Effie's review

A beachside cafe by day, this diner takes things up a notch at night.
A beachside cafe by day, this diner takes things up a notch at night. Photo: Jessica Hromas

281 Sydney Rd Balgowlah, NSW 2093

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Opening hours Mon-Sat 6am-2pm, Sun 6am-11am; Thurs to Sat 4pm-9.30pm, Sun 1pm-8pm
Features Breakfast-brunch, Family friendly, Vegetarian friendly, Gluten-free options
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)

By day Effie's, 600 metres from Balgowlah's Dirty Haul Beach and standing on a busy north-facing corner, is a coffee shop, its stain-glass-edged windows streaming sunshine onto locals ordering Skittle Lane coffees, two-cheese toasties and salted Nutella-filled biscuits as big as a child's head.

Those joining the morning queue at the Calacatta viola marble-edged hole-in-the-wall coffee windo look like they're waiting to enter a barista-guarded portal to a sophisticated Roman quarry.

But, when the sun goes down, Effie focuses on dinner. The pared-back oak and concrete interior, a "warm minimalism" vibe, in the words of co-owner Sam Batten, is lit by glowing cotton lamps and spot-lit lolly-hued borosilicate glass jugs, carafes, bowls and glasses from Maison Balzac, all for sale.

Aniella Batten, co-owner of Effie's, with one-year-old daughter Effie.
Aniella Batten, co-owner of Effie's, with one-year-old daughter Effie. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Round grey steel tables, from design company Hay, are lain with wine glassware and cream ceramics. Chubby oak chairs by designer Sarah Ellison face a long upholstered and suspended concrete banquette built by Batten. The front counter's marble top, lit from a glowing display of ruby and emerald glassware below, radiates like a rain cloud obscuring the sun.

Effie's, a former Asian grocer former shop, is the second venue for Batten and his wife Aniella. The pair also run nearby cafe Aggy's Corner and, along with Effie's, have named the venues after their two daughters. 

The Battens have long wanted to open a night-time restaurant and, after pulling up the linoleum, scraping Peters' ice-cream advertising off the front windows and painting the whole building white, Effie's opened in 2021.

Crustless brioche finger sandwiches filled with dry-aged beef, soy sauce mayonnaise and pickled cucumber.
Crustless brioche finger sandwiches filled with dry-aged beef, soy sauce mayonnaise and pickled cucumber. Photo: Jessica Hromas

High shelving along one wall showcases Batten's passion, bottles of Australian natural wines stocked from a partnership with Northern Beaches bottle shop Winona Wine. They have also recently snared a chef undoubtedly familiar to TV food fans.

Working in the kitchen is Pete Campbell, MasterChef Australia 2021 runner-up, who joined Effie's in June after working at Quay. Batten says Campbell is already inventing new dishes for coming months but, tonight, he is orchestrating the menu's succinct blend of 12 small, main and dessert dishes, most designed to share with meat and vegetarian options. 

We start with glossy Ligurian olives, impossible to stab with suppled wooden picks but sweet, nutty and fleshy once we've stopped misfiring them into nearby diners' legs.

Pumpkin steaks glisten with coffee and aged-maple sauce.
Pumpkin steaks glisten with coffee and aged-maple sauce. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Next come two tostadas, excellent funghi-topped variations on the flat taco-like Mexican dish, with a pontoon of tender enoki mushrooms across silky avocado puree with black garlic XO sauce. Then it's the sando, crustless brioche finger sandwiches filled with dry-aged beef, smoked soy sauce mayonnaise, pickled cucumber and Japanese herb shiso.

From the two mains, one a braised beef cheek dish, we choose the pumpkin steak. Velvety orange, glistening with coffee and aged-maple sauce and scattered with hazelnuts, native riberry and ghostly grey saltbush leaves, these beefy crescent slabs are tasty beauties.

Everything zings with freshness. Service is swift and charming, carafes of sparkling water are replenished with stealth and the cloth supplied for a spilled drink at our table is as vast and soft as a baby's blanket.

Tostadas with enoki mushrooms, avocado puree and black garlic XO sauce.
Tostadas with enoki mushrooms, avocado puree and black garlic XO sauce. Photo: Jessica Hromas

There are two desserts, an orangey Basque cheesecake licked with smoky tasted buckwheat and a sweet coffee sauce, and an affogato sundae-like dish.

The first is so good a member of our party orders it again despite the lovely server apologising for it not spending enough time chilling in the fridge. Even Campbell comes over to explain its softness.

But that, our dinner companion says, sweeping it up with piled spoonfuls, is why it's so good. The affogato, featuring two scoops of vanilla ice-cream bathing in a pool of sweet coffee syrup, is wedged with a whacking slab of salted Nutella-filled biscuit. 

High shelving along one wall showcases Batten's passion, bottles of Australian natural wines.
High shelving along one wall showcases Batten's passion, bottles of Australian natural wines. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Perfectly rich it's as close as you'll get to an after-dinner coffee. It's also the climax of a lovely six-course meal worth wearing elasticised pants for.

The low-down

Vibe Warm, minimalist corner diner with inventive food and natural wine

Go-to dish Pumpkin steak in coffee and aged-maple sauce with hazelnuts, saltbush and riberry

Insta-worthy dish Tostada with enokis, avocado puree, porcini and black garlic XO sauce.

https://www.effiesbalgowlah.com.au/