Lot 3, 7 Rider Boulevard Rhodes, New South Wales 2138
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri, 7am-10pm; Sat-Sun, 8am-10pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9807 4177|
In the world of specialty coffee, the term ''coffee chain'' is not generally held in high regard. Yet on a sunny winter morning, I find myself happily sipping an Ethiopian pour-over at Sydney's newest cafe franchise. Admittedly, the place has no tell-tale signs of a chain. Lid & Jar – the latest addition to a small pocket of eateries in Rhodes – has the kind of warehouse-inspired interior that would fit comfortably into most inner-city cafe strips. A ladder is suspended from wooden beams above our seats, pallets are used as wall decoration, and share tables are constructed with scaffolding legs.
It's hard to imagine exact replicas of a place like this, but I am told a Chatswood branch is already on its way, due to open in late August. The company behind this chain also owns Noggi Frozen yogurt, a dessert franchise founded by Korean-Australian John Suh that has spread like wildfire across the suburbs and interstate.
For Rhodes store owner Zoe Xie, the cafe is a bold step away from her former career as an accountant. "I wanted a new challenge, and I've always thought we needed a specialty coffee house in Rhodes. There are more young foodies here than people realise."
Barely two months old, Lid & Jar is already attracting discerning locals. Head barista Chanho Hong, who hails from Korea, sources Vanuatuan Fairtrade beans from Mona Vale's Coffee Brothers for milk-based coffees and single origin specials from a handful of boutique roasters for filter offerings.
The short, down-to-earth, all-day breakfast menu has some of the usual trendy cafe food suspects on the list, but most come with a twist.
The green juice here, for instance, uses spinach instead of the ubiquitous kale. A piping hot winter porridge is laced with quinoa, dried apricots, cranberries, pistachios and a swirl of honey. The French toast is made with raisin brioche and served with a rose water-infused maple syrup. While we wait for our food, we play a quick game of mason jar-spotting. The cafe's namesake is everywhere – mounted on walls, hanging like chandeliers from the ceiling and holding tiny bunches of flowers on tables. I spot 52 before losing count.
Bircher muesli arrives in another jar, as does my cold-pressed juice. It's a delicious concoction of green apple, pear, spinach and coconut water, though at $8.60 a pop, it had better be good. I am pleased to find the coconut water masks the savoury flavour that sometimes overpowers juices made with vegetables. Less impressive is the muesli, which is served dry, topped with a thick layer of yogurt, rather than the traditional style of pre-soaked rolled oats.
Next comes the French toast with rose water-infused maple syrup. Thick, fluffy slices of raisin brioche are accompanied by a generous scattering of fresh strawberries. Fried to a golden brown, the dish is likely to undo any smugness that comes from ordering a green juice, but it's well worth it for the Turkish Delight-esque sugar rush. A lighter alternative is the roasted field mushrooms with fried egg, ricotta, slow roasted tomato and charred asparagus. While the meaty mushrooms could do with more seasoning, a lick of nutty pesto mixed with the runny egg yolk lifts the dish.
We finish the meal with an Ethiopian pour-over recommended by weekend barista Andy Liu. The beans come from Small Batch Roasting Co and the coffee tastes of stone fruit with a bright, floral finish. A flat white is smoky and silky, topped with an impressively complex rosetta. If this is what the future of cafe chains looks like, perhaps it's best to reserve judgment after all?
THE PICKS Brioche French toast; green apple, pear and spinach cold-pressed juice
THE COFFEE Coffee Brothers
THE LOOK Modern industrial
THE SERVICE Friendly and efficient