Darling Dr Haymarket, NSW 2000
|Opening hours||Daily 8am-8pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
It's early days for Sydney's newest food court (hush my mouth, gourmet precinct) at The Exchange in Darling Square.
People are wandering around with their phones held out, live-streaming, Periscoping and Insta-storying the Nike Savvas installation that flutters above their heads like a giant mobile, and zooming in on the pretty flowers at Bubble Nini.
Those sweet of tooth, however, head straight to Saga Lyte, the miniature version of Enmore's Saga brought to you by Andy Bowdy and Maddison Howes.
It's a simple shopfront more than a cafe, and you have to mill around and wait for your order, then find a seat somewhere, inside or out.
Plus, you have to eat from cardboard boxes. But the cakes are worth the indignity and the coffee is great.
For his first building in Australia, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has wrapped the round, six-storey Exchange in 20 kilometres of timber ribbons, fusing natural materials and new technology in what he calls a "hive" of activity.
I like to think of it more as an architectural cronut, rising yeastily on puffy rounds of croissant/donut pastry. (There's a nice challenge for Mr Bowdy – to create a Kengo cake in honour of the building.)
Once inside, check out the detail from local star Anthony Gill, such as wall niches for sauce bottles, and an ingenious lock-up system of sliding metal doors.
The layout is hard to navigate, having been deliberately conceived as being "non-directional". Don't you just love architects?
A tall-and-small cake called Thor ($15) is a riot of coconut and caramel carried by layers of rich, mousse-like cake, topped with a tidal foam of toasty meringue.
Then there's Peggy, Karl and Izzy, all miniatures of Andy Bowdy's genre-bending celebration cakes, and a dizzy array of vanilla slices, pavs, meringues and cheesy-mite scrolls (made from croissant dough, tasty cheese and Vegemite).
Savoury food can suffer from reheating. A long, crusty sausage roll ($8.50) has a fine mince of pork and veal flecked with carrot and herbs, but it felt dry after a 10-minute wait.
My Breakie Bozza, a milk bun stuffed with grill-marked, Spam-thick mortadella, a poachie, a pickley sort of relish and soft, mild provolone ($12), was in the sandwich press too long and came with a very dark, toughened bottom.
There are plans to do proper desserts and ice-cream sundaes on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights once the kitchen gets up to speed. Until then, let them eat cake.
The seasonal blend from Artificer's Shoji Sasa and Dan Yee is exceptional, with an elegance and gentle, roasty warmth that belies its depth of character.
There are also single origin beans for long blacks and filter, all served in Biopak cups.
Teas are from Teacraft and sodas by PS, but don't forget the Bucket Boys are around the corner, where the Marrickville craft beer specialists have a walk-in cellar of natural wines and spirits, and a cheery takeaway bar with ales and cocktails on tap.
Loving Sydney's new village square
Not getting Why civilised people can't get their coffee in proper cups.
Vegan factor Light-on – just avocado toast and a roast carrot and radicchio salad and soy and macadamia milk for coffee.
Overheard "I'm just here to do some research for my wedding cake."
Caffe latte $4