Is this the future of Sydney cafes? A kitchen led by a former fine-dining chef. A menu of innovative restaurant-like dishes (without any staples aside from avo on toast or eggs). An elaborate French toast (this time a matcha creation) and filter coffee. It seems to be an increasingly common model for new cafes, the latest being Surry Hill’s Meet Mica.
The chef is Lee Li, who before this was behind the pans at Tetsuya’s and Kensington Street Social. His menu is utterly, and perhaps sometimes unnecessarily, luxurious. A $28 congee is stewed with threads of lobster and topped with charred lobster tail, katsuobushi and ginger; rice noodle rolls are stuffed with crab, tofu and bok choy; and porridge, the most standard-sounding item, is doused in silky coconut foam, banana custard and a yuzu sauce, making it more like a dessert. “The chef and I are from a little town, Canton, in China. Rice noodle rolls and congee is what they have every morning. We wanted to take that to the next level,” says Mica Chen, the cafe’s owner.
Chen, a former accountant and artist, said she opened the cafe somewhat by chance, almost as a hobby project. “My parents own this property and said, ‘do you want to start a business?’ It was a cafe before so that was easiest.”
The fit-out is surprisingly conservative considering the food. Not to say it’s boring but with white tiles, light timbers and sculptural light fittings, it’s very typical of current cafe trends. “I wanted it to be cosy and bright, just like our food,” says Chen.
The coffee offering includes Little Marionette for espresso coffees and monthly guest roasters for all filters. “We’ve got Dukes from Melbourne at the moment, we’ll have Reuben Hills on soon,” says Chen. To keep up with the menu, there’s macadamia milk as an option for all coffees.
5/492-500 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills
(02) 8018 7370
Mon to Fri 7am–3pm
Sat to Sun 8am–4pm