42 Walker St Rhodes, NSW 2138
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 7am-4.30pm, Sat-Sun 8am-4.30pm|
|Features||Cheap and cheerful, Breakfast-brunch|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Phone||02 8592 1267|
Those who rarely visit Rhodes may think of it mostly as the home of a Nordic stress colony called IKEA. But a short walk from the Waterside shopping complex, past the land of allen keys, is a corner cafe that's quietly injecting the spirit of a sleepy artist commune into the neighbourhood.
Part-gallery and part-cafe, Auvers takes its name after Auvers-sur-Oise – a small French village north-west of Paris where celebrated impressionists such as Cezanne and Pissarro gathered, and where Vincent Van Gogh painted some of his most important works.
The cafe is something of a passion project by friends Ron Chen and Leo Rong, whose obsession for coffee and art led them to conceive of a space where they can curate both. Where its namesake is known for being colourful, however, the fit-out at Auvers has a predominantly steely, industrial palette. Matt Woods, who designed Rabbit Hole and Devon Barangaroo, has put the spotlight on the wall-to-wall display shelf at the back of the cafe – where local artists exhibit their wares.
While you sip on a caramelly Black Market Roasters flat white, check out the framed portraits, jewellery and handmade ceramics for sale. Sydney potter Denise McDonald makes the cafe's crockery, including the delicate ceramic cups in which all coffee (and some excellent matcha and hojicha by Grow Green Tea) is served.
But don't be too distracted by shiny objects, because there's plenty to get through on the all-day menu. The food at Auvers has multicultural roots – think a taro-flavoured bircher muesli, or a soft shell crab po' boy. There's also a distinctly Japanese influence on most dishes, with the addition of an onsen egg here or a ponzu hollandaise there to liven up brunch staples such as corn fritters or eggs benedict.
Head chef Kim Khong Bong, formerly of Alexandria's Bitton, keeps things seasonal by tweaking his line-up every three months. Among his autumn offerings are heartier dishes such as a golden saffron risotto with parmesan chips and crisp-skinned roasted chicken breast; and the slow-cooked beef and mushroom gyoza, served with kombu butter and chives.
We opt for the yuzu soy salmon gateau (in other words, fish cakes), which comes in a tall, attractive stack. The generously sized patties are crumbed and fried to a katsu-like crisp, giving a nice textural contrast to the fluffy, well-seasoned potato and salmon filling. Dip the carby bites into dollops of savoury nori mayo for an extra umami kick.
Other trimmings, pretty as they are, feel more like Instagram wallflower than an essential part of the dish. We're confused by the addition of the verjus poached grapes, for example. And the whole fresh fig atop the dish, while tasty (and luxurious), also feels like something of a non-sequitur.
Another hugely photogenic dish is the egg nest corn fritters, so named because of the nesty tufts of alfalfa on which a perfectly cooked onsen egg sits. The fritters are light and packed with sweet corn, and are delicious with the hidden layer of smashed avocado. But the addition of nori sour cream, caramelised pineapple and herb and garlic mushrooms? It's spring break on your palate. You're better off separating the elements and constructing your own perfect bite.
What you don't want to mess around with are the Auvers pancakes. The impressively fluffy, triple-decker matcha pancakes are the stuff of green tea lovers' dreams. Made with a meringue dough aerated by egg white, the batter comes out much lighter than regular pancakes. Soak each morsel on your plate in the glossy matcha glaze – it's vibrant and soul-reviving – the kind of art most of us can appreciate.
Main attractions: Creative, multicultural brunch offerings featuring picture-perfect dishes such as the egg nest corn fritters and the matcha pancakes.
Must-try: Auvers pancakes. These fluffy, matcha-glazed bad boys are the stuff of every green tea lover's dreams.
Insta-worthy dish: For maximum pantone points, go for the Auvers pancakes and the taro bircher muesli.
Coffee: Black Market Roasters coffee, $3.50-$4.50, Rotating single origin roasters (currently Edition Coffee Roasters) for black coffees and pourovers, $3.80-$6
Tea: Rabbit Hole organic, $4.50-$5
IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD
LEFT OF FIELD
3/7 Gauthorpe St, Rhodes
A sunlit cafe on the quiet, waterfront stretch of Rhodes, Left of Field has earned its place in local brunchers' hearts since opening its doors in 2016. Co-owners Matthew Abi-Arrage and Clovice Khachan offer left-field dishes such as ulgogi cheese steak and labene-smeared smoked salmon bagels that taste as fun as they sound.
TOP CHOICE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
1/1 Gauthorpe St, Rhodes
Those tired of fighting the city yum cha crowd will have better luck securing a table at this neighbourhood Cantonese joint. It's more low-key than Phoenix in Rhodes (meaning a slightly more affordable price tag) and a perfect pitstop to get your fill of har gow and barbecue pork buns on the way to weekend shopping.
KOKODA TRACK MEMORIAL WALKWAY
Rhodes Park, Killoola Street, Concord West
A leafy trail commemorating those who fought for Australia during World War II, the Kokoda Track Memorial Walkway stretches 800 metres along Brays Bay on the Parramatta River. Stop by for a dawn service on Anzac Day and return for the 75th anniversary of Kokoda Day in November.
Herb Elliott Avenue, Sydney Olympic Park
It may share the same name as a Nick Cave song, but the site of this Olympic Park eatery was actually once an abattoir building in the 1900s. Now a stylish, comfort-food driven bar and restaurant, it's the kind of place where you can kick back with a cold one while feeling like you have escaped the big smoke for the weekend – or at least over a long lunch.