Envy Deli Cafe

Lenny Ann Low
Inner west allure: Envy Deli Cafe's spacious courtyard.
Inner west allure: Envy Deli Cafe's spacious courtyard. Photo: Fiona Morris

109 Smith Street Summer Hill, New South Wales 2130

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Opening hours MON-SAT, 6AM-5PM, SUN, 7AM-5PM
Features Family friendly, Outdoor seating
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Phone 02 9797 1668

Envy Deli Cafe is the polar opposite of a bolthole city caffeine stop. The vibe in this inner west breakfast and lunch spot is tranquil, verging on rural.

On a bustling corner opposite other busy cafes and views of Summer Hill's smart houses, its light and airy front rooms lead to a spacious, leafy courtyard out back.

Standing in the latter beside a well-manicured hedge and beneath the cafe's impressive jacaranda tree, it is hard to believe a shopping centre car park is just beyond the fence. There are plenty of spaces to sit although it's worth getting in early for the best spots outdoors.

Blueberry ricotta pancakes.
Blueberry ricotta pancakes. Photo: Fiona Morris

Envy has had a face-lift of late, having been taken over by the owners of Sideways Deli Cafe in Dulwich Hill.

The elegant corner building retains its large windows, wooden floorboards and leafy alfresco area.

But the decor's hues are now more muted, with tans, dark browns, and crisp white for the furnishings. Padded banquette seating has been installed, decorated with stout cushions in plush fabrics. The many and varied artworks that once filled every wall space have been replaced by one or two paintings and mirrors. The bohemian mood has been replaced by a more polished feel.

It is still busy, with families, couples and groups filling every table. There are newspapers to read and a plethora of cakes, jams and savouries to take away afterwards. The front counter is doing a roaring trade with these (including Sideways' delicious Persian love cake, now baked on the premises), while dealing with takeaway coffees and a steady line of breakfast bill-payers.

Which leads me to the cafe's service. Menus, coffee and food come swiftly and staff check on us regularly to ensure all is well. But few of the people working Envy's table seem cheery, although they are perfectly polite.

It is as if their concern that things are running smoothly and everyone has what they need means they can't relax.

This means we don't relax when they approach, worried our levels of happiness won't pass inspection. After a while, as the morning crowds settle in, and staff are less frantic, the mood returns to tranquil country setting.

Thank goodness we are installed inside the little studio room connected to the courtyard. It's been raining all morning but we are cosy and warm in here with just five other full tables around us.

And thank goodness the coffee is strong and the food is great. We order the rice porridge with almond milk, poached pear, cinnamon and brown sugar, the spanish omelette and the benedict damper roll. The porridge is silky soft, the pear's dark purple flesh aromatic and spicy.

The Spanish omelette, with chorizo, goat's curd, coriander, chilli and toast, is sizeable and full of lovely chunks of sausage and curd. It is similar, not surprisingly, to the omelettes offered at Sideways.

The benedict damper roll is a marvel - gently cooked scrambled egg, plump smoked salmon, rocket and hollandaise sauce inside a pillowy roll.

The small girl at our table is keen on her tiny tots brekkie featuring one scrambled egg, chipolata sausages and soldier slices of buttered toast. But her attentions wander when a babycino arrives with a tiny tea cup treat alongside. This confectionary, a clever arrangement of chocolate freckle, marshmallow, biscuit and a cup handle formed from a lolly, is, she decides, breakfast.

As she inspects the sugary wonder, we settle back with a second round of coffees and hope the staff are taking a moment to unwind too.

The low-down