Shop 1, 74-80 Ivy Street Darlington, New South Wales 2008
|Opening hours||Mon, Wed-Fri, 7am-3pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-3pm|
|Features||Cheap Eats, Breakfast-brunch, Vegetarian friendly, Outdoor seating, Gluten-free options, Accepts bookings|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Chef||Brendan Nolan, Adam Davis|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||(02) 7901 9690|
It's the chop that does it. My friend spots the photo on Twitter – a great, big chop with a soft-boiled egg on top. Who serves this protein-powered marvel for breakfast? Twenty 8 Acres at Darlington, established December 2013. Time to investigate.
First impressions are good. It's in a cosy corner nook in the back streets of Sydney Uni, with a herb garden out the front, covered outdoor area at the back, and light-filled room inside. We scan the menu. No chop. Specials board? No chop. Turns out it was a special request for a regular but any disappointment is forgotten when my friend spots the magic words "Full Irish". Others may tremble at what follows – bacon, egg, sausage, black and white pudding, beans, fried spuds and soda bread – but she is made of sturdier stuff.
I take a less daunting route, the house-cured salmon with crushed potato salad, pickled cucumber, beets and a soft-boiled egg. Coffees arrive promptly, bright, strong and uplifting with beans from Alexandria's Numero Uno Coffee, and the dirty chai (chai with a shot of coffee) is a winner.
The menu and specials board are short but make us want to come back before we've eaten anything, for black pudding hash, and porridge with blueberries and sheep's milk yoghurt. Vegetarians can rejoice with fried mushrooms, marinated haloumi and pesto on toast, and The Botanist - buttered vegies, mashed avocado, rocket and poached egg on toast.
A massive loaf of soda bread sits on the counter and two chefs occupy the very small kitchen. Brendan Nolan and Adam Davis cooked together at Forbes and Burton in Darlinghurst before setting up their own place. The name comes from the Darling Nursery, established here on a 28-acre grant in the 1820s by botanist Thomas Shepherd and probably named after Sydney's governor of the time, Ralph Darling. The nursery gave the suburb its name and the surrounding streets – Shepherd, Pine, Ivy, Vine, Myrtle and Rose.
The chefs were delighted to discover this botanical history, which tied into their resolve to make the most of fresh ingredients, sourced locally where possible. Many cafes all over Sydney are doing the same thing to great effect, but not many have the Irish credentials Nolan brings to the business. On Sundays, he says, customers come from all over town to tackle the Full Irish.
It's not hard to believe when it lands, a meaty plate of magnificence. The sausages and black and white pudding (made with pork shoulder) come from Irish butcher Shay Stanley at Penrith, the bacon from Lucas Meats at Bronte. The baked beans, potatoes and soda bread are made inhouse. A regular customer comes over as we admire the spread. "There's more pork on that plate than you'll find anywhere else."
He could be right. It tastes as good as it looks, the crispy bacon, rich puddings, small, flavoursome snags and not forgetting the beans, soft and silky in a zesty tomato sauce.
The salmon is no less enjoyable, though a word of warning if you're looking for a winter warmer – the dish is cold, including the perfectly soft-boiled egg. The fish, in luscious, thick slices, is cured in beetroot and vodka and crowns a pile of potato salad with parsley pesto and sour cream, topped off by caper berries, house-pickled cucumber and beetroot puree.
All told, it is a breakfast to remember. Slowly but steadily, my friend makes impressive inroads into the Full Irish, and wraps the leftover sausage in a napkin for later. I break my one-coffee-a-day rule for another flat white, which keeps me awake later on, but is worth it. We have no room for the cakes baked here, which change from day to day, but add them to the list for next time. Shepherd the botanist would surely be proud to see his legacy honoured with such fine produce and good cheer.
THE PICKS Full Irish; house-cured salmon; dirty chai
THE COFFEE Numero Uno
THE LOOK Snug, homey and welcoming
THE SERVICE Prompt and warm, chefs come out for a chat if they have time