Reuben Hills, Surry Hills

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Dirty Bird – $15

Reuben Hills cafe, 61 Albion Street, Surry Hills

At Reuben Hills cafe in Surry Hills, it’s no surprise to see a swarm of people waiting out front. They’re famous ‘round these parts for their deliciously exotic coffee and flavoursome food. In fact, when Toby Maguire visited Sydney recently to film and promote The Great Gatsby, he lauded Reuben Hills as one of his favourite coffee houses in the city. Moments before that, Baz Luhrmann had proclaimed him a coffee aficionado.

Out front the cafe looks like another terrace house but inside, you quickly become aware that it’s more of a warehouse. Up top, silver coloured barrels and contraptions loom over the open kitchen and dining area. This machinery is what they use to brew their coffee. Downstairs, it’s light, bright and airy – with the back roller-door wide open.

We waited about 20 minutes to get a table, but we didn’t mind as we were eager to find out what all the fuss was about. Plus, our waitress was lovely and cheery, making sure we were comfortably sat with refreshments in a waiting area.

The menu is Mexican inspired, with a dash of rude language. For example, you can indulge in their ‘Really f*ing great Fried Chicken’. Comfortingly for those weekend late risers like us, breakfast items are served all day. They also have a host of exotic coffees, but we left the adventurism for another day and chose our regular skim cap and long black. For our meals, I chose the ‘Dirty Bird’ and Bert chose the ‘NOT Reuben’.

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NOT Reuben – $16

My Dirty Bird burger was served on brioche bread with cheese, tomatillo salsa, pickles and chipotle aioli. And boy did it have a kick to it! The bread was beautifully soft and its contents full of flavour. I should mention though that I was mostly getting the taste of the spicy chicken coming through.

The pièce de résistance was the NOT Reuben sandwich. I couldn’t get enough of it. So much so that I made Bert give me half of it for three quarters of my burger (because he wasn’t going to give it up without a fight, so I had to turn my negotiations up to full power). Inside the artisan rye slices, the wagyu salt brisket was crisp on the outside, yet gorgeously soft and tender on the inside. Matched with the pickled slaw, manchego cheese and horseradish cream, it was nothing short of spectacular.

reubenhills.com.au

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Suzie Q, Surry Hills

Another day, another Surry Hills cafe for a delicious weekend brunch. Suzie Q in Surry Hills pays homage to food, drink and music – a timeless combination. It was the first day of winter when we ventured into this neat little cafe, tucked away in a corner that was formerly a loading dock. Although it was a comparatively warm winter’s day, we were still craving something to warm our stomachs and this was the place to do it.

We were greeted by friendly staff as they handed over the menus, which were slipped inside vintage record covers – much to my delight. To match the music theme, on the left wall resides an enormous black and white classic picture of Woodstock.

The cafe itself is quite small (so you can imagine how dominating that picture would be!) and we chose to sit at the window bench looking out onto, well a car park, but it was nice to have some fresh air anyway. The tiny kitchen is just behind the counter, so you can watch as the food is freshly prepared. Keeping with the theme, the meals are named after songs. We decided on the ‘Henry Lee’ and the ‘Eggs and Sausage in a Cadillac with Susan Mitchelson’ as well as a long black and skim cap.

Unfortunately I didn’t care much for my coffee. It was watery and as I was nearing the bottom, tiny clear liquid rings made an appearance up top – I can’t say I knew what was making that effect, but I’m assuming it was due to the said watery nature of it.

My meal on the other hand was a whole other story. I said it to Tom that Saturday and I’ll say it again here – it was the best breakfast/brunch I’ve had in Sydney. My Eggs and Sausage in a Cadillac with Susan Mitchelson was a delicious mouthful both on paper and quite literally. It began with a layer of arepa – which is a type of bread – flat, round and made from corn meal, it’s a traditional Columbian and Venezuelan food. And if you and gluten are mortal enemies, good news for you – it’s gluten-free. On top of that were spicy (I like spicy and this did not disappoint. There was none of that mild stuff other places use because they’re too afraid to use the big guns!) slices of chorizo, melted cheese and then a layer of poached eggs. Garnished with tomato salsa, mint and coriander – it was a tempting tower. As I cut into the top, golden rivers of egg yolk cascaded down and the combination of all the flavours together was truly spectacular.

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Tom’s Henry Lee was a grilled thick ham roll with manchego cheese, beetroot relish and horseradish cream. It was served with potato crisps (yes, the kind you get from the supermarket) and slaw. This was a hearty meal, but probably not the healthiest option. I found the slaw a little too creamy as well and although I can usually never find a crumb left on Tom’s plate, this slaw was neglected like a stubborn child neglects their vegies.

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Because of the wonderful creation that is Eggs and Sausage in a Cadillac with Susan Mitchelson, Suzie Q will have my patronage again – I’ll even give their coffee a second shot.
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Brunch at Bruschetteria 102, 102 Albion St, Surry Hills NSW

Bruschetteria 102

Bruschetteria 102

www.facebook.com/pages/Bruschetteria-102/114052148635719

We visited Bruschetteria one sunny Saturday morning for brunch. As its name suggests, this modest cafe specialises in bruschetta and has a variety of options to choose from – whether you’d like to dine for breakfast, lunch or something in-between.

The place is distinctly Italian, from the coffees that have a taste and aroma reminding me of Rome to the staff with thick accents. Like so many of the cafes in Surry Hills, it’s set in a house-like structure. The front of the cafe is marked with a vintage suitcase – a chalkboard is propped up against it, declaring the house specials. Beyond the white picket fence is a small patio with artificial green lawn and a mismatch of iron, wicker and timber tables and chairs. An oversized wooden serving board is plastered to the front wall – announcing that we have reached our destination of Bruschetteria 102. Inside is even more quirky with more mismatched tables and chairs, rustic pitchers and fruit bowls, paper cup light shades (yes actual paper cups), and my favourite – a life-size black and white 1950s picture of Elvis.

We chose to sit at a lop-sided table at the very front and were treated with friendly and warm service. I ordered from the lunch menu, choosing the prosciutto, Italian cheese and pear bruschetta, along with my usual skinny cap. My partner in crime ordered the bacon and eggs bruschetta from the breakfast menu and a long black.

Our coffees arrived in mismatched cups and saucers (if there was a theme, mismatched would be it), accompanied with collectable souvenir teaspoons – an endearing touch I thought. My coffee was good, once I got past the 2cm high foam. And like I said earlier, it had the taste of Italy.

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Our waitress then brought us some special bruschetta cutting knives and the meals themselves came shortly after on rustic serving boards. I really enjoyed my meal – it was fresh and honest tasting, the sweetness of the pear cutting through the saltiness of the prosciutto and cheese. The drizzle of olive oil topped it off perfectly. Tom happily gobbled his up too – the bacon was nice and crispy and the scrambled eggs soft and golden.  

We discovered that Bruschetteria is also open for dinner on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. They do a four course Italian menu for $40 per person – something Tom and I will be back for in the not too distant future.

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Me & Art – 62 Mary Street, Surry Hills, Sydney

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www.meandart-sydney.webs.com

I love art and I love coffee, so this neat little place was exactly where I wanted to be on a sunny Saturday morning. It’s set in a light and airy terrace house complete with white washed walls and wooden floorboards (did that just sound like a real estate ad??). Outside, there’s a tiny front porch that you can sit on, decorated with pot plants and artificial grass. Inside, the place is divided up into three sections: a front section where you are greeted by the owners and where the coffee is made, a middle section that represents a homely lounge room, and a back narrow corridor complete with a giant disco ball that takes up most of that area’s ceiling.

The cafe specialises in Japanese art, which lines most of the walls. There’s some very vivid and colourful art and then there’s the more subdued kind. We were told that every fortnight, new art would be available for viewing or purchasing pleasure. Besides the wall art, vintage pieces adorn the place, including an old-fashioned telephone, clock and gramophone.  

You can leisurely recline on the comfy couch and take in the surrounding art. There’s a beautiful, heavy, unfinished coffee table on which to place your coffee cup or water glass that could have easily come from your mother’s, or for some of you, grandmother’s cupboard. Otherwise, there’s an eclectic mix of chairs, stools, sheepskin covered benches and small wooden round tables to occupy while you gaze at the art, listen to the trendy background music and breathe in the coffee aromas.  

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We ordered our usual skinny cap and long black. The service is wonderful and the guys give off a friendly, ‘easy-going’ kind of attitude. But it’s the coffee that’s going to keep me coming back to this little treasure. It was rich, but not too creamy with a deliciously nutty undertone – such a delight to my senses. Tom was loving his long black too.

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The guys are currently focusing on roasting their own coffee beans, so as at this post, there wasn’t much available in the way of food. What they do have in their little fridge includes bircher muesli cups and brownies, but that’s about it for now. Further down the track they’ll have more food available of a decidedly healthy nature.

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Robo Cog Cafe, 249 Riley Steet, Surry Hills

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This was an interesting little cafe set in a quaint terrace house, complete with white picket fence. As most of you are probably doing now, I Googled reviews for the best places to have brunch in Surry Hills. Robo Cog came highly recommended. So we visited the cafe at around 10am on a Sunday – at this point it was still fairly quiet so we were able to get a table right away. Mind you, about 15 minutes later we noticed people lining up outside, so we had come at the right time. This made me excited and led me to believe that we picked the perfect place for our Sunday brunch.

Inside, the place was decorated with an eclectic mix of vintage robotic toys and drawings on the walls (hence the name). It was an intimate setting, with small, thick wooden tables and an open kitchen in which you could see the food being prepared (which I always enjoy, not just for the fact that you can see whether someone spits in your food). There was also relaxing music playing in the background, set to a perfect volume for a Sunday morning and especially if you’re hung over. The chairs were a bit confusing to me though; they reminded me of high-chairs for babies. Nevertheless, they were comfortable enough. I noticed on the walls some framed photography for sale and right next to these, hanging skateboard decks – once again adding to the eclectic nature of the place.

The staff were friendly and very attentive, each with a smile on their face. One guy in particular caught my attention as he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and straw hat. It’s run by Thai people, but when we inspected the oversized menu, the food had a Mexican theme to it. For example, they have a Breakfast Burrito and a Vego Quesadilla. I was tossing up between the Breakfast Burrito – filled with chorizo and egg – and the eggs benedict, but I decided to go traditional and get the ‘Eggs Benny’ with a skim cappuccino.  Tom, my foodie partner, ordered the ‘Big Robo Breaky’ and a long black.

Water came to us at room temperature, which I didn’t mind, but Tom didn’t like it so much. “Water should be cold” he said. Our coffees then came out, and well, while they weren’t bad, I can’t say it was fabulous either. My cap seemed too milky and Tom’s was a bit burnt.

Next came the food. Let me tell you about Tom’s first – it was certainly a ‘big’ breakfast, the large white plate was filled with mushrooms, hash browns, chorizo, tomatoes, sourdough toast, eggs made to your choice and bacon. This suited Tom perfectly as he likes to eat a lot (“a growing boy” he says – at 25). I had a taste of the hash brown and it was beautiful, soft and falling apart (you might not like it if you prefer crunchy) and the dusting of flower with salt on it was perfect. I also tasted the chorizo – it was a delicious flavour, but I felt that it could have had longer in the pan.

Unfortunately my eggs benny was flawed. Now I love a good poached egg, but alas my eggs were overcooked and not runny. This didn’t go down well with me. In saying that however, the ham that came with it was scrumptious – it was soft, and a blushing pink with a gorgeous fresh flavour. And the best part was that there was lots of it. The spinach had a lovely garlic flavour (not good for those who don’t like garlic as the garlic was well pronounced, but I like that).

It really is unfortunate about my un-runny eggs and overly milky coffee because it made the experience disappointing overall. Although, I do believe this place has a lot more potential. I think I’ll give it one more chance – I do want to try that breakfast burrito and the service was fabulous. Oh and one more thing, they only take cash.

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