To my knowledge this is the first year that Sydney International Food Festival has featured set-brunch deals adjunct to its well-established Let’s do lunch. Almost all places participating in this weekday lunch event are located in or close to the CBD, which has precluded me from taking advantage of them due to my not working in the area. So with my well-documented love of brunch it was pretty much a given that I would try out at least one of the Let’s do brunch deals, and where better to start than at Café Ish.
This cosy corner café is situated only a short walk from Central train station and offers a native Australian-Japanese fusion menu reflective of owner-chef Josh Nicholls and his cute-as partner Ai. Monsieur Poisson and I turn up early for our reservation due to having allowed extra travel time to account for traffic diversions in place for Breakfast on the Bridge. We are seated at a table by the window and are soon served the first part of the brunch offer – ‘Breakfast trifle of “lush yoghurt”, native berry compote and housemade muesli’.
Presented in irregularly ridged glasses, a base of thick, creamy, tangy yoghurt is overlayed with the capturing red of a native berry compote (Ai patiently explained to us what berries were contained but I’m afraid my mind lacked the concentration to remember due to lack of sleep – sorry Ai!) along with a hibiscus. I’ve only ever seen these sold in jars with syrup and served topped with sparkling wine. The flower is crunchier than I expect, providing a contrast to the yoghurt, along with fresh-tasting crunchy, toasted muesli. I say ‘fresh-tasting’ because it is nothing like the store-bought muesli I have at home, which is usually chewier in texture than this.
Café Ish’s signature ‘coffee’, the wattle macca-cino, is brought out next artfully decorated with a fern for the husband and a love heart for myself. Awww…
Latte art aside, this caffeine-free drink tastes remarkably like a mocha and my husband with the known sweet-tooth doesn’t even need to add sugar! No doubt the sweetness being attained from the nutty flavour characteristics of both the wattleseeds and macadamias used.
The pièce de resistance, which Josh confesses he has never eaten himself despite cooking countless plates of them, is the ‘Kara-age soft shell crab omelette with garlic, chilli, soy-vinegar dressing, avocado, shallot and lemon myrtle’. A trio of salts is served alongside – Murray River pink, green tea and chilli flavours – which I find are not needed as far as seasoning is concerned, but are fun to play around with and try regardless.
A crispy, deep-fried soft-shell crab is encased in a thin egg crêpe along with creamy avocado and chopped spring onions. A small pile of watercress alongside provides crunch with a barely-there bitterness. The segment of lime is not there for aesthetic purposes – squeeze it over the omelette for a refreshing zing as well as an added dimension to the salty-sweet dressing. Fried but not greasy, this is the type of wake-up brunch you want to indulge in to nurse a hangover (not that I had one) with its sense-awakening flavours.
All items featured as part of the Let’s do brunch menu at Café Ish are available on their standard menu. The soft-shell crab omelette is normally $23 itself, making the $25 per head Let’s do brunch offer exceptional value. Food-blogger or not, remember to ask nicely beforehand if you plan on taking photos and, depending on where you’re sitting, you may catch a glimpse of Josh working solo in the kitchen alcove preparing your food with utmost efficiency.
The Let’s do brunch offer is available at Café Ish on weekends only during the month of October, from 9am-2:30pm. That leaves three weekends to try out this value-for-money deal! Bookings are highly recommended to avoid disappointment.
82 Campbell St (cnr Foster St), Surry Hills NSW
Tel: (02) 9281 1688
Opening Hours: Mon-Tues 7am-4pm