380 Cleveland Street Surry Hills, New South Wales 2010
|Opening hours||Daily, 9am-3pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||0416 914 170|
For most writers, selling a Hollywood screenplay while travelling across America is the definition of making it. For Sydneysider Adam Kane, the pay-off wasn't so much the promise of fame but the chance to fund his dream of opening an inner-city eatery.
As it turns out, fame – especially the social media kind – followed him home anyway. Within days of opening his Surry Hills cafe Dr Faustus, Kane was approached by food journalists and bloggers alike.
"All of a sudden people were coming in and ordering half the menu and photographing everything, which was pretty incredible," he says.
It's easy to see the appeal. The cafe, which Kane hopes to extend to a wine bar by night, occupies a former 1900s pharmacy that could pass for the set of its namesake Christopher Marlowe play. Among original century-old wooden cabinets and baroque ceiling fans is an assortment of gothic curios: laboratory flasks, pickle-filled specimen jars and a "dispensing dept" sign above the kitchen.
Kane, who until recently helmed the bar at Mary's in Newtown, has always moonlighted in hospitality to support himself as a writer. About three months before signing the lease for Dr Faustus, he reread the play and the name stuck. "It just made sense because it's the idea of this character who's selling his soul for decadence and power and pleasure. And I felt like if we were going to offer blood sausage and foie gras and caviar for breakfast, then we need a name that tells a story."
Apart from the more indulgent offerings, the cafe's Creole-inspired menu also includes a handful of down-to-earth, southern American dishes. "New Orleans had a lasting impression on me," he says. He loved eating shrimps, po' boys and beignets (Creole doughnuts). "So when I was thinking of a menu, that was always going to be a reference point."
Listed under the single-page of "remedies" are old-school favourites like fried okra and the muffuletta (a Southern-style sandwich of mortadella, soppressata, capicola and provolone). Most are reinterpreted by chef Oner Nalcioglu (ex Local Taphouse) with a modern twist.
We go for the pulled mushroom bun, which has a satisfying medley of enoki, field and oyster mushrooms. A tangy housemade barbecue sauce turns the richness up a notch and the addition of a "kaleslaw" makes a refreshing side. It goes perfectly with a tall glass of Momofuku-inspired cereal milk, infused with the sugary cereal of your choice.
The housemade Sheboyan bratwurst served in a spongy milk bun is spicy and flavoursome, elevated by a lick of brown mustard and smoky sauerkraut. In fact, the sauerkraut is so good we are left wanting more.
Keen Instagrammers will love the eggs five ways. The name sounds hefty but what lands is an artfully plated trio of eggs (pickled hen, duck and quail), with the other two egg elements a sprinkling of caviar on top and a smear of aioli, which holds the dish together.
Those after a stiffer dose of morning-after remedy could consider the foie gras BLT or Welsh rarebit. The latter strays from the Creole code, but it would be a mistake to ignore the nostalgic dish, updated with a boozy Guinness béchamel sauce served on Brickfields sourdough.
At the end of the meal, our friendly waitress prescribes the slightly out there bacon piccolo to finish. We succumb, of course. A nutty Bills Beans brew is topped with vanilla sugar and strips of bourbon-glazed bacon on the rim. It's a peak Sydney experience, and one we suspect will see many seeking treatment at Dr Faustus.
THE PICKS Pulled mushroom bun, fried okra, cereal milk, Bacon Piccolo
THE COFFEE Bills Beans specialty roaster
THE LOOK Ornate, refurbished 1900s pharmacy with gothic curios
THE SERVICE Fast and knowledgeable. Owner Adam Kane loves a chat with customers