Busy for brunch ... Tapeo in Redfern. Photo: Fiona Morris
In recent years, Redfern's drinking and dining scene has taken a turn for the better, with stylish nooks popping up all over the suburb. Tapeo is a wine and tapas bar that has developed a reputation for excellent breakfasts. That's why we're here on a Sunday morning rather than Saturday night.
A short walk from Redfern station, Tapeo opens onto a wide section of footpath on the corner of Redfern and Chalmers streets. It's a long, narrow room with bright, abstract art on the dark walls, a concrete floor and music that moves from the Black Keys to the Strokes. This is a place where hot sauce is considered an essential breakfast condiment, brought to the table with salt and pepper.
Relaxed and cool but not annoyingly hip, it's easy to see how the room works just as well as a bar in the evening. There are fewer than a dozen tables for two, meaning it's often busy, and two small bars offer comfortable perches for solo diners. Next door, a bakery sells organic bread and gluten-free pastries and cakes.
Spanish flair .. the pan tomaca at Tapeo. Photo: Fiona Morris
This morning there's barely a seat free, but our group of four manages to squeeze into a corner. The tables are small even for two; no space for spreading out the weekend papers. When it later becomes clear we have ordered too much food to fit on our table, the affable waiter (they're all affable) brings a stool to create extra space for plates.
Tapeo has been open less than two years but already feels like a local institution, thanks to its location on a corner where residents walking their dog will often stop, having spotted a friend at breakfast.
The menu is Spanish-leaning, but with a few classics: a buttery, flaky croissant with smoked salmon and rich scrambled eggs; Bircher muesli; and French toast with bacon and syrup. But the big Spanish dishes are the most interesting. Flamenco eggs, a skillet with two eggs poached in a ''brew'' of tomatoes, capsicum and spices, is hearty and thoroughly satisfying, with slices of organic sourdough toast to sop up the eggy-juicy mess. The French toast tastes delightfully like a doughnut; the soft white bread in cinnamon batter is served with blitzed shards of bacon and a generous jug of maple syrup.
Pan tomaca (bread with tomato), a popular Spanish snack, is turned into a Catalan-style bacon and eggs, with gently poached eggs and crisp prosciutto added to fresh, garlicky, finely diced tomatoes and sourdough toast.
But the best offering is one that could be overlooked and happens to be vegetarian: the malawa, a savoury pancake somewhat like a roti, served with more of those addictive garlicky cold tomatoes, feta, and sliced, hard-boiled eggs. It's a delicious combination, original and comforting, and makes a convincing case for skipping bacon at breakfast.
Our Toby's Estate lattes are very good and the only slip in service is a carrot, ginger and apple juice no-show.
We take a peek at the evening tapas menu, making a note to return one evening for squid and chorizo with white wine, fresh sardines on sourdough, or scallops with Cava, cream and rosemary.
The wine list has interesting Spanish options by the glass.
But we now understand Tapeo's breakfast acclaim. For avid readers, even the tiny table issue can be resolved - grab more coffees to go after eating and head across the street to Redfern Park with the papers.
Spanish-influenced and classic breakfasts.
Malawa (savoury pancake), flamenco eggs (eggs poached in tomatoes served in a skillet) and French toast.
4 stars (out of five)
- 02 8084 7237
- Cuisine - Spanish
- Prices - Breakfast, $5.50-$22, with most dishes about $16
- Features - Bar
- Chef(s) - Michel Alkobi
- Owners - Michel Alkobi, Lior Manheim
- Opening Hours - Mon-Wed, 7am-5pm; Thu-Sat, 7am-11pm; Sun, 7am-9pm. Breakfast until 5pm daily.
- Author - Georgia Waters