485 Crown St Surry Hills, New South Wales 2010
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 7am-4pm,Sat 7.30am-4pm,Sun 9.30am-2.30pm|
|Phone||02 9698 6485|
In a suburb that's spoilt for choice, the weekend queue outside Four Ate Five begins to form early. That's usually a good sign but it could also be just that buzz creates buzz and the locals would rather queue for something popular than brave a place with a few empty tables. Or a bit of both.
At this busy, unpretentious cafe on Crown Street, the food, the coffee and the tea offerings are all very good. Fresh, high-quality produce and a generous attitude to feeding its customers keep people coming back. Incidentally, the music is good, too - the staff play immortal David Bowie and Rolling Stones albums, which pump out over the noise of the coffee machine and the happy chatter. Perhaps that's why Four Ate Five draws people of all ages, from young, solo hipsters concentrating fiercely on their Mac laptops at the big common tables to middle-aged business types holding breakfast tete-a-tetes.
Despite the eclectic customer mix, there is a touch of hippie culture here: the coffee is single-origin, fair trade and there's marsala chai, brewed fresh with milk and honey. There are also good loose-leaf teas and big, generous fresh juices. And though it's incredibly simple, the fresh mint tea, with sweet, emerald leaves steeping in hot water, is worth coming back for.
There has been high praise for the lunch menu but the breakfast offering is a big drawcard, too. While it's hard to go past the cooked breakfasts, don't overlook the bircher muesli, surrounded prettily by a rainbow of seasonal fruit, including strawberries and rhubarb, drizzled with honey. The men at our table are transfixed by the Mexican breakfast, a giant mound of beans, salad, salsa and fried eggs, with an extra choice of crispy tofu or haloumi for vegetarians, or bacon for carnivores.
''More chilli'' is the only criticism I can make out from the happy breakfasters in question. For its novelty value and nostalgic childhood memories, I'm drawn to the home-made creamed corn, served with poached eggs, crispy bacon and toast.
It's warm and cosy: real wintry comfort food. But it can't hold a candle to the Moroccan baked eggs. This year, there has been a proliferation of baked eggs on Sydney cafe menus and with this example, I see no reason to junk the trend just yet.
They're a shining example of the genre: sweet, flavourful, piping-hot fresh tomato sauce cradling just-set eggs with runny yolks, with texture from the nutty crunch of almonds and creamy, slightly sour richness from the fresh yoghurt cheese. It is perfect for plunging sourdough toast into: a grown-up version of the suburban classic, Vegemite soldiers and boiled egg.
Options with the standard eggs-and-toast breakfast include potato and fennel hash, which comes in a cake-like wedge and gets the thumbs up from our table. A doorstop-sized toasted sandwich is stuffed with ham, melted gruyere, potato and fennel hash and bechamel sauce. Not one for the diet.
Four Ate Five is good value and serves up good produce, well rendered. About the only thing to complain about is the wait for a table if you're running late for breakfast.
Moroccan baked eggs with labne and almonds; Mexican breakfast.