University Pl Camperdown, NSW 2050
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 8am-5am; Thurs 8am-9pm; Sat-Sun 9am-4pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
If there wasn't a museum attached to new cafe Sounds Sydney, its existence would be a small miracle of location, raw concrete and quality food. It's not in an obvious spot, lurking around the back of the recently opened Chau Chak Wing Museum. But, once you've scored a seat on the outdoor terrace, the cafe's calming green views, delectably inventive menu and elegant proportions mark it as a hidden gem.
Where else can you sit below a monolithic slab of architecturally designed concrete (poised and imposing with its 450-millimetre-thick walls) to eat stone fruit-covered crumpets while viewing rolling university lawns and aged fig trees?
Sounds Sydney, co-managed by Alek Jakubiak and Christine Baxter, who worked together at Trafalgar St Espresso in Annandale, is on the second level of the museum. It's open every day and offers everything from pastries and pre-made sandwiches to a properly lovely mains and kids' menu and well-curated wine list.
That is if you can drag yourself away from the museum's thylacine skeleton, the 2500-year-old mummified cat and the WWII aerodynamic anti-gravity trouser suit still bearing the knee impression of long-ago pilots testing them against centrifugal forces.
There can be few cafes metres from a first century marble sculpture of Hermes, a 16th century Flemish oil of Adam and Eve and and 40 wall panels of dirt specimens dug from across Sydney.
But, on this crisp autumn afternoon, as wheeling flocks of cockatoos frame the hanging cantilever gardens of One Central Park in the distance, we're ogling just-arrived plates of parsley and pecorino sausages, a salad bowl of roasted cauliflower and sweet potato with coffee-rubbed tofu and the aforementioned crumpets.
Crumpet season has formally begun and Sounds Sydney is offering two perfectly plump pontoons of the fluffy yeasted tea cake, piled with stewed stone fruits, strawberry slices, ricotta, honey and crushed toasted almonds. This is a sweet, tangy and gently chewy delight.
Equally excellent is Eve's salad bowl, a vibrant jubilee of pickled, roasted and raw vegetables that also features avocado, lentils, brown rice and tahini. The coffee-rubbed tofu is somehow smoky, firm and melt-in-the mouth.
Jakubiak says the salad bowl is named after Evonne Goolagong Cawley, a tribute to Australia's tennis legend and a nod to the university tennis courts that gave way for the museum's construction. Sounds Sydney was originally to be called Eve's.
The succulent sausages, from LP's Quality Meats in Chippendale, topped with a paprika-flecked fried egg and balancing on a juicy mound of spicy chickpea peperonata are quietly fought over.
The intention to eat lunch here stretches into an afternoon drinking glasses of Agrarian Frisky Farmer chardonnay and cups of Little Marionette coffee until the sun almost disappears beyond the squawking ibis-filled trees lining nearby broadway and a city that feels very far away in this beautiful spot.
Which all goes to say, come for the ancient Egyptian felines, gravity pants and mounted Tasmanian tigers and stay for the glorious locale, lovely food and lots and lots of concrete.
Main attraction: Splendid, thoughtfully made food on a new museum's secret balcony overlooking rolling green lawns and lush foliage.
Must-try dish: Parsley and pecorino sausages from LP's Quality Meats, topped with a fried egg and flecked with paprika on chickpea peperonata.
Insta-worthy dish: Golden sourdough crumpets from This Is Us bakery, strewn with stewed fruit, strawberry slices, ricotta, honey and nuts.