The Grumpy Barista

Sarah McInerney
Happy place: the cafe is light and bright.
Happy place: the cafe is light and bright. Photo: Fiona Morris

110 Audley Street Petersham, New South Wales 2049

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Opening hours MON-SAT, 7AM-3PM
Features Family friendly
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)

Don't let the name fool you. There ain't nothing grumpy about this charming Petersham cafe.

Nor its barista.

Its Facebook page is the first clue, popping with photographs of homemade panna cotta tarts, red velvet cupcakes, and one of the grumpy barista himself, smiling and holding up two cronuts as eyes. Grumpy? I think not.

Baked eggs ... The Italian hot pot at The Grumpy Barista.
Baked eggs ... The Italian hot pot at The Grumpy Barista. 

Sarah Jane Intili owns and runs the business with her partner, Carlo Ianni. She says the name is a reference to a personality quirk of Ianni in the morning.

"Carlo is extremely grumpy and doesn't function when he doesn't have coffee,'' she says.

Those who can relate will be pleased to know Ianni and his coffee machine serve up Toby's Estate Woolloomooloo blend with kick. A flat white is strong and bitter on first impact but with a sweeter, more complex finish. Same with a long black, whose fruity notes are accentuated by the absence of milk. It'll help get the day started (and banish those pre-coffee jitters).

Smoked salmon with capers, asparagus, red onion, cream cheese and fennel.
Smoked salmon with capers, asparagus, red onion, cream cheese and fennel. Photo: Fiona Morris

Located at one end of the Audley Street shopping strip, The Grumpy Barista's indoor and outdoor tables are kept busy, with barely a spare moment for staff to clear them. Prams and puppies occupy the outdoor tables during my visit; inside are high chairs for the littlies. The decor is light and bright, courtesy of the old shopfront windows. With bric-a-brac dotted throughout, the original, ornate ceiling and a large mirror to one side, it's rustic with a subtle femininity.

On the subject of littlies, a babycino with its accompanying teeny-tiny spoon wins a fan of the nearly-three-year old at the table, especially when he gets to take part in the post-brekkie ritual of coffee number two. "It's my lucky day," he proclaims. His Sonoma toast with jam goes down a treat, too, the knife to cut the pieces in half thoughtfully put out of reach by the waitress. The Grumpy Barista is a comfortable place to take kids, but given the small space, it would be hard to have more than a couple of high chairs inside.

The pick of the compact breakfast menu is the shakshuka-like baked Italian eggs, with the option of chorizo. Two eggs are nestled into a thick, smoky tomato sauce, their runny centres melding with the sauce when broken. Sourdough and soy and linseed bread is for dunking, and it would be a crime not to.

Another top-notch breakfast is a sweet twist on bruschetta. Two slices of toast are topped with ricotta and slices of fresh fig, then sprinkled with lime zest and very lightly drizzled with honey. It's light and creamy with just the right amount of sweetness.

Other options include a ham and cheese croissant, muesli, and mushrooms on toast spruced up with pesto oil and feta. The lunch menu ranges from sliders to salads, sandwiches to frittata.

The cronuts and mini-brioche have been snapped up by the hungry hordes by the time we get around to ordering sweet treats. But the ricotta, lemon zest and raspberry cake pairs well with that second coffee. It looks like a tea cake with the odd sultana in it, but tastes like a brioche, minus a truckload of butter.

The service, while consistently friendly, varies between visits. It is prompt and attentive on a busy Saturday morning, but a little distracted midweek. Still, it's nothing that can't be solved by catching someone's eye.

It is a grumpy-free zone, after all.

The low-down