Bacon Festival 2017 at Cuckoo Callay | Newtown

Tracing its roots back to 2015, Cuckoo Callay’s annual bacon festival has truly become a mainstay of the Newtown cafe, as well as for the suburb’s cafe scene in general. While perhaps not quite achieving institution status as of yet, I can definitely say they’ve pulled a hat trick. An annual homage to everything porcine might seem like immoderate flagrancy, but in the end BACON IS FREAKING DELICIOUS.

Welcome to 2017’s edition of Cuckoo Callay’s Bacon Festival!

Date Last Visited: 26/3/2017 6/3/2016 8/2/2015
Address: 324b Newtown Train Station Newtown, NSW 2042
Recommended Dish(es): Bacon Mac Daddy, Reservoir Hogs
Price Guide (approx): $25pp plus drinks.

Both my 2017 & 2016 bacon festival visits to Cuckoo Callay were by invitation, courtesy of the lovely folks at Wasamedia. As such, The Usual Disclaimer applies.

Those who are more focussed on food of the non-swine variety can click here for a rundown on Cuckoo Callay’s standard menu!

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival 2017

The premise hasn’t changed: in addition to Cuckoo Callay’s standard menu (which doesn’t go anywhere), a special pamphlet containing all the baconey goodness is available for the next few months. Dish names always relate in some way to the holy goodness that is bacon. Last year, it was all puns, puns and puns (with some burger buns). This year, it’s…actually more of the same.

…but in a good way. Cuckoo Callay’s gone the full movie route: presenting porky twists on classic films; these are so cool, I’m actually going to include menu photos. Indeed, the creativity that went into this year’s menu design is worth showing off.

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Fest Menu

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Fest Menu

12 classic films dishes, 3 of which are drinks. While we had a solid squad going (yo sup @stephwoon, @nutellasum, @ifat23 & @thegirlswhoatetheworld), we decided to hog out on plated food instead of drinks. As much as I love bacon, I prefer to eat it than drink it.

Let’s get our snouts in there.

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival flatlay

(Bottom left) Jurassic Pork: pork belly w/sticky chilli & fennel seed glaze, granny smith apple puree, sour cherry relish, pickled apple & fennel salad – $25

I forgot to take a full picture of the Jurassic Pork, but that’s okay – it’s a Jurassic-sized dish. While seemingly small, there are two deceivingly-sized slabs of tender, perfectly-cooked & glazed pork belly. I don’t actually like pork belly all that much, and yet I couldn’t help but nod in satisfaction as I made my way through layers of juicy, tender goodness. That there’s a good heaping of crunchy, acidic apple & fennel salad greatly assists in cutting through what would otherwise be an oleaginous dish.

What makes Cuckoo’s pork belly special is the heavy reliance on the musk of fennel and acidity of apples & cherries to provide a familiar, yet unique flavour mix to the dish. There’s arguably too much going on, but when each bite tastes dandy, there’s not much more to say than get some more of that pork on your fork!

I personally wouldn’t order it (I still can’t bring myself to chow down two huge slabs), but I would definitely steal some from your plate if I had the chance!

 

Look, not much needs to be said about the Bacon Mac Daddy. It’s been the father figure of Cuckoo Callay’s menu since the very beginning, and continues in 2017’s rendition with no peer. Yep, that’s right – it’s still my favourite plate on the entire bacon festival menu. Actually scratch that, it’s the best dish of anything Cuckoo Callay has to offer.

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival The Bacon Mac Daddy: double smoked bacon, bacon mac 'n' cheese, 63C egg, tomato relish & fried shallots in a croissant

The Bacon Mac Daddy: double smoked bacon, bacon mac ‘n’ cheese, 63C egg, tomato relish & fried shallots in a croissant – $1

It would actually be so easy to screw up the Mac Daddy – all you have to do is to serve up a limp croissant. Here’s the thing: having had it four times now, they’ve never messed it up. Despite the fact that it’s loaded with more filling than a pig could eat, the base croissant remains flaky, buttery and well, like a damn good croissant. Now, add in the rest of the goodies: perfectly-cooked mac ‘n’ cheese, a perfectly-poached egg, and lots of crispy bacon and, well, it’s no wonder that nothing has yet been able to get the best of Mac Daddy.

The Bacon Mac Daddy: double smoked bacon, bacon mac 'n' cheese, 63C egg, tomato relish & fried shallots in a croissant

This is a dish that’s a blessing to Newtown.

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival-5 Close encounters of the bacon rind: bacon steak, maple bacon, double smoked bacon, bacon sausage, 2 63C eggs on sourdough

Close encounters of the bacon rind: bacon steak, maple bacon, double smoked bacon, bacon sausage, 2 63C eggs on sourdough – $25

Close encounters of the bacon rind: bacon steak, maple bacon, double smoked bacon, bacon sausage, 2 63C eggs on sourdough – $25

A fanciful lift of the cloche and you feel like you could be on set in the Masterchef kitchen. Except this kitchen’s devoted to bacon, and the revealed dish features the word bacon no less than five times. If there’s a dish more bacon-loaded than this one, I’d like to see it.

The close encounters of the bacon rind is the dish that aims to show off Cuckoo Callay’s full bacon talent, with multiple variants of bacon all on the one plate. The cloche-lift released a powerful bout of smoke that could be smelled by anyone in a 3-table radius. It’s more theatrical than anything else, but does highlight the fact that this one’s really all about bacon.

Cuckoo Callay Newtown Close encounters of the bacon rind: bacon steak, maple bacon, double smoked bacon, bacon sausage, 2 63C eggs on sourdough

As for the bacon itself, Cuckoo’s perchance for sourcing the good stuff is already a well-known fact. It’s all on point – whether it be the sweetly-glazed maple bacon, thick-cut & chewy bacon steak, or the smoky variant – all fine and good. What was outstanding to me was the bacon sausage. Bloody hell, this was heavenly: so much flavour, so much tenderness, no grit, no inconsistency; an absolute highlight.

Close encounters of bacon? More like a faceplant of bacon.

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival Frankenswine: crunchy mozzarella sticks wrapped in double-smoked bacon w/spicy dipping sauce

(Bottom right) Frankenswine: crunchy mozzarella sticks wrapped in double-smoked bacon w/spicy dipping sauce – $12 for 2, extras $6ea

Trying out the two-bites-each Frankenswine is a nice entry point into Cuckoo’s bacon menu if all the other dishes seem a little excessive: these are basically deep fried cheese & bacon sticks. The batter is crunchy, and the mozzarella sticky and stretchy. However, the chilli mayo was required, as the sticks themselves actually lacked a bit of flavour relative to the amount of (flavourless) batter.

Nice to have as a side, but not the best expression of the bacon menu.

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival-3 Silence of the hams: ham hock & cheddar croquette, pea panna cotta, bacon jam, honey & balsamic glaze & 63C egg

Silence of the hams: ham hock & cheddar croquette, pea panna cotta, bacon jam, honey & balsamic glaze & 63C egg – $20

Ordinarily, I would put on a most incredulous facial expression at a menu that only features one mere croquette. However, the potential for this response was swiftly arrested when I (silently) beheld the silence of the hams.

It’s a monolithic cube of crunchy batter that ensconces soft, juicy ham and cheddar in the perfect ratio. The best way for me to describe the insides is hardly completed: it’s cheeesy, gooey, porky goodness. The pea panna cotta was personally superfluous to me, as was the 63C egg (though Cuckoo Callay does like to show off their admittedly excellently-poached eggs), while the balsamic was a nice touch that helped cut through the dish’s richness.

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival-2 Slumhog millionaire: pulled pork w/housemade BBQ sauce, double smoked bacon, American cheese, beer-battered onion rings & slaw in a milk bun

Slumhog millionaire: pulled pork w/housemade BBQ sauce, double smoked bacon, American cheese, beer-battered onion rings & slaw in a milk bun – $23

You can’t have a bacon menu without a bacon burger, and Cuckoo Callay’s Slumhog Millionaire doesn’t disappoint. It’s a mountain of pulled pork, cheese, crunchy onion rings and of course – bacon. I’m not ashamed to proclaim that I loved this burger, even if there wasn’t any particular x-factor to it. It’s simply a tower of power – I sure as heck felt powerful eating it.

I still don’t quite get charcoal buns though!

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival-6 Reservoir Hogs: bacon wrapped burrito w/pork & black bean chilli, cheesy scrambled eggs, avocado salsa & sour cream

Reservoir Hogs: bacon wrapped burrito w/pork & black bean chilli, cheesy scrambled eggs, avocado salsa & sour cream – $21

It may seem like one of the smallest dishes on Cuckoo Callay’s bacon menu, but hold your reservations on Resevoir Hogs. While the package is petite, it’s tight and packs a punch. Acutely Mexican, this is the ultimate expression of a burrito if a burrito were to honour the swine. It particularly appealed to me as I love scrambled eggs, and I can actually see myself eating this as a breakfast dish more than any other item on the menu. Yep, even more so than the Mac Daddy.

Hey Cuckoo Callay staff: you should make this one available as takeaway!

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival-9 Some Like it Hog: peanut butter & bacon-stuffed French toast, caramelised banana, caramel pearls & bacon crumb w/housemade bacon & banana ice cream

Some Like it Hog: peanut butter & bacon-stuffed French toast, caramelised banana, caramel pearls & bacon crumb w/housemade bacon & banana ice cream – $19

Been porked enough yet? I sure reached my limit 2-3 dishes ago. However, the show must reach a conclusion. Some like it sweet, Some Like it Hog.

This is French toast taken to new planes of decadence with the inclusion of bacon. This dish was so intense, nobody should try and tackle it by themselves. Instead, share it as a group. While you’ll only manage a few bites at most, they’ll be glorious, glorious mouthfuls. Fluffy french toast soaked in peanut butter goodness, salty & savoury hits from bacon (plus its bits) & caramelised banana, plus a freaking bacon ice cream! make a dish that will hit hard.

You have been warned.

The conclusion is obvious: Cuckoo Callay has nailed the brief again. There simply is no other cafe sporting a menu anywhere nearly as comprehensive when it comes to celebrating porky business. While the bacon festival presents an easy target for criticism (especially from non-meat eaters), the simple fact of the matter is that the dishes are genuinely delicious. Sure, not something you’d want to eat on a daily (or even weekly) basis, but when you want to make your next cheat meal count – Cuckoo Callay won’t disappoint.

The Good:

  • A tight, well-executed bacon-centric menu for the third year running; no other cafe does bacon better
  • A regular menu exists alongside to cater for non-bacon eaters

The Bad:

  • It can all seem a little over the top at times.
  • Holy Batman, watch the sodium levels!

The Ugly:

  • There’s no getting around the fact that if you sign up for the bacon life, you sign up for the rich-dish life. Come prepared, come hungry.

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.

F7.5 | S: N/A | A1.5
7/10 Caesars

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival 2016

Feel like reminiscing last year’s bacon festival? Well don’t let me stop you: start scrolling!

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival

Bacon Mac Daddy – double smoked bacon, bacon mac n cheese, fried egg & bacony tomato jam in a toasted croissant – $16

A strong start, and in fact the best dish of the four we tried, the bacon mac daddy is the true mac daddy of breakfast croissants. This has everything – a beaut of a toasted croissant, crispy, buttery, and sweet. Then, there’s that mac n cheese: creamy, gooey, chewy mac that’s filled with cheesiness. I had thought the mac would be a weak spot, as I naively thought that pasta might not be a strong point here. Trust me to be more wrong than ever, it’s great!

The pig in the room then makes its introduction – Cuckoo Callay’s got bacon down to an art now. No prizes for guessing – it’s bacon; it’s smoked, and it’s perfect for my palate. I don’t think there’s a cafe in Sydney that does it better than Cuckoo. Why would there be?

Finally, to top it all off is a fried egg (optional in my opinion, but egg is always a welcome addition), and a slightly-sweet bacon jam to bring it all together.

It might be too much for one person, but it’s certainly good enough for you to think twice about sharing, even as your arteries begin clogging like mine did. We’re not done yet.

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival

Pig deal fritter – double smoked bacon (or haloumi), feta & zucchini fritters, jalapeno, tomato jam, avocado com salsa & 63C egg – $21

What’s the pig deal with this dish? I’ll tell you what it is – it’s that same double smoked bacon goodness that featured earlier. However, the avocado salsa is actually the highlight – creamy avo, chewy & sweet bursts of corn, and a surprisingly spicy kick as well. Very Mexican, very tasty – but watch out if you can’t handle it! Cuckoo’s 63C eggs are also ever perfect – though having had overcooked ones before, it’s more a luck of the draw. No spoilt yolks today!

The downside of this dish is actually what’s meant to distinguish it most – the feta & zucchini fritters. They weren’t so great, as they were quite bready, starchy and chewy without imparting enough flavour to make an impact. The avocado, bacon & egg stole the show and while that’s a decent rescue, the reality is not every part of the dish worked.

You could choose to save your stomach and get the bacon mac daddy instead, or…

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival

Pig in a box – a smokey bacon box w/pork & camembert filling, roasted truss tomatoes & spinach puree & 63C egg – $22

…a pig in a box. Not a whole swine, mind you, but it’s not too far off. When we pried the magical box of pork open, one of us remarked “whoa, it’s like bacon wrapped in bacon” – to which iFat quipped “is that a problem?”

Why yes sir, it most assuredly is not one. This is a delicious parcel of pork that upon cutting, reveal swathes of creamy camembert, what I think is pork mince, and bacon splaying out everywhere. It’s truly a self-contained unit in that it could be served fully separate from every other element of the dish and carry itself just fine. It’s got all the crispy & chewy texture of bacon plus cheese, and plenty of flavour to boot.

That said, the inclusion of a spicy spinach puree and some more of that tomato jam is a bonus, and a unique one at that in the case of the green stuff. Some vine tomatoes are provided as well, supposedly to cut through the richness of the dish, however we felt they weren’t really necessary and I ended up eating most of them out of pity.

Oh and as for that egg – it’s actually meant to rest on top of the magic bacon box, but alas, accidents happen.

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival Newtown

Bacon All the Rules – Black Forest Smokehouse maple bacon, bourbon bacon, bacon steak, bacon sausage & bacon-crumbed poached eggs served on sourdough ($24).

Bacon All the Rules is a dish that was on the 2015 menu, but made it into the 2016 cut as well. I can easily see why – it’s a glorious homage to all things pig. Here’s what I said back in 2015:

I’m clearly living up to Bacon All the Rules’ namesake by including a McDonald’s phone case and iPhone in the shot. I swear I’m not actually doing marketing for them (yeah, because two of the largest companies in the world are clearly in dire need of my help). Indeed, even McDonald’s can be a prop if the heart wills it strong enough.

But enough about that – porking all the rules is what this dish is all about. Do you know how many times the word ‘bacon’ appears in the dish’s description? Five. That’s a lot of times for one ingredient, but any less and it’s doing the dish a disservice.

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival Newtown

I have dreams about that sausage

There are so many aspects of this dish to like, it would almost have been impossible to start – except that the bacon sausage was a clear favourite. I’ll try not to use superlatives here, but if I had to compile a list of the three best bangers I’ve ever had, this one would displace 3rd place and comfortably win at least bronze, maybe silver. The texture is amazingly soft and pillowy, almost tasting like a pate of bacon, but retaining the tenderness and “grain” of sausage. As for the the flavour – it’s ever slightly salty, but the sourdough is there for a reason. A seriously brilliant sausage.

Oh, and then there’s the bacon steak – this is a clever number, involving what is essentially a thicker-than-usual slice of bacon. It’s cooked in a similar way to bacon rashers, with the result of a juicy slab of pork that’s got all the flavour of bacon as you know it, with the texture of a much more substantial cut.

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival

My sweet valenswine – carrot cake waffle, house-made bacon & cinnamon ice cream, maple bacon, caramelised walnuts, fresh blueberries & freeze dried mandarin – $20

Damn dude, if I was second guessing it before, I sure as hell ain’t any more – this cafe definitely deserves the moniker of Cuckoo Callay. Last year, a similar (albeit arguably even whackier) dish made an appearance also based on waffles and maple bacon. This year, Cuckoo’s got a mind to make you think doubly hard about dieting after having my sweet valenswine. Sure, you could argue it’s even a little bit good for you – carrot cake, blueberries, walnuts & mandarin. All good things. Ahem.

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival

Fruit and nut salad, right?

Well, until you factor in the deliciously refreshing and chunky bacon & cinnamon ice cream, oodles of chewy, honey-sweet maple bacon, and coming to the realisation that you’re still eating waffles. It’s delectably guilty, unjustifiably indulgent, and oh so delicious.

I’m not even going to explain why when I say this: do share.

Cuckoo Callay Bacon Festival

Cuckoo is bacon me crazy!

For bacon lovers: to say that the new menu is worth trying is really selling it short. You simply have to bacon an effort to get down here and give it a go. Vegetarians – don’t you worry. Cuckoo still has a full spread of vego options just so you won’t be left out. Everyone can be included!

The Good:

  • Still remarkable bacon, no cafe does it better
  • There’s still a regular menu to cater for non-bacon eaters

The Bad:

  • There are clear favourites over some less-than-impressive picks
  • Drink up – there’s a lot of saltiness to be dealt with; it’s not the kind of “get up and go” breakfast

The Ugly:

  • When the sun’s out, outdoor sitting becomes absolute hell (no shade – found this out the hot way)

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.

F7.5 | S: N/A | A1.5
7/10 Caesars

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8 comments on “Bacon Festival 2017 at Cuckoo Callay | Newtown”

    • Michael Shen Reply

      I didn’t manage to say hi to her during the event! The bane that is the long table *shakes head*

      The bacon is seriously good, you gotta come down and try it some time.

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