35 Ross Street Forest Lodge, New South Wales 2037
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 6am-4pm; Sat-Sun 8am-4pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Mastercard, Visa|
|Phone||02 8041 6536|
A pre-teen mini riot over lamingtons is an unusual occurrence in an inner-west cafe, or any cafe for that matter, except perhaps on Australia Day. But when the lamingtons in question are pink and bubblegum-flavoured, what self-respecting primary schooler isn't going to want one? Badly.
The trio of youngsters clamouring at the counter during a lunchtime visit to In The Annex get what they want and, alongside their accompanying adult, are soon chomping down on these house-made treats. Having also indulged, I can report they more than live up to their visual promise. The plain sponge cake is firm but fresh, with a dollop of jam in the centre. It's the perfect size, a small square of double nostalgia: bubble gum and lammo.
The cafe is full of such endearing touches. The decor is a blend of hard and soft, retro and modern. Street art-style paintings from inner-west artists Skulk and Birdhat adorn the mezzanine wall. There are little plants and blooms in vases throughout and plastic animals on the tables. Smoothies and juices come in glass preserving jars with retro red-and-white striped straws, and tea comes in china teacups. It could be quite the exclusive hipster hotspot, but young families sit alongside couples and an older mother-and-daughter group, with a smattering of students from the nearby University of Sydney in between. In The Annex is a very comfortable place to dine, no matter your generation.
Edrick Santos and Theo Hlorotiris opened the cafe on Forest Lodge's busy Ross Street in June. Joey Astorga and Josh Murphy, who previously worked at the now-closed El Capo, are behind the burners dishing up cafe food with a very on-trend twist, from Earl Grey-infused live grain porridge to a kale and eggroll.
The coffee is a highlight. Our flat whites, made with Umami beans, are strong but smooth, with no trace of bitterness. They're so good we bookend breakfast with a second round and then buy a bag of beans on the way out.
Coffee done, we move on to lunch options. The ham and ''slaw'' roll on seeded sourdough from Paddington's Organic Bread Bar arrives at the table in a floral sandwich bag, accompanied by an apple. The bread is crunchy on the outside but soft underneath the toasted shell. Filled with slices of ham cut from the bone and a layer of coleslaw, it's a jolly good sandwich.
The brekky burrito is one of the cafe's most popular dishes. Folded tightly and secured with foil at one end, it's easy to eat with your hands and doesn't collapse on the plate. It's an eggy concoction, filled primarily with scrambled eggs but also rice and beans, guacamole and the occasional piece of jalepeno. I would have liked slightly different proportions but loved the mild spike of heat from the chilli.
A kale, banana, coconut and chia smoothie is thick, green and bitter at first taste. But the kale slides into the background at the second and third mouthful and the banana flavour takes over. If superfoods are your thing, it's probably not a bad way to ingest them.
With its fun fit-out, good service and some pretty great food, In The Annex ticks a lot of cafe boxes. Go for the coffee and try a lamington. You won't be disappointed.
Breakfast burrito, ham and slaw sandwich, lamingtons, coffee.
Four stars (out of five)