160 Sailors Bay Road Northbridge, New South Wales 2063
|Opening hours||Mon-Sat, 6am-3pm; Sun, 6.30am-12.30pm|
|Phone||(02) 9967 2007|
There are two kinds of regular customers at Ritual Coffee Traders: the very fit, and children of the very fit. I'm judging not so much by everyone's physicality, but the quality of leisurewear. Everywhere I look in this tiny Northbridge cafe, people are swathed in new-season yoga pants or professional running gear. The dress code, we gather, must be "sports luxe".
My brunch partner and I belong to a third group – the weekend transients. Unlike the locals who stop by to refuel after a morning run, we are here with a very specific purpose: to try the sweet treats created by the owner's wife, Taline Gabrielian.
That they are mostly raw and vegan may be a bonus to some, but having recently become addicted to the mum of two's Instagram updates of chocolate and cream marble slices, homemade Twix Bars, and colourful cheesecakes, we are simply curious to find out how they stack up in real life.
We are not the only ones mesmerised by her impeccably styled posts. Since launching her health food range Hippie Lane, Gabrielian has amassed more than 100,000 Instagram followers in a single year. When her husband Sam Gabrielian (owner of Gabrielle Coffee and Willoughby's Dose cafe) opened Ritual last November, it made sense to base the cafe menu on her already popular recipes.
Our mission starts with encouraging signs. The smell of freshly-baked paleo muffins fills the air and the pastry shelves are brimming with raw brownies, Bounty balls, banana bread and gluten-free slices.
We nab a window seat and a friendly waitress immediately takes our coffee order. A creamy Monte Carlo blend cappuccino has a round, toffee finish but it's the pour-over that steals the show. Served on a fan-shaped metallic platter, the freshly brewed single origin special (from Nyeri, Kenya) comes with a pocket thermometer and a shot of ground beans. Barista and cafe manager Alex Savidis explains the coffee is at its best at 55 degrees. As we wait for it to cool down, a sniff of the aromatic ground coffee will "get our palates ready". He's right. The bright and citrusy brew is well worth our patience.
Turning our attention to food, the one-page menu has plenty for anyone with special dietary requirements. The Hippie Lane granola, for instance, has a raw alternative (rawnola) and both are refined-sugar free, served with a choice of almond, rice or soy milk. For omnivores, a bacon and egg sourdough sandwich with melty tasty cheese feels naughty among the more pure offerings, though there are always healthier savoury options such as poached chicken with basil pesto on soy and linseed, or a falafel bowl with a medley of quinoa, hummus and nutty tahini dressing.
The cafe's strength is in its sweet dishes. The acai bowl is a kaleidoscope of shredded coconut, fresh fruit and crunchy granola clusters. Instead of milk, the base is a frappe-like blend of berries, raw cacao, chia seeds and coconut water. Try each element on its own before mixing it all into a rich, chocolatey puddle.
Another winner is the chia pudding. Served with a generous dollop of thick coconut yoghurt and almond slivers for crunch, it's a satisfying breakfast dessert that's creamy and textural, with just the right amount of sweetness.
The meal isn't complete without a Hippie Lane finale. As we tuck into a raw Snickers bar and wonder how something so nutty and decadent can be vice-free, a young girl walks away happily with a vegan choc chip cookie. "Yum!" she exclaims, after a hearty bite. If that's what a healthy ritual feels like, no wonder it's overrun with locals.
THE PICKS Acai bowl with granola, chia pudding, raw Snickers bar
THE COFFEE Gabriel Coffee
THE LOOK Cosy with an Instagram-friendly designer polish
THE SERVICE Warm, efficient and full of energy