100 Miller St North Sydney, NSW 2060
|Opening hours||Mon-Thu 7.30am-4pm; Fri 7.30am-late; Sat 9am-2.30pm|
|Phone||02 8097 4962|
But where are the animals? (Don't answer that.) Having won Sydney over with the game-changing Grounds of Alexandria, with its coffee roasters and petting farms, the entrepreneurial Ramzey Choker has zoned in on all that gorgeous, unused space in our city office blocks. The first Lobby Boy opened recently in the Commonwealth Bank site in Eveleigh, and North Sydney is number two, coming with the catchcry, "when the office gets too much". Clearly, the office has been getting too much, as the place is packed.
Lobby Boy is wedged into the glass-walled prow of a ship (well, it feels like that), nosing into the corner of Pacific Highway and Miller Street. The fitout has been well-financed, without going to the theatrical extremes of The Grounds and The Grounds in the City. It's an escape room, a safe house for the office workers in the Northpoint Tower, deliberately designed with a mix of lush, velvet upholstery, dark timber, marble tables, comfortable banquettes and the occasional 1930s-style wing-back chair. Vast windows frame the heritage-listed 130-year-old North Sydney Post Office across the road, making it look unexpectedly appealing.
Staff are new to the job but nice with it, although it could do with a sense of ownership or a manager on the floor.
The group's executive chef, Paul McGrath, has done an ace job designing a number of menus that run from bar snacks (fried school prawns) to breakfast (cheesy croissant), lunch (pork and veal meatballs) and Saturday brunch (toasted macadamia muesli).
Best-on-ground are a sparkling chirashi salad bowl ($20) and the toasted cheeseburger jaffle – not a cheeseburger inside a jaffle as feared, but a pressed wagyu burger with three cheeses and pickles ($22), served with an armful of golden fries.
At breakfast, this morphs into a rather delicious brekky burger jaffle with maple-glazed bacon, egg, roasted tomato and smoked barbecue mayo in a pressed brioche bun ($15).
This is eat-and-run food, gotta-get-back food, workers' food. There is no dessert menu as such, just a few cakes and pastries from the lobby-facing coffee counter; nothing to linger over.
In contrast, a lunchtime reuben on rye ($22) is dark, bland and heavily pressed in the toaster; no thrills there. A Saturday brunch of sobrasada (paprika-kicked Mallorcan meat spread) and fried eggs on sourdough ($17) comes too quickly, the toast grill-marked rather than grilled, the egg white not fully set. These things are fixable, but I suggest they start by fixing the toast. People will forgive almost anything if they get good toast.
Coffee is The Grounds' signature blend, of course, which has an earthy denseness and a lingering bitterness in a piccolo. Milk-based coffees could be beefed up – this is office land after all. People really need their coffee here.
Punny cocktails ("Like a Vir-Gin"), juices, smoothies, shakes, house-made sodas and a well-priced, Australian-led wine list. There's a sweet little cocktail salon at the pointy end that is open for drinks on Fridays, when the office really does get too much. Maybe that's where they keep the animals.
Vegan factor Surprisingly few, but you can navigate your way around the meat, eggs and yoghurt.
Loving The big, comfy chairs. You could stay all day.
Not getting Salt and pepper shakers. A retro step too far in these sea salt and cracked black pepper days.
Overheard "What is kombu, and will I like it?"