A retro classic ... Vol-au-vent filled with bacon, mushrooms, red onion and ricotta. Photo: Fiona Morris
Fans of the vol-au-vent rejoice! The pastry case is making a comeback, on this cafe menu at least.
Bion Societe is the most recent addition to Camperdown's burgeoning cafe scene. Open for breakfast and lunch, the menu is a blend of cafe standards and re-interpretations, with a solid backbone of excellent coffee and artisan tea. Single Origin Roasters supplies the beans: Mahonda Coe #3 from Burundi in Africa is a strong, full-bodied drop. Loose-leaf tea options include masala chai and matcha green tea.
Opening its doors in July, the bright, white, shiny fit-out has an industrial edge, with a concrete ceiling and feature wall, the latter spruced up with a street-art style painting. An internal wall of plants, and another temporary addition of coloured balloons fashioned into a spring mural, add a homely touch. With ceiling fans whirring overhead and ice-cold water readily available, it's a pleasant, low-key place to spend a few hours on a hot day. Outside tables are another option.
Bion Societe's bright, white, shiny fit-out has an industrial edge. Photo: Fiona Morris
Residents from nearby apartment buildings stroll in for brunch, couples and young families alike. A larger group takes over one of the booth-like inside tables, pulling out folders and notepads for a Saturday meeting. If you have to work on the weekend, it's not a bad place to do it.
The go-to dish must be the hearty, shakshuka-like Persian eggs, given the rate at which they're coming out of the kitchen. The thick tomato, capsicum and coriander sauce is spiced with cardamom and star anise, intensely-flavoured pieces of which you have to dodge while eating it. Two eggs and ricotta are baked into the sauce and toast is served alongside for scooping and dunking.
Eggs benedict comes with a twist - ham is replaced by smoked salmon, served on slices of brioche rather than an English muffin. It is so nicely presented it's almost a shame to cut into it. Two pieces of smoked salmon, folded to resemble roses, sit either side of the brioche. The bread is not as sweet or buttery as expected, which is perfect given the topping: a thick layer of rich, slightly tart apple cider hollandaise. Asparagus spears, baby capers and cherry tomatoes finish it off.
The house-made vol-au-vent is sturdy and stout, filled with a cheesy mixture of ricotta, bacon, mushrooms and red onion. Topped with a poached egg and served with a side salad, it's a satisfying brekkie with a nod to nostalgia. Ours is a little over-baked, however, and much of the hard-to-cut-through base is left on the plate.
Service is warm and friendly. We're welcomed by the owner and the barista, as well as our waitress. Even if you're not a local or a regular, you'll feel like one. Coffees arrive quickly and our water glasses are never empty for long. But the drinks service does have some issues during our visit - an order of fresh juices hasn't arrived by the time the meals hit the table and we have to chase it up. A post-brekkie order of drinks has the coffee arriving promptly, but the teas need another reminder.
The good news for vol-au-vent fans is breakfast is available all day. So if you don't make it there in the morning, you can get your pastry-case fix at lunchtime too.
Cafe fare with French and Middle Eastern influences.
Coffee, Persian breakfast, smoked salmon benedict, vol-au-vent.
3.5 stars (out of five)
- 02 9557 5931
- Prices - Breakfast $5-$18, lunch $13-$22, coffee $3.40-$4.50, freshly squeezed juices $6.
- Features - BYO, Family friendly, Outdoor seating
- Opening Hours - Daily, 7am-4pm
- Author - Sarah McInerney