I’m a firm believer in the scientific principle of reproducibility. For all those playing along at home, don’t get too excited – it’s not as saucy as you think. Essentially, it’s the simple but crucial concept that if your study was valid and reliable, you should be able to replicate it and achieve the same results. It’s the same in the food world. If a place is good, you should be able to go there multiple times and be satisfied each time. Before I share a place with you, dear reader, I’ve often been there a few times. Just to make sure.
The first time I went to Brickfields it was love at first sight. Even a stronger woman than me would have fallen head over heels, I’m sure. The location couldn’t get any more convenient: smack bang in the middle of Redfern and Chippendale, straddling that dead zone of Cleveland Street between Broadway and Regent Street, on the way to wherever you’re going, and with ample street parking on the Chippendale and Redfern sides alike. What’s more, they’ve got a cool vibe going on at Brickfields: plenty of patrons sitting out on the street, leaning against trees and sitting at tables or perching on the edge of garden beds outside. Inside it’s all about an Eastern European bakery feel with tiled walls and wooden floors, wooden stools at benches, jars of pickles in high kitchen cupboards and sacks of grain stacked under benches. The staff, too, are beautiful: somehow I don’t think it will be too long before there are Brickfields groupies.
It’s a bit of a shock to the system when I’m hit with a double whammy that makes me feel a little like I’m talking to Seinfeld’s soup nazi: no eftpos, no skim milk (for you). Luckily, I’ve got a deep-pocketed breakfast date, and I only really drink skim as a matter of habit. I’m not sure if it’s the full cream milk, or the Mecca pedigree, but it’s one of the creamiest and richest coffees I’ve had in a long time. This sets us up well for the arrival of our matching breakfast plates ($12). Although my eyes wander over the short chalkboard menu, settling briefly on the granola and on the interesting concoction of quinoa/seeds/nuts (both $10 and served with milk), I know in my heart that the breakfast plate and I are destined for each other. Sourdough toast, boiled egg, fried eggplant, and tahini: a match made in heaven.
It doesn’t disappoint, either. Unsurprisingly given that Brickfields’ baker comes from the iconic Luxe Bakery, the sourdough is perfectly chewy, salty and delicious. The single slice is topped with gooey fried eggplant, chunks of soft boiled egg and a runny tahini sauce. It’s perfection on a plate. Our only complaint is that Brickfields appears to be breaking as many Sydney cafe conventions as it can, one at a time: no milk choice, no payment choice, and finally, no weekend newspapers. These are small things, but they matter on a Saturday morning after a long night of dancing.
My second visit is not so satisfying. It’s a muggy Sunday afternoon, the kind where you almost feel like skipping lunch just because your body doesn’t feel up to processing any food. Nonetheless, my two companions and I are dedicated to the task. Since my beloved breakfast plate is sold out (it’s a rather late lunch, admittedly), I turn to the sandwiches. Since I’m not in a beef brisket mood, I settle on the asiago/sopressa/pickled eggplant combination. It comes toasted on a panini-style roll for $10.
I struggle through my first few bites, hoping it gets better (like Wasabi peas). It doesn’t. The sandwich is unbalanced and feels unfinished – where there should be layers of varying texture and flavour, there is layer upon layer of a single flavour (salty) and a single texture (gooey). The intense flavours of the Asiago (an Italian cow’s milk cheese) and the Sopressa (aged Italian salami) could have complemented each other in another context, perhaps with the addition of a clean flavour and crisp texture such as some fresh tomato. But instead, they have been paired with the saltiest pickle I’ve ever tasted, save for those on a Macdonalds burger. Together, the flavour is all salt, and the filling is incredibly ungenerous. It’s never a good sign when there’s more bread than filling in your sandwich. Finally, as I dissect the last few bits of my sandwich, I uncover a green spot that’s either mould or food dye. Neither of which belong in a sandwich. Meanwhile, my companions’ brownie and chocolate croissant are pleasant although not outstanding.
Brickfields, it’s ok to do minimalist menus. In fact, for a bakery where the focus is on the bread and baked goods, it makes sense. Especially if the coffee is as good as yours. But if you’re going to go minimalist, create a small number of dishes people will keep coming back for (like the breakfast plate). Two meat-based sandwiches just isn’t enough lunch choice for the average consumer, especially when the options aren’t a standout in terms of flavour or generosity. Having said that, I really want to like Brickfields, and there’s enough potential here (in the breakfast plate alone) that I’ll be back in an attempt to do so.
206 Cleveland Street
(02) 9698 7880
Best Bits: the coffee, the breakfast plate, the old-is-new-again fitout, the location (Cleveland street seems to be ‘on the way’ to everywhere), customers sitting on garden beds in the street to devour their goodies (a culture a bit akin to Bourke Street Bakery?)
Worst Bits: sopressa/asiago/pickled eggplant sandwich, limited lunch options, cash only.
Coffee: Mecca Espresso
Price Point: $
Good for… a caffeine hit and a loaf of sourdough on your way down Cleveland St
What you should know… no skim milk, no eftpos, BYO newspapers if you’re that way inclined.
A bit like: Sonoma Bakery Cafe Alexandria, Luxe Newtown.