39 Liverpool St, Cnr Dixon La, Chinatown, Sydney, NSW Sydney, New South Wales
One pad thai, one lamb burger, a piccolo latte and a Singha, thanks. We would be in Australia, then. More specifically, we're on a little corner of Sydney's Chinatown in a cafe that looks dropped in from the set of Surry Hills, the Food 'Burb.
Home Cafe is what you get when Sussex Street's popular Home Thai restaurant opens a funky coffee-oriented cafe, complete with a five-kilogram Diedrich coffee roaster, a Mirage Veloce espresso machine and a brew bar offering alternative brewing methods such as Aeropress and pourover. It has covered its bets by installing another buzzy, breezy branch of Home Thai on the first floor, so you can cruise in for coffee by day, stay for a noodly lunch and go back at night for a full-on Thai dinner over cocktails and beers on tap.
All-day breakfasts of muesli, ricotta hot cakes and berry muffins are listed on Facebook for weekends only, and there's a Dude Med list of lunch specials that includes a flight of sliders, but it's the cheap and cheerful Thai food that brings in the crowds. The larb gai is justwhat you would want it to be: light, juicy, tangy, chilli-hot minced chicken ($11.90) with the crunch of chopped snake beans and that distinctive grittiness of ground roasted rice to absorb the juices. It's a good sign – so many places don't bother with the ground rice because they think we won't miss it. We will, and we do.
Pad Thai here has more clarity than the usual mumbo-jumbo medley. The nicely dry rice noodles are tossed with omelet, bean sprouts, chicken and garlic chives ($10.90), and served with three little piles of white sugar, dried red chilli and crushed peanuts, which are ready for you to add (or avoid) as you see fit. Another good sign.
It's hard to get a handle on what to have where and when at Home Cafe. It's a work in progress, doing a bit of everything, most of it well enough. Where else can you order a nutty, fruity piccolo latte made from beans roasted two metres from your rustic, rough-hewn table, then follow up with a rich roast red duck curry and a cocktail named Electrical Lemonade? It's either a crazy, mixed-up mashville of slashy concepts (coffee roaster/brew bar/cafe/wine bar/night noodle market/Thai restaurant), a taste of the future, or both.
Do ... go for a piccolo latte and a pad Thai.
Don't ... have them at the same time.
Dish ... chicken pad Thai, $10.90.
Vibe ... Blade Runner meets Surry Hills.