WHY I LOVE THIS PLACE
Geraldine Hakewill, actress from Lilyfield
2 Birds Espresso Bar, Lilyfield
"I chose it because I lived just down the road for many years and I worked there for a year and a half and it's the heart of that little community in Lilyfield. It's such a great spot.
"One of the girls who works there, Ruby, is an artist. It's covered in art on the walls and on the cups.
"Tables are made out of milk crates and there are some tables outside. It's quite small, there are toys for the kids to play with. We have a big map on the wall covered with foreign coins we get from people who have visited somewhere.
"It feels like you're maybe in a little Swedish sauna. It feels like something out of Frankie magazine. It has a kitschy vibe. It's tucked in between a corner shop and a hairdresser. It's such a central part of the community for that area."
"They do a double shot as standard, so it does strong coffee. They do a really great bacon and egg roll. There are lots of pastries that come in from local bakeries, really good GF options, cookies, lots of different toasted sandwiches and I think they have salads now – just easy stuff you can take away or eat quite quickly. Lots of professionals come for lunch and get a toasted sandwich. It's easy and delicious."
"I love cooking. My boyfriend and I are big foodies. We eat really healthily, we just love fresh ingredients, we love cheese and beautiful bunches of organic herbs. I love being inspired by what's in season and what's round. And lots of colourful fresh vegies.
"I've just done a play at the Darlinghurst Theatre Company called The Pride. A TV show I'm starring in called Wanted is on Channel Seven at the moment and I'm filming the second series of Soulmates for ABC.
"I have a lot of things in the pipeline. I'm about to go to the US; that'll be an adventure, and then hopefully Wanted goes again for season two."
2 Birds Espresso Bar
63 Perry St, Lilyfield
0411 789 180, facebook.com/2birdscafe
All day breakfasts $4-$14.5; lunches $8.50-$14. $35 for two, plus drinks.
I know big houses are the aim of some Sydneysiders – loads of room, space for a car or two, maybe a swimming pool, perhaps even a tall hedge and a gate to shut out the rest of the world. Throw in a CCTV camera over the garage door, a zhuzhy intercom system and top of the range sound/living/lighting theatrics and you might be living in any of our better-off suburbs.
But have a wander around those quiet streets and you'll notice a few things. Children aren't playing kickabout in the streets, and cafes and corner shops are non-existent. Where do you grab the milk and papers from if you live in places that have outpriced small, simple neighbourhood businesses?
Where is the closest place to buy a coffee and dip into small talk about the weather? In many parts of Sydney, things are a car drive away. And so the communities that are already disjointed by overly private homes are further disassembled by cars, removing life on the streets and spontaneity and all the good things that come with inner-city living and bright, connected neighbourhoods and communities.
And so, long may tiny 2 Birds sit wedged between small businesses, serving locals who descend upon the sauna-like cafe (not heat-wise, but looks-wise) like bees to a honey pot. It's so healthy and necessary and colourful to have a community hub, be it a place to buy a strong and very good coffee, like this one, or anywhere, really, that brings people together.
Lilyfield isn't filled with those whose garages are more important than their gardens, and it shows in this cafe, where dogs sit outside and coffees trot outside with their owners.
It takes a while for our sandwiches to come – lunchtime, two staff, everything made freshly, not fast food – and the Luke Avenue cookies, taken from those big, DIY glass jars, might do better with faster turnover. But our BLT is a juicy classic, served on a soft white sub roll the likes of which are few and far between, given the trendy cafe bent for sourdough, spelt and sprouted batches.
Mueslis, big breakfasts and salads emerge from the behind the coffee bar, close enough to us to hear the crack of eggshells for our huevos rancheros wrap. With extra spinach and avo, it's a big, messy, hearty catastrophe, best eaten with those you aren't trying to impress, making it ideal breakfast fare. A GF pistachio and coconut bar is just the thing for tea-time, as is a caramel slice, which is definitely not SF (sugar free – expect to see more of this acronym out and about).
This lack of frippery and fakery is evident all round – jars of Vegemite and Kraft peanut butter sit next to Nutella on a shelf. And a caramel milkshake tastes the way I imagine milkshakes used to taste: highly sweet, highly creamy and highly not health-conscious in a very straightforward, unfancy way. Actually, mine is served in its metal whizzing cup and, with the cold frost on its outside, is a lot of old-fashioned fun.
There are free bags of coffee grinds for Lilyfieldian gardens and the worn-in touches, such as the map with its world coins our champion chooser this week, Geri Hakewill, mentioned, are an antidote to chain-store uniformity.
But the best thing about all of this is the warmth of the staff, who laugh and chat their way through their work and greet the locals they know fondly. It all adds up to be the kind of place that brings people together in a city that – thanks to the search for bigger, better, more secure, more impressive – has enclaves of isolation in its midst.