324A King Street (Newtown station) Newtown, New South Wales 2042
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri, 6am-4pm; Sat, 8-4pm; Sun, 8am-3pm|
|Features||Vegetarian friendly, Cheap Eats, Family friendly, Outdoor seating|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||(02) 9557 7006|
Sitting at one of Cuckoo Callay's outside tables, waiting for a friend, there's no need to fiddle with my mobile for distraction. The stream of people, and the occasional dog, coming and going at Newtown Station is enough entertainment. A former colleague even comes by and pauses for a chat.
When my friend arrives, it's time to stop gawking and get serious. We are here to eat bacon.
Specifically, bacon made by Black Forest Smokehouse in Marrickville. Cuckoo Callay's owners, 26-year-old Ibrahim Moubadder and his partner in life and now in business, Eleanor Harris, have decided to turn the spotlight on Australian-grown and cured bacon, as most of what we get here is made from imported pork. Cue the Bacon Festival.
During February, the cafe has a special menu dedicated to Black Forest's smoky finest, cooked up by chef Andy Cumming, who has a keen eye for plating and attention to detail.
The first dish to land, What a Croque of Bacon, is elegantly constructed. Three bacon, cheese and potato croquettes and two perfectly poached eggs are framed by two crisp rashers, a vivid swoop of pea puree and a sprinkle of fresh basil leaves. The crunchy-creamy croquettes are a marvellous substitute for toast to soak up the bright yellow yolks.
Just looking at the the Ultimate Bacon Breakfast makes my arteries shriek "Nooooooo!" It's a terrifying pile of pork, with a bespoke bacon sausage, a grilled bacon steak, maple and bourbon-cured bacon and an egg rolled in bacon bits, hiding toast underneath. The creamy sausage is too salty for me but makes my friend happy. I prefer the juicy steak but can't eat a whole one. This is the shag-pile carpet of bacon feasts, deep and decadent, for the very hungry with comprehensive health insurance.
A fluffy brioche encases the popcorn chicken and beer-candied bacon burger (called Don't Go Bacon My Heart) with mustard aioli, beer chutney and a peppy red cabbage coleslaw. The marinated chicken breast is dipped in buttermilk and flour before flash-deep-frying, which keeps it tender. The Shake 'n' Bacon milkshake, which tastes more like vanilla-salted-caramel, comes with a piece of chocolate-coated bacon dunked in it. The sight of it makes us wince, but it all tastes really very good. Just don't ask what else is in the shake*.
The Ya Bacon Me Crazy buttermilk waffle is adorned by - you guessed it - bacon ice-cream, maple bacon and maple syrup. The cassata-like ice-cream, with candied bacon bits, spices and a dash of bourbon, is disturbingly delicious.
The coffee doesn't disappoint either. A flat white to start is a good balance of strong and creamy, and we finish with a chilled eight-hour filter coffee, served in a dinky flip-cap bottle to pour over ice piled in curvy affogato glasses. Vibrant and refreshing, it sure whups iced tea.
Moubadder, originally from Lebanon, trained and worked as a nurse but has always dreamed of his own cafe, which came true a year ago. Cuckoo Callay stands out among the King Street crowd, partly because it's set back from the traffic. Inside, the eye-catching fit-out includes an arresting antlered cuckoo clock, a nod to the cafe's Jabberwocky-inspired name ("O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! He chortled in his joy.")
Dishes from the regular menu will still be served during bacon month, such as Gorgeous George, marinated avocado and tomato on sourdough with house-made pesto, goat's curd and a poached egg, so vegetarians are still welcome, and loose-leaf drinkers can select from the Chamellia teas. Something for everyone.
* Bacon fat. Told you not to ask.
THE PICKS Bacon croquettes, buttermilk bacon waffle, bacon shake (share it)
THE COFFEE Single Origin Roasters
THE LOOK Classy and quirky with spruce touches of greenery
THE SERVICE Friendly and enthusiastic