Andrea Demetriades, actress; from Kensington
S.A.L.T cafe, Dural
"It's amazing. It's a family-run business. Angela makes the sweets. [S.A.L.T is an acronym for the names of the Saul family's members: mum Angela, Dad, Leo and sons Tahki and Stacy.] Tahki is the best coffee-maker. I studied with him at NIDA. He was in the grade below me. I just started going [to the cafe]. It's good to get out of the city. It smells different out there – there are sheep and horses and it's a beautiful drive. I love the drive to Dural. It takes about 35 minutes. I go every Sunday.
"It's recently had a bit of a makeover. I pleaded with them not to get too hip."
"My favourite is the five-grain sourdough with avocado, kale, quinoa and turmeric on poached eggs. It's an epic list of superfoods. They're generous because they're Greek.
"I order a strong cappuccino – to get my chocolate fix. I'm a sucker for good coffee. I normally make it at home. It's amazing coffee.
"I love hot chips too and they make the best. I'm a sucker for hot chips."
"I do eat out a lot, but I love making big salads with some fried halloumi or brown or wild rice and tuna.
"You can't go and eat a pasta before you go on stage. I'll have a cheeky pinot gris afterwards to wind down.
"I try to make a mean banoffee pie ... it's actually very easy.
"Normally for breakfast I'll have muesli or halloumi and vegemite and an egg on toast.
"I'm filming [TV series] Janet King, The Principal on SBS, and [feature film] Alex and Eve comes out on October 22."
Dural Mall, 46 Kenthurst Road, Dural
Open seven days for breakfast and lunch
THREE OUT OF FIVE STARS
This is not what I am anticipating. I am looking forward to a scenic drive out of the chaos of the city and into the peace and fresh country air on this sunny Saturday. Instead, to get to Dural, which is about 35 kilometres noth-west of the CBD, you jump straight on the concrete-clad M2 motorway.
Driving past the behemoth construction site that is the Norwest rail link is about as scenic as it gets.
A couple of gum trees later and we arrive at Dural's main shopping centre.
S.A.L.T cafe sits in the mall opposite Baker's Delight and Aldi. Trolleys rattle past our table, a dog tied up outside Woolworths barks while children pop the balloons that they've picked up from a nearby fundraising stall.
The atmosphere is as banal as you'd expect from a shopping centre and the drive isn't exactly soothing. There's nothing particularly peaceful about it.
Thank god, then, for Leo, whose warm and attentive service makes all the difference and puts the magic in the mundane. He puts two tables together for our group to give us more space, offers detailed explanations about the dishes on the menu and chats as happily with us as the locals he is clearly familiar with.
S.A.L.T's fit out is cool and clean. Copper-coloured hanging lights give warmth to interior, all washed-concrete floors and white subway-tile walls. Shelves of rustic, recycled wood display a delicious-looking lemon curd tart and thickly cut brownies, carrot cake and croissants. My companion is thankful for the thoughtful touch of seat cushions that are available for the retro metal chairs.
Very good Lavazza coffee comes in colourful porcelain cups and we sip on DIY freshly squeezed juices of cucumber, apple, kale, lemon and ginger.
The food is simple but stand-out. They marinate their own chicken for the southern style fried chicken burger ($17), which is surprisingly light and baalanced nicely by the slightly sweet brioche bun. Homemade red slaw made with vinegarette instead of mayo provides a fresh, crunchy side and is arguably necessary given the burger includes bacon and aoili as well as the chicken.
If you do choose the fries as your side, though, they are worth it. Thick-cut, they are piping hot, crispy and well salted. They come as an optional side with any of the burgers and make the perfect devlish accompaniment for the tasty halloumi and mushroom burger ($17), which comes with avocado and roquette.
We arrive at 11.30am, when the lunch menu starts (breakfast is all-day) so half the table orders lunch and the other half breakfast.
Generous slices of fig, raisin and cranberry sourdough come with ricotta and perfectly tart and sweet homemade jam. The superfood breakfast with kale and quinoa, avocado and a poached egg dusted with turmeric is far healthier and better quality fare than most mall-cafe food you'll find in Sydney.
In fact, the unassuming mall location betrays all of S.A.L.T's offerings. It offers food, service and a fit-out that is thoughtful and well above average. Just don't drive out here expecting to be enchanted by the scenery or a quaint country cafe.