Sweet and arty: Someting for Jess, Chippendale. Photo: Fiona Morris
It's an odd contradiction that the fewer dishes a menu features, the longer it can take you to decide what to order. The blackboard at Chippendale's Something for Jess lists only five items and some luxe toast but deciding on your lunch order feels as loaded as having to choose whether to take the car on Sale of the Century, or come back tomorrow.
Owner-chef Philip Ocampo cut his teeth touring the market circuit with a Mexican street-food stall, becoming chums with the local producers and suppliers who he now showcases in his dishes each week. Ocampo's mother-in-law is prominent, too; her property at the foot of the Blue Mountains provides fresh-as-a-daisy tomatoes, chillies, pumpkins and herbs – not to mention a botanist's bounty of native flora for table centrepieces.
Decision made, it turns out all this seasonal fare is put to good use. A bruschetta of green figs and roasted capsicum is nicely laced with french tarragon and crispy bits of speck, while Jerusalem artichoke puree plays host to a colourful little veg-out party of gold radish, date plum, turnip and braised zucchini. Less herbivorous diners could go for a hefty wagyu burger one week and a beef brisket sandwich the next, the latter prettily plated with pickled halos of red onion and zingy "barbarian" harissa that – like its namesake – threatens to overpower with its might.
Go-to dish: Mixed cured-meat bruschetta with Sicilian pesto, fresh radish, red-pepper sauce, aged pecorino and parmesan. Photo: Fiona Morris
Bean boffins are well served. A Synesso punches out a changing selection of Five Senses single-origin coffees – maybe a chocolatey Guatemalan number or a velvety Ethiopian variety – and there's no shortage of house-made friands ($4.50), muffins ($4) and ready-made sandwiches to accompany some black gold on the go.
Ocampo's partner, and cafe dedication receiver, Jess, has put her design know-how to splendid use and given the space a good lash of Salvos chic in the form of vintage Polaroid cameras, washing boards and odd-job ladders peppering the joint. The sustainability ethos pervades more than just the food, with all furniture sourced from council pick-ups and given new life. Particular favourites are the Dad's Army of mismatched stools standing proudly at ease against a cornflower-blue wall and a writing desk/dining table complete with opening drawers and texta scribbles from a pint-sized Pollock.
With the menu updated weekly, there'll be new choices to make every time.
Do . . . grab a freshly pressed juice.
Don't . . . expect a standard egg- and bacon-heavy breakfast menu.
Dish . . . mixed cured-meat bruschetta with Sicilian pesto, fresh radish, red-pepper sauce, aged pecorino and parmesan $16.
Vibe . . . a sweet, arty, country cottage transported to the middle of the city.
The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Under $30 is on sale now at selected newsagencies, bookshops and at The Sydney Morning Herald's online shop (thesmhshop.com.au).
- 0404 753 530
- Prices - Mains $9.50-$16, sandwiches $9.50-$11, coffee $3.50.
- Features - Cheap and cheerful
- Chef(s) - Philip Ocampo
- Opening Hours - Mon-Fri 7am-3pm, Sat-Sun 8am-3pm
- Author - Callan Boys