wobbliness in the cafe’s small open kitchen and served with chutney on slices of chewy sourdough from the Bread and Butter Project.
Pork roll at Marrickville Pork Roll – $5
You might not notice Marrickville Pork Roll with its red awning if it wasn’t for the queue outside. The tiny shop with its efficient crew churns out delicious, fresh banh mi at a fantastic pace. Everything – the baguettes, the pate, the pickled carrots and daikon – is made from scratch at Marrickville Pork Roll’s second shop, a few blocks south on Illawarra Road. Owner Khiem Du is humble, and says he always struggles with the question of why his shop is so popular. “We put a lot of feeling in it, and we’re more generous with servings than the usual place,” he says.
Melomakarona at Hellenic Patisserie – $2.50
Enter the Hellenic Patisserie and you’ll be greeted with the scent of butter and honey wafting from the kitchen. Golden Greek cookies, all of them baked on site, are stacked behind glass. There are kourambiethes (almond shortbread), koulourakias (traditional, soft Easter cookies), but the best is the melomakarona. It’s a crescent-shaped, buttery, slightly crumbly biscuit filled with walnut and honey-soaked orange rind. A warm honey and walnut syrup is drizzled on top. Have it with sweet Greek coffee boiled on the stovetop in a briki copper pot.
371 Illawarra Road, Marrickville
Vietnamese Bento Box at VN Street Foods – $12
At VN Street Foods you can get a Vietnamese banquet tucked neatly into a bento box. Although bento boxes are Japanese, the lunchbox concept is popular in Vietnam too. “They like lunch box in Vietnam,” says manager Anna Huang, “especially for office people.” Called com binh dan or com hop in Vietnam, VN’s lunch boxes come with rice, salad, soup and a main. You can build your own, or try one of owner Xuan Thang Nguyen’s recommendations: sweet stew with pork belly and egg.
Tofu Laksa Soup at Malay Chinese Takeaway @ Papaya Grill – $10.50
So this one is just over $10 but the laksa at Malay Chinese Takeaway’s CDB location is so popular, you need to know about it. It attracts long queues at lunch every day of the week. Service is remarkably fast and you eat elbow to elbow with strangers. The pop-up at Papaya Grill is more civilised and slow-paced, but the laksa is the same. The recipe, a perfect balance of rich, sweet coconut milk, chicken broth, chilli spice and salty shrimp paste, is the same one the chef has been using since the Hunter Street shop opened in 1987. Try the tofu version. The deep-fried, chewy puffs absorb the soup so that it floods your mouth as you chew.
Laksa pop-up on Monday nights 5pm–9.30pm.
393 Illawarra Road, Marrickville
Spanakopita at Lamia Super Deli – $6
Lamia Deli is around the corner from Illawarra Road. The crowded deli is half a century old, and business is still booming. The array of meats, cheeses and pantry goods is enormous, but Lamia is known for its lunch fare. “We keep the old tradition. Everything is healthy, made fresh every day,” says Christina, who works in the shop. There’s moussaka, pasticcio, lasagne, but the spanakopita stands out. “The filo pastry is made here by hand,” she says. “You don’t find that in many places.”
270 Marrickville Road, Marrickville