Cavalier review

Cavalier's coffee tasting flight.
Cavalier's coffee tasting flight.  Photo: James Brickwood

96 545 Pacific Hwy St Leonards, NSW 2065

View map

Opening hours Mon-Fri 7am-2.30pm, Sat 7am-2pm
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)

Call the Cafe Police! Cavalier's menu is avocado-free! This rare omission is not the only point of difference at a cafe where you might find chef and co-owner (with wife Sara) Harry Kolotas using tweezers to carefully place pine nuts on a dish of house-made smoked ricotta.

The high level of care taken with the food has won Cavalier a loyal following since it opened in late 2015 – a mix of suits, students and a few pram-pushing parents.

The recent move to bigger premises came with unexpected challenges, specifically, a split water tank flooded the dining room and kitchen after just one day of trade. The damages took weeks to repair, but the calm with which the Kolotas now preside over the new laneway space suggests the inauspicious start was in no way a sign of things to come.

Cavalier 2.0's interior is industrial with a little nature creeping in.
Cavalier 2.0's interior is industrial with a little nature creeping in. Photo: James Brickwood

The space

The new location – a quiet back alley parallel to the Pacific Highway a minute's walk from Crows Nest's bustling main strip – feels like something of a refuge. A few seats outside make a sunny late-lunch spot, while the interior is industrial with a little nature creeping in – greenery draped from black ducting, light timber dowels lined up like corduroy on the walls, bentwood chairs and brown upholstered banquette seating. It's simple and comfortable.

The food

Poached chicken salad with a wreath of alfalfa sprouts, quinoa and nuts.
Poached chicken salad with a wreath of alfalfa sprouts, quinoa and nuts. Photo: James Brickwood

Food options straddle cafe and restaurant fare – the middle ground being the classic comfort of mac-and-cheese (with optional shaved fresh truffle in season for all dishes). The menu changes monthly, so luscious beef cheek, cooked for 18 hours, on our visit came with silky celeriac puree, dehydrated corn, raw celeriac shavings and strips of fermented capsicum, but next up will be teamed up with capsicum, almond and ong choy (water spinach).

A few favourites remain untouched, including an ever-popular jaffle with ham and cheddar, and a poached chicken breast salad with sweet potato and a light mayo-based dressing – the chicken resting in the middle of a healthy-looking wreath of alfalfa sprouts, quinoa and nuts.

Another stayer, and a highlight for us, is the deliciously textural "tiramisu 2.0". Far from traditional, this not-so-cakey,  chocolatey version is made up of 11 elements. The most surprising of all is passionfruit, which provides a welcome tang to cut through the sweet creaminess.

Luscious beef cheeks with capsicum and ong choy (water spinach).
Luscious beef cheeks with capsicum and ong choy (water spinach). Photo: James Brickwood

The coffee

Byron Bay's Marvell Street Coffee Roasters provide the beans – blends for white and single origin for black – and there are occasional guest appearances by Mona Vale's Finefolk Roasting Co.

Cavalier's coffee flight seems a popular choice: a wooden board carrying a single origin espresso, piccolo and batch filter. The latter was the standout on our visit (a fruity flavoured Kenyan single origin from Marvell Street), although next time we'd stick to one coffee order at a time, as the flight logistics didn't quite work (too many coffees to get through before they cool).

Deliciously textural 'tiramisu 2.0'.
Deliciously textural 'tiramisu 2.0'. Photo: James Brickwood

The booze

A handful of light Aussie wines and a couple of craft beers complement the food without stealing the show.

The low-down

Avo factor BYO avocado (joking – accept the absence and try something else)

Caffe latte $3.80

Loving The new slightly hidden laneway location, and cut-above cuisine

Not getting Mocha/hot chocolates with truffle – better in theory than reality

Overheard "Who knew passionfruit would work so well in a tiramisu?!"

Score Two cups
Food 8/10 Coffee 3/5 Experience 4/5