Hidden interior ... the rear courtyard is ensconced in camouflage netting and a vertical garden of herbs and edible flowers. Photo: Fiona Morris
I'm eating a dish blanketed in freshly shaved West Australian black truffles, and it cost me $25. Are you waiting for a punch line?
But that's it. Devon Cafe's ultimate toastie must be one of Sydney's most luxurious breakfasts, but it's a relatively economical way to enjoy the winter truffle season. Fresh black truffle is shaved over soft, orange-yolked fried eggs on top of sourdough grilled with mushrooms and fontina cheese. Sure, $25 is at the pointy end of a breakfast bill, but if it helps to justify it, have a sandwich for dinner.
Wife-and-husband team Noni Widjaja and Derek Puah have filled Devon, their new Surry Hills cafe, with a talented team: two ex-Guillaume chefs (Bennelong and Melbourne's Bistro) and a barista who used to train others at Toby's Estate. Yes, Surry Hills has lots of cafes, but this is at the Devonshire Street tunnel end, so it's joined the very short list of good cafes close to Central Station.
Indulgent ... Could this be Sydney's most luxurious toastie?
Widjaja previously ran an Indonesian restaurant, Padi, here before the couple decided they wanted to offer fine dining at a reasonable price, with serious coffee.
The cafe's small front room is industrial-looking but with a light blond-wood fitout. Most tables are in a rear courtyard with an obligatory graffiti wall. The ceiling and walls are festooned with army camouflage netting, and a vertical garden of herbs and edible flowers. Service is unobtrusive and friendly.
Devon's all-day menu is happily devoid of luncheon meat. It's not all pricey fungus: $10 gets you bruschetta with avocado, Meredith goat's fetta and house-pickled beetroot, or black rice pudding with coconut cream, palm sugar and banana.
Our hungry group arrives at 11am. We order two specials: the ultimate toastie and a Japanese-inspired dish of salmon with a smoked eel croquette, a 63-degree egg and a squirt of Kewpie mayonnaise. The salmon is pink and delicately cooked, blackened at the edges where a sweet soy and mirin marinade has caught, with the smoked eel croquette crunchy and intensely savoury and the egg gloriously translucent.
From the permanent menu, the ''breakfast of champion'' is an elegantly composed dish with fried rounds of morcilla, a golden potato and celeriac gratin, apple puree, one of those 63-degree eggs and chestnuts.
Then there's ''Little lost bread'': French toast with grilled banana, Nutella, rhubarb jam, peanut butter ice-cream and peanut brittle. It's indulgent but not too sweet, thanks to the tart rhubarb jam and peanut crunch.
The drinks list is excellent. Standard coffees use Alchemy beans, while Five Senses single-origin is used for specialty brews, including cold-drip and Chemex. Our round of lattes is very good, while a cup of Chemex filter coffee is strong and smooth. A detox juice of orange, carrot and celery arrives in a jar (this is Surry Hills, after all). There's a short choice of hard drinks for those dining later in the day, and I mean short: organic beer, cider, and organic red or white by the bottle or glass.
Guillaume at Bennelong is closing. Claude's is closing. Chefs have swapped their posts at Rockpool and Tetsuya's for cafes. Times are not fine for fine dining, but it doesn't follow that dining out has to be any less of a treat.
Breakfast of champion (morcilla, celeriac and potato gratin, 63-degree egg), little lost bread (peanut butter and jam French toast), ultimate toastie (until end of truffle season in August).
Four stars (out of five)
- (02) 9211 8777
- Cuisine - Contemporary
- Prices - Breakfast $6-$19.50, specials up to $25.
- Features - Licensed
- Chef(s) - Noni Widjaja and Derek Puah
- Opening Hours - Mon-Fri, 6.30am-4.30pm; Sat and Sun, 8am-3.30pm
- Author - Georgia Waters