Disclaimer: I’m Still Hungry dined as guests of The Chalkboard Cafe. Opinions are however, my own.
Disclaimer #2: being guests of The Chalkboard Cafe, the level of service quality is possibly different to what is afforded a normal patron. This seems highly unlikely given my own observations, but a disclosure nonetheless.
I never expected to go to Waterloo for a cafe visit, nor did I expect to be invited to one. Turns out I should be paying more attention to the area, because if more places like The Chalkboard Cafe spring up, the place will become quite the foodie magnet.
I was invited to try out TCC over a month ago, but could only go last week as I had these rather inconvenient things called exams in the way. C’est la vie I suppose.
Anyways, introductions aside, let’s explore this rather hidden establishment – it’s around a 20 minute walk from Redfern station, alternatively parking is very easy to find on any of the many residential streets that surround the cafe.
Date Last Visited: 11/7/2013
Address: 197 Young St Waterloo, NSW 2017 (inside the PYD building)
Recommended Dish(es): the three course breakfast (when it comes out)
The first thing I noticed was the location. TCC is not only located in a relatively unknown (or is a better term “up and coming”?) location, and that location happens to be devoid of pretty much any other eatery.
Second, it’s located in the PYD building. What is that I hear you ask; it’s apparently the premier designer furniture retailer in Redfern. This has two different meanings:
1) it makes the cafe kind of difficult to locate, and because I’m not great with directions, it took me a minute to figure out how to get in (haha stupid me).
2) a far more important implication is that the cafe looks GREAT. Check below before I resume
So as one can see, TCC has a unique position of sharing its cafe area with the showroom floor of the PYD building. This means that the cafe itself doesn’t have a furniture & furnishings expense, with the bigger plus being that their furniture is very unique and fashionable. I’m not sure how much you care for these things, but cafes generally do have an image that is fairly important when deciding whether to go to cafe A or B (not that TCC has this problem yet).
In addition, the showroom changes its furniture every month or so, so the look actually never stays the same. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you, but hey, you’d think furniture designers know how to strut their stuff.
Oh, one final boon – how easy is it to cross-sell your coffee to prospective furniture buyers?
We arrived on a Thursday, which isn’t particularly busy as one would imagine, indeed there weren’t many people at all, but I’m told the place gets quite packed for dinner, and naturally the weekends – flat out. I didn’t mind this, because it meant that the service was going to be quite attentive, I wonder what it would be like coming during a busy period.
The main owner & manager of TCC, Paula, and the main chef Robert cordially introduced themselves to us and with no unnecessary fanfare, we were on our way!
Paula mentioned that a specialty of TCC is their juices. Looking at the menu, there were 6 options. It’s not many, but judging from the ingredients list in each of them I’d say that there’s a juice for every occasion.
This first juice, the nice ‘n’ smooth, is quite sweet. The honey flavour is very noticeable, and you have to enjoy honey to enjoy this juice. Luckily, I happen to – quite a bit! The next most eminent flavour was the apple, then the orange. The strawberry you could taste but it’s very subtle.
Overall, slightly too sweet for my liking, but I hadn’t realised you could stir the juice so the froth and the base end up mixing. The sweetness gets toned down a bit more if you do that. I’d recommend doing it for texture purposes as well, unless you love froth.
The second juice packs a far greater zing – no doubt because of the ginger. The Lady didn’t like this very much, because it was too strong and the idea of ginger in a juice is still pretty foreign (and it is for me too, to an extent). I found myself reaching for the first juice more often, but I suppose if you took a big swig of this it would “wake you up”, for sure.
Actually, we found that this juice tastes MUCH better when had after bites of food. I know what you’re thinking – PALATE CLEANSER. Yep, that ginger has its place there. So there you have it – a serving suggestion
Paula also mentioned that TCC is very proud of their coffee. Unfortunately, neither The Lady nor I felt up to coffee that morning for some reason (perhaps already too late?), so we had to pass. Next time, I’m definitely going to give it a go – Paula takes great pride in her coffee!
But since we’ve only had juices…I’m still hungry.
Here we go.
This particular item isn’t actually on their menu as of our visit. Paula said it’ll be added some time the next week (so that’s the week as of this blog’s post date).
The items on the platter itself are not fanciful – they’re common breakfast items. What’s unique is that they’ve been downsized and plated together for three times the variety. Seems like such a simple thing to do…so why hasn’t any other cafe done it?
Robert explains that you could come in one day with a particular craving, say granola – but you also want the softness and warmth of pancakes, and you want something savoury on the side – but you can’t order three separate things (unless you’ve an awesome appetite). This “three course breakfast” fixes that issue. I think this is a great idea – regular readers will know I’m always a guy for variety (hence my fixation with tasting menus/degustations).
They said the pricing will be at $20, which is a decent price – had it been $25, it would’ve been a hard pill to swallow.
The eggs benedict comes with either bacon or salmon. We were plated with both variants.
Robert’s philosophy isn’t to try and be super inventive or experimental – leave that to the fine dining pioneers. What he tries to do is to make simple food that doesn’t require a dictionary to understand, but to do it exceptionally well.
I’d say that’s been accomplished. Look at that egg, the way the yolk is a bright golden yellow oozing out. Egg fanatics rejoice – this is a fantastic eggs benny, both the salmon and bacon variants. I prefer the bacon personally (dude, how can you beat bacon), but it’s great that salmon is available for the alternative eater.
I waskind of worried there wouldn’t be enough bacon, but 3 bites in and that worry got put to rest.
In the end, any cafe worth their salt does a decent eggs benny, I’m glad that TCC is up there with the greats in this department.
After the eggs benny, I decided to tackle the pancakes next. I’m going to treat the granola as some kind of dessert.
The Lady found this portion of pancakes to be perfect, as in the past she usually couldn’t finish a normal serving due to sweetness overload (which I was happy to mop up).
Added advantage came with the fact that the maple syrup arrives separate from the rest of the dish = self control. The Lady drizzled only a little bit on (as much as you can see in that picture), while I slathered mine. Even then, I didn’t finish it all off, so those with super sweet teeth can take it up a notch.
The pancakes themselves were pretty nice – the vanilla cream substituted for what is usually mascarpone or other such creamy cheese. It should be healthier, and I sure hope so for my sake.
Sweet tooth galore, this dish is.
To wrap things up, something sweet but not overwhelmingly so like the pancakes; the granola is for me a nice way to end this breakfast. I wasn’t a big fan of the julienne granny smith apples as I’m not a fan of sour apples in general, but the rest of it was as delicious as it was carby.
The dish wouldn’t have worked for me had it not been for the creamy milk provided (which I did add all of). It resolved my usual complaint about granola – that the yoghurt often overpowers the dish.
Okay, so we got pretty chuffed at this point, but wait, there’s more.
I’m not sure how large the portions of the dishes would be if you ordered them separately, but the value proposition seems pretty good at this place – reinforced by the upcoming dish…
The Lady calls me “brioche baby”, no kidding – I love my brioche, so when asked what we’d like to try next, this became an obvious option.
As the dear reader can see, there’s a LOT of brioche and bacon for $16. Value? Tchyeah.
At this point, we were reaching diminishing returns on taste, and I was practically stuffing myself with the second piece of brioche (The Lady only had one; poor her – having to eat all that free food *ahem*).
Incredibly carby stuff though, so if you’re going to eat this, I hope you have a very energetic day ahead of you. Perhaps 3 hours of basketball? A half marathon? Those should about do it.
TCC has only been open for about half a year, and I feel that it’s capable of serving some great food at decent prices. It’s only downside is being situated in a hard-to-reach location unless you already live in the area.
I’ll say this though, if TCC was located at say, Surry Hills – it will get its own queue. Give it a go. I can’t wait to taste the rest of the menu.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
Awesome: food & service is simple done awesome, unique decor
Not so Awesome: juices are not to my palate, location makes it very difficult to get to