How many times has Devon Cafe rewritten its menu? I’ve lost count. Despite this boundless change, the steadfast Surry Hills institution continues to be one of Sydney’s best, offering innovative, out-of-the-box cafe fare with such success that few other cafes have managed to replicate; of those that do, none have done it for quite as long. You know what else I’ve lost count of? The number of times I’ve visited: if I were to write a new post on Devon each time they shake up the room, my blog would be renamed the Devon Cafe Appreciation Blog.
But this isn’t anything new: longtime readers and followers of my Instagram account know just how much I subscribe to Zacharay Tan’s vision of a cafe. The fact that an admittedly fickle food blogger like me can return to the very same cafe so many times should speak volumes all by itself. There is literally no other place remotely like it. No other place.
It’s about damn time I dust off the cobwebs of this post (or homage?) to Devon – dating back to 2015!! – and give it a revamp, just like their menu. The excellent Barangaroo outpost doesn’t really count: the Surry Hills store will always be closest to my heart.
Date Last Visited: 21/Oct/2017 (over 20+ visits to date)
Address: 76 Devonshire St Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Recommended Dish(es): (permanent) eggs blini, breakfast with the Sakuma’s; see below for current menu items
There is little point going into heavy-handed detail on Devon Cafe’s offerings, for they are always fleeting, ready to be replaced by the next set of crazy ideas gestating in Zacharay’s creative mind. Given the pace of Devon’s change, I’ve simply posted the latest set of menu items that I’ve personally had the chance to try, without overbearing levels of commentary. You can rest assured that unless I specifically call out otherwise, I still like pretty much everything on their menu. Feel free to comment below the post to ask for specifics!
While most of Devon’s menu rotates 3-4 times each year, two stalwart dishes that were introduced years ago have survived the test of time. These are the eggs blini & breakfast with the Sakumas. They’re more or less as good as they’re going to get, being my favourite eggs benedict-style and cafe-style salmon dishes to date. Any newcomer to Devon must* begin with these dishes, but hey – no pressure right?
*jks, do as you like, but there is a reason these signatures have not changed in 3+ years!
Then there are the permanent items that rotate throughout the year: think an endless cycle of re-imagined classics such as bruschetta, dirty burgers and French toast and you’re on the right track. As of this post, we’re talking a bruschetta that’s artwork on a plate, a yakuza burger that’s so criminal it makes fried chicken seem innocent, as well as Devon’s continuous renovations of its famous Little Lost Bread French toast. I generally avoid the latter as I’m not partial to morning sugar bombs (sorry Zach, but the LLB doesn’t change this!); however, the bruschetta is just the thing if I ever feel like I need to ‘be good’ after indulging in a regrettable meal, for example: that of the Yakuza burger*.
*hah, worth going to prison for**.
**okay not really, but this is a damn dirty thing between two buns. So good, so filthy.
Then there’s a further series of specials: pasta as dark as night in the triple black (great flavour, notwithstanding a pasta that needs to be a bit more al dente), an almost fine dining-esque seafood explosion in the croissant Saint Denis (with Sydney’s best croissants sourced from Penny Fours Bakery!), a meat-lovers delight in the piggy banc (holy crap, did I die and get transported to the Bavarian Bier Cafe?), and a breakfast bowl that may or may not be a mishmash of every green thing in Devon Cafe’s pantry.
No need to read between the lines here: get the croissant (no excuses) and the piggy banc, unless you’re not a fan of pork. The pasta is decent, but be sure to ask for it al dente.
On an even more temporary timeline as a series of pop-up desserts is Devon’s current series of kakigori. Kakigori is what happens when you apply Japanese sensibilities and impeccable technique to the more commonly known dessert of shaved ice (itself taking many forms depending on the country). The ice is shaved to a fluffy, almost snow-like consistency, and the common toppings of condensed milk and ice creams are layered multiple times, such that no bite should be devoid or overdone in flavour.
Be sure to check Devon’s Instagram page or enquire with them directly on what’s currently available! I’ve had three types so far: pineapple & guava; mango; and the ABC (from the now-closed Lucky Suzie!), which isn’t a pure kakigori, taking much from the Malaysian ‘burbur chacha‘ ais kacang dessert. All are delicious; however, my favourites would have to be the ABC and the mango.
I’m not going to conjecture on why Zach kept Lucky Suzie’s signature dessert on Devon Cafe’s menu, but I like to be a bit romantic and think of it as keeping a part of it alive, despite its closure.
In a similar vein, I like to think of the DMC (Devon Matcha Cake) as the memento for Devon’s second successful outpost on Danks Street, operating for two successful years before moving to its current Barangaroo incarnation. It’s a bit of a riff on Peter Gilmore’s famous eight-texture chocolate cake, albeit with fewer textures, and a helluva lot more matcha. Almost egregiously Instagrammable, I can’t even be mad if that’s exactly why some people end up ordering the cake.
I like the matcha ganache, the matcha sponge and the matcha chocolate. I do not however like the matcha mousse – there is too much of it relative to the other elements, and it’s too light, lacking sufficient sweetness or matcha intensity. The cake also lacks a crunchy element, which would have gone some way to improve its texture profile.
Ever since taking Sydney’s cafe scene by storm in 2013, Zacharay Tan’s continuously broken the mould over and over again using Devon Cafe as his vehicle. It’s easy to forget that just four years ago, cafe food beyond scrambled eggs, avocado on toast, eggs benedict and ricotta hotcakes was a rarity. It may be impossible to prove that Devon Cafe spearheaded the movement towards cafe fare becoming interesting; however, it’s indisputable that Devon Cafe was one of the first in reinventing the traditional model of what a modern, forward-thinking cafe could be.
I can’t see the man behind Devon Cafe slowing down any time yet: I’m sure he will continue chugging along even as this blog post will once again become years out of date.
- No other cafe innovates at the pace that Devon does…
- …yet managing to churn out winning results consistently
- You won’t find anything quite like what Devon serves up
- Service can sometimes be a little inconsistent
- The space is quite tight, with patrons sitting very close to each other and easily able to overhear conversations
- There are consistent winners, but also consistent ‘mehs’
F8| S3 | A1.5