The concrete jungle of Rhodes. To me, this over-apartmentalised area was always associated with place where I went to get my camera serviced. Keeping the tools sharp for creating great art is no mean feat. How does this relate to Auvers Cafe? Well, here’s some weekly trivia: Auvers is the name of the town in which he grew up and painted many of his greatest works.
Am I visiting Auvers cafe to be inspired? Possibly. Am I visiting to faceplant into matcha hotcakes? Certainly.
Date Last Visited: 10/Sep/2017
Address: Shop 2, 42 Walker Street, Rhodes, Sydney
Highlight Dishes: croissant benedict, matcha French toast
Price Guide (approx): $20 plus drinks
Auvers isn’t called Auvers for nothing – it’s a space serving double duty as a cafe, as well as a gallery for small independent artists. While not a novel concept in Sydney and Melbourne, it’s certainly the only one I know of anywhere near the Rhodes area – ‘cafe’ and the ‘art’ underpin the establishment. Founder Ron Chen also considers Auvers to embody a third philosophy – ‘inspired’. Indeed, these three words are prominently displayed if you hop onto Auvers’ website. I won’t pretend to understand what ‘inspired’ means as it relates to a cafe’s philosophy, but if it means the food is inspired, then I’m all ears – or rather, all stomach.
In any case, I’m a fan of the mixed use space concept: such venues are often well-designed, attractive, and chic – a space suitable for displaying works of art and is in some fashion, a work of art in and of itself.
Auvers is no exception – famous Sydney designer Matt Woods (see Rabbit Hole, Devon Barangaroo) shows his hand here, with a cool blue, minimalist aesthetic defining the cafe. While I liked the somewhat industrial/refined man-cave look, it did mean that the cafe needed a few more customers showing up in order for it to ‘warm up’.
You can of course, purchase any of the art on display, and food itself is served on Denise McDonald crockery, also displayed for sale. A positive feedback loop, as it were.
So the space is artsy and hosts art. Is the food also a tapestry of flavour?
While some dishes take obvious cues from Asia, the food at Auvers is also inspired from its namesake’s sovereign – French influences show up in the chicken roulade, and last time I checked so is the croissant in the eggs benedict.
But first, the decidedly Japanese drinks. While the cafe appears to take great pride in their coffees, it was difficult to resist my inner Nippon coming out, and so out came houjicha & matcha lattes. The latter deserves a spot in the pantheon of best matcha lattes in Sydney, balancing well on the triangle of sweetness, richness, and intensity of matcha. It ain’t the best Sydney’s got, but it’s not far from it.
The same can’t quite be said of the houjicha latte. This was unfortunate, as I was looking forward to this one the most – houjicha lattes are incredibly rare in Sydney – houjicha powder is difficult and expensive to get even in Japan – so even DIYing at home is a tricky proposition. Sadly, something was off in the kitchen: this latte was too watery, and ultimately, did not exhibit houjicha ‘oomph’.
While the houjicha latte was watery filler, the eggs benedict was all killer. Here was a gobsmacking flavour bomb of tender-soft pulled pork, perfectly-gooey onsen eggs, and a real crispy, buttery croissant. The citrus-laden ponzu hollandaise was a decidedly clever touch, adding that Asiatic feel, uplifting the heaviness of the dish.
Oh boy, how skeptical I was when the Lady decided to order the dish. After all, it was merely called ‘eggs benedict’ – something that I never order in its traditional form. But oh no, Auvers’ ‘Frenched’ version is anything but traditional. It’s anything but boring; it’s everything delicious!
Harking directly from Gallic cuisine, Auvers’ chicken roulade is solid proper French. Uncle Toby’s rolled chicken is stuffed with a heady mixture of spinach & goats cheese, and served with flavour boosters in the form of sweet carrots, an umami-laden mushroom sauce, and creamy cauliflower puree. The chicken itself was just a tad overdone; however, the moreish spinach & cheese did go some way making up for it.
Overall, the dish fell a bit short in the flavour department, so I’m not in a rush to re-order it. I would expect that brining the chicken (perhaps in a dashi in continuing the multicultural theme), and a slow-poach would go a long way to improve the dish.
I have to admit, the first thought that crossed my mind when the confit mushrooms appeared before my eyes was ‘whoa, this dish could really use a splash of colour’. Sure, the dish features green peppercorn sauce and chives, but this was curiously presented at the bottom of the bowl. Wha?
In any case, while not a stellar example of visually pleasing plating, the dish itself is a surefire winner for mushroom lovers or vegetarians. The shiitake were cooked perfectly – an excellent expression of ‘meatiness’ in a mushroom – with lots of bite, resistance and incredibly strong flavour. Mushroom lovers, please heed; mushroom abhorrers, take leave. And yes, the punchy green peppercorn sauce certainly did its job at maintaining the interest of the dish with spicy, fragrant notes, even if it wasn’t allowed to show itself off visually.
The dish that probably prompted you to visit Auvers in the first place, it takes some serious self-control not to order the Auvers matcha pancakes. Fortunately, I make no pretenses about my lack of mental fortitude, and I’m glad I didn’t – Auvers’ hotcakes are frankly worth the calories.
It was a matter of getting the fundamentals correct before the accoutrements: fluffy, moist, and true to their name, hot. Critically important was that they came in suitably thick stacks – real hotcakes – as opposed to pretender pancakes. Then there’s the winning matcha glaze, generously drenched over the entire plate. It was at just the right viscosity – thick enough to be moreish, but not to the point that it would have become gummy. With a potent hit of matcha and a restrained level of sweetness, I might actually have to call it – this is the first time I’ve had a matcha-based glaze that approaches, if not matches, what Cre Asion produces.
I guess I should start writing a ‘best hotcakes in Sydney’ post…
It’s pretty safe to say that Auvers represents an excellent addition to the Rhodes cafe scene. That it lacks a consistent identification with a particular culture’s cuisine is in this case, an advantage – there should be something for everyone, no matter who you are or where you’re from. Bonus points if you’re into art. Man, who knows what Vincent Van Gogh would have come up with if he had food like this for fuel…
This post is based on an independently-paid visit to Auvers Cafe in Rhodes
- A multicultural menu that doesn’t shoehorn itself into any particular style
- It’s also an art gallery!
- Some presentation/flavour quirks slightly mar the food experience
- Ah, that houjicha latte has so much potential
- The space is a little too cool for this food blogger
Would I return: yep!
I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.
Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.
F7 | S4 | A2