Newsflash: there’s more to Bourke Street than the Beresford, Bourke Street Bakery and bicycles. Wait, you probably already knew that, but I’m not sure I did. St Jude is up the Redfern end of Bourke Street (something about this makes me think of the Prime Minister’s secretary in Love Actually who lives in the ‘dodgey end’ of Wandsworth in London). But dodgey or not, the Redfern end is leafy and rather glorious on this summer Sunday morning. The streets are quiet and lined with trees, South Dowling Street feels much further away than it really is, and there are dogwalkers and parking spaces aplenty.
Situated on the corner of Bourke and Thurlow, St Jude is housed inside an elegant old stone building with open windows and wooden shutters to let in light and streetside action. Inside, vintage dolls perch alongside framed photographs of saints and wooden tables are nestled close to one another. But this is a day for soaking up the morning sun, for which St Jude is well-equipped with a number of small tables and quirky stools sitting on the footpath. We are attended to immediately by a friendly waitress who brings us water, takes our coffee order and explains the omelette and ‘breakfast sanga’ specials of the day. She’s warm, inviting, even apologetic when she doesn’t know which brand of coffee they use (it’s only her third day).
When our lattes ($3.50) arrive, we are informed they are made on Rush, a bean roasted in Bowral in our very own Southern Highlands. The coffee has a rich flavour with a hint of bitterness and it’s delicious. Given we have a long day of beaching ahead, we all take to ordering eggs – poached with a side of mushrooms ($14.00), scrambled with a side of mushrooms ($14.00) and the boiled eggs rolled in parmesan and herbs ($9.00). Our decision is also heavily swayed by the fact that all these dishes come with tomato chutney as a side. As a general rule, if it’s got chutney with it we are probably ordering it. The menu also offers plenty of other appealing breakfast options, from corn fritters to sour cherry toast and of course the chorizo and haloumi ‘breakfast sanga’. It’s classic Sydney cafe food.
Our food is soon brought out along with seasoning pots of freshly ground salt and pepper, and in the meantime our water glasses are topped up wordlessly numerous times by the staff. The scrambled and poached eggs both come with soy and linseed sourdough and two large fried field mushrooms, and are topped with a sprinkling of rocket. Sadly the toast is slightly undertoasted, although I’m not too devastated as this makes it much easier to eat gracefully. It’s made by Brasserie Bread and isn’t quite as moist and nutty as the Sonoma or Luxe equivalents. The mushrooms are well-salted and fried to perfection, and the combination of creamy scrambled eggs with the smoky sweet chutney and the bitterness of the rocket is lovely. It’s also a very generous serve.
Sadly, the boiled eggs are not quite coated as well as anticipated, and the crumbs sit more on the side rather than around the eggs. On their own, the crumbs have an overpowering parmesan flavour and are not outstanding. They could do with a stronger proportion of herbs and perhaps some lemon to cut through the richness of the cheese. But once they are piled onto the white sourdough toast and topped with egg, rocket and tomato chutney it’s a pleasant enough dish. The eggs are also perfectly soft boiled.
St Jude is doing what many more popular Sydney cafes are doing right now but with far less fanfare – serving fresh food with good coffee in a space so lovely it’s better than being in your own kitchen (at least if you live in a rundown terrace like us that is). The menu isn’t especially inventive, but it is simple and well executed. And the real standout at St Jude is the service. We are attended to by no less than four of the staff during our visit, and not once do I look down to see my water glass empty. When we leave and thank them for their service, they echo a resounding chorus of thanks and there are smiles all around.
Cnr Bourke and Thurlow Streets
Redfern NSW 2016
Best bits: friendly and attentive service, coffee, scrambled eggs, tomato chutney, leafy outdoor seating
Worst bits: queues in peak times, unexceptional bread from Brasserie
A bit like: Revolver, Le Monde, Four Ate Five