Smalltown

Candice Chung
Home-made glazed doughnuts.
Home-made glazed doughnuts. Photo: Steven Siewert

Shop 1, 21-23 Old Barrenjoey Road Avalon Beach, New South Wales 2107

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Opening hours Daily, 7.30am-2pm
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Harry Dodson
Phone 02 9443 2286

For inner-city dwellers, visiting Avalon's Smalltown cafe is like taking a grown-up version of the marshmallow test. The famous '60s psychology experiment asked children to choose between eating a single marshmallow now, or resist and be rewarded with two marshmallows after a nail-biting 15-minute wait. Kids who were good at delayed gratification turned out to be more successful in life, compared to their Cookie Monster peers.  

On a crisp Sunday morning, I use the marshmallow defence to justify travelling to the northern beaches for breakfast. Sure, it's a two-hour bus ride. And sure, we can get doughnuts (and doughnut milkshakes) within a 2-kilometre radius of our home. But are they the magical, hand-glazed, CD-sized beauties Smalltown promises? They are not. 

Katrina Smith, a former community nurse and co-owner of the popular beachside haunt, is the woman behind the treats. The cafe opened in March last year, but her picture-perfect doughnuts are a more recent addition. Among the more memorable creations are the vanilla rose, crumbed bacon, bechamel and rosemary, jasmine lemon, and pina colada topped with golden coconut shavings and a slice of charred pineapple. Take heed – fancy glazes are sold only on weekends, with 60 or so up for grabs. During the week, it's every doughnut-head for themselves as Smith makes only 10 a day, usually the classic cinnamon-rolled version. 

Smalltown cafe in Avalon.
Smalltown cafe in Avalon. Photo: Steven Siewert

Smith's partner, Raul Hammerschmitt, mans the brew bar and espresso machine at Smalltown, while chef Harry Dodson takes charge of the clever, American-influenced all-day menu.  

Hammerschmitt uses the Sydney roasters Killerbee​ house blend for a well-rounded, milk-based brew, and alternates between guest roasters for filter coffees. The Colombia Carlos Guamanga​ from Melbourne's Small Batch is a clean, smoky cup with the same delicacy as a pour-over but, because it's batch brewed with a Moccamaster kettle, it takes half the time to make.  

Service is swift and easy-going. Snapper tacos at 10.38am? Go for it. We demolish the palm-sized bites with a squeeze of fresh lime on the crunchy strips of perfectly fried fish.  

Jasmine coconut and pear bircher.
Jasmine coconut and pear bircher. Photo: Steven Siewert

Next comes the Big Boy, a double egg, double bacon roll on a Brasserie Bread bun, with caramelised onion and a tangy green peppercorn aioli under a blanket of melted swiss cheese. Attack it by slicing it in half – the cross-section is a beautiful thing.    

We also spy on neighbouring tables: the beef brisket bun looks good for next time, a generous stack of slow-cooked, smoky meat served with baby cucumber pickles and a side of potato crisps. Happy children (and their adults) seem pleased with the hotcakes, syrup-soaked discs topped with flower petals, apple compote and fresh berries.   

The jasmine coconut bircher, an edible work of art, makes us happy too. A soft, jasmine-poached pear stands tall on a dish of creamy, coconut milk-soaked grains. It's surrounded by a ring of black sesame praline, a nutty, nuanced addition that adds texture to each fun-to-construct bite. The bircher is served with a shot of watermelon consomme on the side, but there's enough going on for us to sip this like a bonus beverage.      

Big Boy bacon and egg roll.
Big Boy bacon and egg roll. Photo: Steven Siewert

As for the giant, handmade doughnuts that mobilised us in the first place? Well, we tucked into one about 30 seconds after being seated. The special of the day, rosewater and honey, is decadent but not overly sweet. Smith uses fresh yeast to make them grow into a fluffy, bread-like dough that's closer to the all-American version, rather than Sydney's more common brioche-y, golfball-sized ones. It's a plate of golden goodness that sets the tone high for a beachside breakfast – especially if you manage to set one aside as a reward for the journey home. 

THE PICKS

Jasmine coconut bircher, Big Boy's bacon and egg roll, house-made doughnut specials 

THE LOOK

Modern, low-fi beachside cafe 

THE SERVICE

Upbeat and approachable 

THE VALUE

Solid for top-quality produce and house-made treats. All-day breakfast $7-$19