Breakfast at Redfern's Three Williams. Photo: Fiona Morris
In food writer Nigel Slater's memoir, Toast, he claims it's impossible not to love someone who makes toast for you. I know what he means. A plate of crunchy French toast has my heart racing at Redfern's newcomer, Three Williams, where head chef Tim Bryan (formerly of Chiswick and Aria) is already turning heads.
Admittedly, a bout of Sunday morning sprinting has added to the raised pulse rate. Worried we might arrive on the wrong side of midday, miss the breakfast menu and strike queues, my companions and I speed down Elizabeth Street and nearly miss the cafe's discreet entrance at the quieter end.
Our fears are unfounded. The friendly maitre d' seats us almost immediately and takes our coffee orders before explaining the full menu, breakfast and lunch, is served until 3pm. I celebrate by ordering a banana, medjool date and walnut praline smoothie. Served in a small milk bottle with a very wide straw, it's more like a dessert of liquid banana bread, with crunch from the praline. My companions are happy with their smooth, nutty coffees (from beans by Surry Hill's Single Origins Roasters).
Crunchy Brioche French toast with blueberries, yoghurt, roasted pecans and maple syrup. Photo: Fiona Morris
Compared with the average Sydney cafe, Three Williams is strikingly spacious. Designed by architect Anthony Gill, who also put his stamp on Berta, Vini and 121BC, the cavernous room was once used as a warehouse by the furniture shop next door. There are stroller-friendly ramps and a kids corner, attracting young families and laid-back locals.
The cafe has only been open a few weeks, but already I've been mesmerised by social media pictures of its signature ''narnies''. The house-made naan-style flat bread sandwiches have three choices of filling: glazed beef brisket, grilled prawns, or the vego-friendly fried tempeh with pickled vegetables, Sriracha (Thai hot sauce) and lime mayo.
We opt for the brisket narnie and up the protein stakes with a side of Nuremberg sausage. We also try ''The Merchant'', an amped-up bacon and egg roll with pickled slaw, ranch dressing and Japanese chilli seasoning. Lighter offerings include granola with hibiscus pear, house-made smashed beans with avocado, and three kinds of salads. But the crunchy brioche French toast catches my eye.
In Bryan's hands, this brunch classic turns into a textural wonder. Like a croquette of bread, the outside is golden and crunchy from roasted pecan crumbs, while the brioche inside stays soft and fluffy. The whole thing is topped with fresh blueberries, a thick dollop of yoghurt and laced with maple syrup. The waitress who delivers the dish says she had the same thing for breakfast.
Meanwhile, the fabled narnie lives up to its photos. Chunks of rich, smoky brisket have a caramelised crust and a gelatinous centre. Naan bread is an inspired choice as it soaks up all the meat juices without going soggy. The only let-down is the overly generous chipotle mayo, but the sharpness of the slaw and gherkins strikes the right balance.
Having run to breakfast, we succumb to the pastry cabinet, rounding out the meal with a brownie tower, which is more like a small, rich chocolate cake.
I'm glad I ran here. The way things look, I'm sure the long queues won't be far behind.
613a Elizabeth Street, Redfern, 9698 1111
Menu Mod Oz brunch with an Asian/Americana twist
Value Good. Breakfast and lunch $5-$17
Recommended dishes Crunchy brioche French toast, glazed brisket narnie, banana and date smoothie