Elizabeth Meryment
The Daily Telegraph
24 August

MARK LaBrooy was in Paris last year cooking at one of the world’s most prestigious culinary events when he realised he was missing something from home — Australia’s cafe culture.

“I was in Paris for Omnivore and we ate out a lot, and I got to some really beautiful patisseries. But wherever we went, we got s... coffee,” says LaBrooy, part of the team behind the wildly successful Three Blue Ducks cafes in both Sydney and, most recently, Byron Bay in the state’s far north.

“The word cafe is a French word, but I think we do it better than they do. I’m not trying to be controversial but what we do [in Australian cafes] is super unique.

“It’s an Australian style and I think our expectations with food here is very high.”

Chef Michael Rantissi, whose beloved Kepos Street Kitchen (and the new Kepos & Co) are among Sydney’s favourite cafes, agrees.

“We were in New York last year and the worst coffee that you get in Sydney is one of the best coffees you’d get there,” he says with a wry laugh. “Kristy [Frawley], my partner, is not a snob like I am and for her to refuse to drink coffee means it was the low benchmark. And the people were so very, very proud of their product, and it was weird because their product was terrible.”

Both LaBrooy and Rantissi are among a wave of classically-trained Australian chefs who are transcending the high-end restaurant scene to focus on cafes offering beautiful, produce-driven food in relaxed environments.

Both LaBrooy and Rantissi are among a wave of classically-trained Australian chefs who are transcending the high-end restaurant scene to focus on cafes offering beautiful, produce-driven food in relaxed environments.

And it’s not just city dwellers benefiting. From the foot of the Blue Mountains to the far reaches of NSW, cafes are on the up, with chefs devising clever and interesting new menus to impress fussy, well-informed patrons.

For the Blue Ducks team, the new cafe at Ewingsdale, outside Byron Bay, has been a smash hit since opening earlier this year with a focus on paddock-to-plate dishes such as bacon and organic egg roll with pimento salsa and hollandaise, and pot-roasted chickpea and tomato with smashed egg, capers, onion, parsley, goat’s cheese and toast.

“We’ve had a lot of changes in our food over the past 18 months,” LaBrooy says. “We’ve putting a lot more focus on the provenance of our food and also putting a huge focus on pulses and legumes. We’re doing healthy food but making it really tasty.

“One of the great things about being up here is we can get our produce directly from the farmers. We have this level of access to produce we’ve never had before.”

For Rantissi, the trend towards healthier eating has dovetailed neatly into his Middle Eastern style of cookery.

“Australians are very, very health conscious these days,” he says. “People are active and they go to the gym and our food fits with that.”

Rantissi recommends when looking for a good cafe to find venues with chefs who pay attention to detail.

“If the cafe owner cares about customer service, and buys eggs from a good producer, and buys bread from an artisan bakery and coffee from a nice roaster, these are the things that make a good cafe,” he says.

The 12 best new cafes of 2015

Kepos St Kitchen in Redfern. Picture: Bob Barker.

1. Kepos & Co

Middle Eastern food has rarely looked and tasted as incredible as it does at Michael Rantissi’s smashing new café (which doubles as a restaurant by night). A brunch menu that runs until 3pm offers gems like warm hummus with burnt butter, poached egg and taboon bread, or za’atar bread with goat’s milk yoghurt, tomato, soft boiled egg. Oh yeah.

Shop 5/18 Danks St, Waterloo

The Boathouse Shelly Beach, Manly. Photo: Braden Fastier

2. The Boathouse Shelly Beach

You can walk up the steps of this restored 1930s teahouse with sand between your toes — that’s how close it is to the beach. And if the beautiful renovation and location aren’t lure enough, go for breakfasts of flatbread with eggs, smoked bacon, tomato, onion and manchego, or croissant French toast with pear and ricotta. Yes, croissant French toast. Try it.

1 Marine Pde, Manly

The new Mecca in Alexandria.

3. Mecca, Alexandria

There’s an aura of zen about this ex-factory space that before becoming a café was a brothel. You wouldn’t recognise its seedy past now — beautiful windows let in bucketloads of natural light and huge floral arrangements lend an artistic air. The hipster menu ranges from a fried chicken burger with kimchi to a buckwheat, olive and seeds salad. Out the back is a huge gleaming coffee roaster that heats beans for the chain’s other Sydney outlets. Sexy.

2/26 Bourke Rd, Alexandria

Breakfast at the Three Blue Ducks Ewingsdale, Byron Bay: Raw breakfast plate, sprouts, dates, beets and poached egg (left); Maple toasted muesli with honey, yoghurt and berries (top); Farm greens, kimchi, pickles and poached egg (right). Picture: Dylan Robinson

4. Three Blue Ducks, Ewingsdale

They’re lining up for a seat at this farm café located in one of the most beautiful places on earth. If you miss breakfast of, say, French toast with banana salted caramel, quince and cinnamon cream, try a lunch instead of North Indian beef curry with papaya chutney, yoghurt and lentils or a pumpkin salad with blood orange, goat’s cheese, sprouts and “bird seed mix”. To recap: you read correctly — French toast with banana salted caramel. Yes.

11 Ewingsdale Rd, Ewingsdale

5. Boon Cafe, Haymarket

Part Thai grocery, part cafe, this booming venue is one of the smokin’ food hits of 2015. With a breakfast menu that runs from something called ‘kai gatah’ — pan-baked eggs with smoked fish sausage, chicken mince, sliced pork and sausage loaf — to the Boon omelet with rice that’s served with Sriracha sauce, this is one very, very hot cafe.

425 Pitt St, Haymarket

The brunch on offer at Factoria in Wetherill Park.

6. Factoria, Wetherill Park

Outer westies are thrilled about the arrival of this cutesy café and grocery emporium in the perhaps unlikely location of Wetherill Park. Go for cronuts or scrolls and good coffee, and pick up a selection of cheeses or cured meats while you’re there. Winning.

1003-1009 Canley Vale Rd, Wetherill Park

7. Cross Eatery, Sydney

A café that does good coffee and fine salads in a beautiful setting is, surprisingly, a rarity in the gritty CBD. But here you can choose quality salads from a daily chalkboard menu that include temptations such as baked eggs with pine mushrooms with kale, labneh and manchego. Victory for CBD workers, at last.

155 Clarence St, Sydney

Foodcraft Espresso and Bakery, Erskineville. Picture: Craig Wilson

8. Foodcraft Espresso, Erskineville

So this quirky inner-west venue has found fame for its frankly Frankenstein-like Nutella doughnut milkshake. But there’s more to it than its gimmicks. Try the popular ‘tella balls’ — sugar-coated orbs of doughnut stuffed with Nutella, ricotta, chocolate or jam — or the decent sandwiches, including a quality Reuben, served in an industrial-chic space. Or of course, give the milkshake a go if you dare.

33 Bridge St, Erskineville

The Emporioum in Parramatta.

9. Emporium, Parramatta

Nicknamed The Grounds of Parramatta — a cheeky reference to a not dissimilar café in Alexandria — this sprawling venture is a cafe by day, restaurant by night. A 25kg coffee roaster processes more than 600kg of beans a day, while the bunch menu runs from quinoa granola to baked eggs with chorizo, tomato and manchego.

51 Philip St, Parramatta

10. Bourke St Bakery, Banksmeadow

Banksmeadow fans of this stellar bakery chain no longer have to haul into the inner-city to sample some of the nation’s best danishes, pies and sausage rolls. A bonus here is that you might catch sight of some of the bees servicing the seven hives on top of the building that produce enough honey for the group’s seven outlets. Sweet.

18 Anderson St, Banksmeadow

11. Harryfields, Mosman

Ferry commuters now have the option of lingering over decent coffee and brunch with a view at this smallish new café. Go for a paleo breakfast of poached eggs, avo, rocket, bacon and fried tomato or something more lavish like, say, a Spanish-style baked eggs with grilled chorizo and goats feta. Your eyes will thank you for the view.

Shop 2, Mosman Bay Wharf

L'Americano cafe just opened at Coco Republic, Alexandria.

12. Cafe L’Americano, Alexandria

Weirdly located inside the Coco Republic furniture showroom, this glistening cafe takes its inspiration from the Italian Rivera. The space is inspired, the coffee’s good and the food of salads, sandwiches and pastries sunny and satisfying.

34 O’Riordon St, Alexandria

Full article: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/lifestyle/food/cafe-society-the-12-best-new-cafes-to-sink-your-teeth-into/story-fnov1g0j-1227496793681?sv=a2141941abbca8e62bc4974a9e9d63ca