I’ve been curious about this place ever since I moved to the area – it’s just opposite Marrickville station and nearly every time I walk past there’s been a queue of people hanging around out the front waiting for available seats.
I head over at around midday and it’s surprisingly quiet, but fills up fast. It does, unsurprisingly, seem to be pretty popular with local hipsters (I saw an awful lot of thick-rimmed glasses and top buttons done up) but not exclusively so.
I’m tempted to get coffee, until I see the strawberry, beetroot and honey milkshake and decide it’s too delightfully weird to pass up. It arrives a lot quicker than I expected it to and it’s adorable. It was served in a jam jar, with a spoon to stir up the bright red streaks at the bottom. And it tastes every bit as good as it looks – light, frothy and just the right amount of sweetness.
I order the Ploughman’s Plate for $18 – which changes regularly depending on what produce they have at the time. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the most exciting choice. This week it was pasture-raised ham, maffra cheese, asparagus salad and pickled brussels sprouts.
It arrives (once again, surprisingly quick) on a wooden plate looking amazingly colourful. Everything was pretty, fresh and great-tasting but I was a little underwhelmed. It was basically just ham, cheese and salad (admittedly a very cool salad with blood orange, almonds and walnuts added to the asparagus). The pickled brussels sprouts, however, were a pleasant surprise. I hated brussels sprouts when I was little, which everybody does, but I’ve tried them periodically over the years to see if they taste any better as an adult and this was the first time in 22 years that I haven’t wanted to screw up my face and spit them out. They taste sort of vinegary but in a good way. They’re interesting but far from unpleasant.
In fact, “interesting and far from unpleasant” pretty much summed up Cornersmith for me. It’s definitely an experience in that it does make you more aware of where food comes from and it does make you see food in a different way. They are very big on local produce and have blackboards behind the counter telling you what ingredients they have this week and where they came from. They also do their own pickling and make their own honey, with a beehive at the back of the cafe.
314 Illawarra Rd Marrickville
phone 8065 0844
closed on Mondays for pickling; Tue-Fri 6.30am-3pm; Sat, Sun 8am-3pm
O Organic Produce Cafe
The first thing I notice about O Café is that it’s packed enough but not so packed that I can’t get a seat. This is promising.
The menu’s a bit of a surprise. When I hear the word ‘organic’ it just automatically conjures up images of hippies and vegetarianism and tofu (I actually quite like tofu, but anyway). But at O Café there’s so many delicious-sounding things that I have a seriously hard time picking just one.
I decide on the acai berry smoothie, just to see what’s so great about these berries that I keep hearing about and the Turkish baked eggs because it’s 3pm and I haven’t had breakfast.
While I’m waiting, I take a look around at the clientele, while surreptitiously taking notes when the wait staff aren’t looking. The place has a pretty cool, friendly vibe and they seem to have a lot of regulars because I hear the staff making friendly enquiries after quite a few customers – a pretty good mix of Surry Hills locals and a surprising amount of lawyers (I can tell this because I overhear snippets of legalese). I think there might be a few law firms in the area.
The food arrives pretty fast. I eye the smoothie suspiciously – it looks like purply-brown goop in a glass and doesn’t taste much better. Well, it tasted overwhelmingly like banana, which I hate. To be fair, I’m sure it’s something other people would love.
The eggs, on the other hand, are amazing. Warm, spicy and tomato-y and just . . . mmm. The only thing I wasn’t thrilled about was the bread. It was a bit hard and the bread-to-sauce ratio was a little too much in favour of the sauce.
It’s a shame I don’t frequent the area more, because I really want to come back and try everything else. When it comes to fresh, great-tasting organic food, O Café absolutely nails it.
487 Crown St Surry Hills
phone 9319 4009
open Mon-Sat 7.30am-4.30pm; Sun 8.30am-3.30pm
Photos: Anita Senaratna.