Devon Cafe, North Sydney review

The icy kakigori dessert is a peak worth conquering.
The icy kakigori dessert is a peak worth conquering. Photo: Fiona Morris

36 Blue St North Sydney, NSW 2060

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Features Breakfast-brunch, Cheap Eats
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Phone 02 8971 0377

What would inspire you to go on a health kick? A new year, a GP visit, or a friend's overly effective propaganda campaign about how much they "enjoy" F45, perhaps?

For Devon Cafe, a new location in North Sydney can be blamed for a sudden focus on wellbeing.

Unlike its Surry Hills and Barangaroo outposts (known for extravagant dishes such as gold-leaf-garnished French toast and a burger named after the Japanese mafia), the menu here includes dishes that make nutrients and vitamins the headliners: there's a kale and cabbage bowl (of course), a poke bowl (a #cleaneating given), and a vegie bowl, too.

The vegie bowl with sauteed kale, quinoa, corn puree and feta.
The vegie bowl with sauteed kale, quinoa, corn puree and feta. Photo: Fiona Morris

Chef/owner Zachary Tan – who studied pharmacy – took this healthier approach because diners this side of the Harbour Bridge requested it.

And while your doctor might approve of these saintly options, would you happily eat any of this? In the case of the vegie bowl, yes. It helps that it's not just a dumping ground for flavourless greens – or an unscaleable mountain of quinoa.

The kale is sauteed in a hot pan with olive oil and is incredibly well-seasoned. It also plays well with contrasting flavours – sweetness from a corn puree, salt and cream from Meredith goat's curd, the sharpness of rocket and mint – and there's a much-needed bit of fun among the quinoa grains: a zucchini fritter, fried up and crunchy, is a nice way to offset the virtuous ingredients list.

Bruschetta with smashed avocado, sourdough, tomatoes and feta.
Bruschetta with smashed avocado, sourdough, tomatoes and feta.  Photo: Fiona Morris

Another GP-endorsed dish you might voluntarily try: the avocado on toast. This appears on the other Devon menus, and why not? It deserves wide circulation because it's inventive and actually great.

Tan wanted to avoid this cafe staple for years (the chef has been plagued with requests since opening the first Devon in Surry Hills in mid-2013) and the version he's recently created would even impress someone with Smashed Avo Fatigue.

Its high-dazzle effect reminds you of the chef's fine-dining cred, from the days he worked with three-hatted chef Guillaume Brahimi. Sure, there's the basic template of crushed avo and lemon on multigrain sourdough, but then Tan adds whipped feta, freeze-dried watermelon and dollops of "gazpacho pudding" (made from blitzed capsicum and tomato that's set with agar for a jelly-like effect).

Nutrients and vitamins are headliners at this Devon outpost.
Nutrients and vitamins are headliners at this Devon outpost. Photo: Fiona Morris

To top it off, there is a sculptural flourish of cucumber and an ultra-savoury hit of confit tomatoes – made from ripe grape tomatoes that have been cooked overnight for maximum intensity – and all dusted with beetroot powder for a vivid dose of colour. It's the blockbuster version of avocado on toast.

At this Devon outpost, it's not all salad bowls, avo on toast and chia puddings (thank goodness)!

Another North-Sydney-only dish is the excellent pasta royale, where fresh egg linguini is twirled through cherry tomatoes, chilli and lobster.

Devon's spin on the affogato dessert.
Devon's spin on the affogato dessert.  Photo: Fiona Morris

When served this dish, the haze of fried garlic is like a precision-strike perfume bomb and a good trailer for how rich and well flavoured the pasta is. (And if you really want to live it up, there's the Croissant St-Denis, where lobster is served with the buttery pastry, caviar and a bisque beurre blanc sauce.)

The menu switches throughout the day – from breakfast to lunch (where katsu sandwiches with Portuguese-spiced chips and omelette domes filled with garlic butter rice easily tempt people skipping the ultra-healthy options), and the dinner offering is a more family-focused version of the Devon By Night sessions that have run in the other establishments.

The coffee is reliable and covers interesting twists, such as cold brew served with an orange-juice reduction or an affogato with soft serve (the upcoming vegan coconut option might be a better match than the not-so-compatible green tea flavour).

Desserts have an Asian slant – such as a salted egg yolk croissant made for Chinese New Year and the kakigori, a literal mountain of shaved ice, matcha soft serve, hoji-cha tea cream, red beans and sweet glutinous rice dumplings. Don't be overwhelmed, it's a peak worth conquering. And it's a reminder that something doesn't have to be "good for you" to be worth ordering.

The low-down

Star rating: ★★★★ 

Main attractions: Creative healthy options with plenty of attractive picks for anyone not feeling so virtuous (and yes, you can get the Devon chips and soft serve here, too).

Must-try: Avo on toast if you're feeling saintly, the kakigori if you're not.

Insta-worthy dish: The epic kakigori dessert – if you can fit it all into the shot!

Gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options: Yes

Coffee: Devon Blend for milk-based coffee, $4-$4.50; Grace and Taylor Ethiopian Guji for black coffee, $3.50-$4.

Tea: Ovvio Organics, $4-$6.50

Next up: Beer, wine and cocktails join the menu once the cafe gets its licence, and look out for Devon's first international cafe in Jakarta.


IN THE NEIGHBOURHOOD

More to see in North Sydney and surrounds

Taronga Zoo

Bradley's Head Road Mosman, taronga.org.au

Yes, it's home to 4000 animals, from squirrel monkeys to sea lions, but this harbourside venue also features Aboriginal cultural tours, Wild Ropes adventure courses and a Twilight at Taronga program of all-ages gigs, with headline shows by Cloud Control, the Preatures, Mount Kimbie and the Lemonheads.

Five Points Burgers

124 Walker St, North Sydney North Sydney, facebook.com/fivepointsburgers

If the name isn't a clue, then the menu spells it out. This joint is inspired by New York and hefty American-style burgers: from the robust Bronx grilled beef with onion jam, bacon and double cheese to the Staten Island mushroom number with tzatziki and marinated peppers.

Cool Mac

Shop 2, 34 Burton Street, Kirribilli, facebook.com/coolmaccafe

This cafe/gallery showcases local artists, clever Japanese-inspired brunches (the avo on toast includes miso-glazed eggplant and don't miss the Okinawa-evoking taco rice) as well as special Friday night ramen dinners.

Sunset Cinema in North Sydney

2 Fig Tree Lane, North Sydney, sunsetcinema.com.au

Prefer movies in an open-air setting? Hit the North Sydney Oval for the latest Sunset Cinema program, which runs until March 24. Upsize from popcorn and order from a food menu by the Greens, and work your way through the Oscar contenders (The PostThe Shape of WaterCoco).

Cremorne Point Circuit Walk

If you're going to stretch your legs, this is a pretty scenic way to do so. Start at Cremorne Point Ferry Wharf and this loop will reveal postcard views of the harbour and plenty of other surprises (such as access to Maccallum Pool and a glimpse of the Robertson Point Light).   

http://www.devoncafe.com.au/