On a particularly hot Friday that Monsieur Poisson had off work, we ventured to Waterloo in search of some lunch. This has become an increasingly favoured area of mine in recent years to dine at or just to browse through places like Fratelli Fresh and Macro Wholefoods. On the upper level of Fratelli Fresh, past all the varieties of dried pasta, tins of tomatoes and bottles of balsamic vinegar, Café Sopra can found more often than not teeming with people waiting for a table. To the right, hidden in a corner, is what looks like a private dining table in front of a massive board with a recipe for minestrone written in Italian. The table is not part of the café itself and I would love to find out what its reserved purpose is.
We arrive mid-lunch rush and add our names to the waiting list. In the meantime I go for a bit of wander around the produce aisles and admire all the things on offer. I’m really tempted to take home a pack of Vittoria gianduja chocolates but the day really is too scorching for me to guarantee their safe journey to my pantry. Not long after, we are offered a couple of seats at the bar which suits us just fine. Much to my delight, our seats offer a direct view into the kitchen which is down only a few stairs behind the bar area.
The menu is scrawled on a huge blackboard propped up against the window side of the café and items are erased as they sell out. We start with a couple of ‘Zucchini flowers stuffed with five Italian cheeses’ which are encased in a light batter to conceal very cheesy tasting contents. The sweet crunch of the young flowers and stems are perfect with the soft, pungent filling and are served with more shredded parmesan sprinkled over the top.
As it’s hot, we’ve gone for the light pasta option of ‘Linguine with lemon, chilli, parsley and pangrattato’. I am most taken by this conical mound of perfectly al dente pasta with its balanced and refreshing flavours of lemon, chilli and parsley against the crunch of garlicky breadcrumbs. It’s quite a generous serve too.
Next up we’ve ordered the ‘Shaved Brussels sprouts with poached egg, cavolo nero and pancetta’. Its composition is a brunch-style salad dressed with a sweetened balsamic. I must admit I’ve never had shaved Brussels sprouts before and the overall taste is more lettuce-y rather than baby cabbages with the usual after-tinge of bitterness. The oozy poached egg melds with the dressing, and coats the pancetta pieces in a sweet, creamy kind of way.
On the side we have a salad of ‘Baby cos and cherry tomatoes with salad cream’ which I mainly order due to the mention of retro salad cream. I struggle to remember when it went out of fashion but it adds a lovely milky creaminess to the lettuce leaves with a hit of ground black pepper, without clagging it like some Caesar dressings do.
To round off our very satisfying meal, I order an affogato which comes with a silken and dreamy vanilla bean gelato. This was also around the time that I was told by a staff member that cameras are not permitted at Café Sopra, and I have since read that this is a widely-known fact. As usual I neglected to ask the reason for such a ban but we did manage to sneak in a photo of Monsieur Poisson’s caffe latte with its beautiful latte art.
It was a great cup of coffee to boot and to not photograph it would have been a major injustice to the very talented barista!
Upstairs level of Fratelli Fresh, 7 Danks St, Waterloo NSW
Tel: (02) 9699 3174
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 10am-3pm