2 355 New Canterbury Rd Dulwich Hill, NSW 2203
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 7am-1.30pm; Sat-Sun 8am-1.30pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
When coronavirus restrictions upended small businesses last year, Small Talk, a tiny cafe on busy New Canterbury Road in Dulwich Hill, switched to takeaway only.
They went further, taking out all of the seating and tables customers had once lingered on and increasing kitchen space with a high, narrow counter closer to the door.
Such was the devotion of customers, queues formed each day for takeaway coffee and bags of the cafe's in-house bagels, biscuits, pastries and focaccia.
Changing to a cash-free, counter-service cafe turned out better than expected says Small Talk's owner Sam Terrey, who opened the cafe in 2017. A second Small Talk is due to open in Glebe on Glebe Point Road in April.
Situated between an empty shopfront, a property agent and stretches of houses and flats, Small Talk's customers sit on hard wooden benches on the footpath dipping their cinnamon doughnuts into filter brew coffee. Traffic swooshes past a metre away. The queue, and many accompanying dogs, wait patiently obeying a one-in, one-out policy.
Even three ear-muffed men with roaring chainsaws, who start chopping down a huge tree in the garden next-door, will not budge fans. The cafe's awning sign, which simply says "Coffee" in big black letters, is like a thought bubble above their heads.
Inside, where my solo entry feels like visiting an exclusive nightclub, the front counter has samples of today's baked goods. There's a chocolate-almond morning bun, a spinach and ricotta scroll with garlic butter, a fat pillow of focaccia layered with garlic, chilli and bright red tomato and a Montreal-style bagel studded with poppy, sesame and caraway seeds.
Small Talk's bagels are a mainstay. They're available plain, smeared with cream cheese or filled with five other options including bacon, pickled onion, cabbage slaw and tomato, cold smoked salmon, capers and chive cream cheese, or five layers of pastrami beneath pickles, sauerkraut and mustard.
The moustachioed man behind the counter recommends the brekky bagel that comes in the type of brown paper bag characters in American sitcoms clutch when they've bought a takeaway sandwich for lunch. Another bag is filled with a chocolate-almond morning bun as a flat white is made.
The brekky bagel is a marvel. Melty cheese in an envelope of flipped egg mingles with sweetly tart jalapeno relish, sliced tomato and perfectly chewy, crusty bread. Occasional drips means justifiably licking your fingers.
The almond-chocolate morning bun, soft and crispy with ribbons of icing sugar-dusted dough wound into a loose knot, is unravelled to dip into the creamy flat white. A return trip for the tomato and garlic focaccia two days later reveals a pungent potato, rosemary, olive and ricotta version two days later.
It's worth taking several trips to Small Talk for menu changes. A few weeks back ricotta-filled doughnuts topped with apricot jam were lounging provocatively on cooling trays.
There's also pantry items including Reuben Hills coffee, Pastificio Di Martino pastas, Beloka Water mineral water, Westmont Chilli Juice, Mama Liu's Chilli Oil and Spanish sardines.
True Small Talk fans can buy T-shirts and cotton bags featuring cartoons of a happily whistling bagel, a waving sandwich or a winking mug of coffee, all striding along in sensible shoes. Not unlike the customers, jauntily defying space restrictions, traffic noise and crashing tree branches for a strong coffee and a lovely morning bun.
Main attraction: Hand-rolled bagels, doughnuts, focaccia and pastries baked daily on the premises, served by cheery folk making Reuben Hills coffee.
Must-try dish: The brekky bagel with an eggy envelope of cheese, jalapeno relish and tomato slices.
Insta-worthy dish: Chocolate-almond morning bun, an icing sugar-dusted top-knot of softly chewy twirled dough.
Drinks: Flat white, cappuccino, latte, piccolo, long black, cold brew, filter $4/4.50; iced lattes $5; sparkling water $5; mineral water $4.