If you've never been excited by a bowl of vegetables, then the winter salad by In The Annex might just change all that. In fact, it's hard not to clap your hands like an excited child when it arrives at the table, looking more like a vegetable plot than your lunch.
It's one of the many surprises encountered here, tucked away in a corner of Forest Lodge within "the annex" between Camperdown and Glebe. Formerly a chemist, the shop has been completely overhauled into a cosy nook with eclectic furnishings. Recycled timber was used to erect the coffee bar and seating comes from old railway sleepers and a converted tree trunk.
Recycled furnishings and second-hand knick knacks
Beakers, mason jars and and souvenir spoons
Miniature beakers of sugar and souvenir teaspoons line each table, water is served in mismatched vintage glasses, and there's an abundance of greenery planted in every receptacle you can imagine. Tiny espresso cups, mason jars, coffee pots and even a stack of novels have life sprouting forth.
Now that's a novel way to grow a succulent
Tea cups and tea cosies
Heading up the kitchen is Joey Astorga, last seen as head chef at El Capo, working with co-owners Edrick Santos (usually found behind the coffee machine) and Theo Hlorotiris. The menu is brief but different: breakast offers earl grey bircher muesli ($10), kale and egg rolls ($6.50) and an eggs, rice and beans breakfast burrito ($10) that is one of their biggest sellers.
Organic Bread Bar loaves
Lunch (titled as "brunchy plates") reads more like a list of ingredients than a menu. "Roasted potato, pickled zucchini, cheddar $15" sounds alluring, as does the "crumbed egg, mushy peas $15". And if you needed any more reassurance, a message at the bottom of the menu reads "Annex chooses to use sustainably farmed meats and free range eggs".
Cured duck, roasted brussel sprouts, brioche, duck egg $16
Perhaps the menu is deliberately vague so customers are all the more surprised when "cured duck, roasted brussel sprouts, brioche, duck egg $16" comes out looking more like a contemporary artwork on a plate. It's hard not to marvel at the elaborate plating in a suburban cafe.
Curls of cured duck that taste remarkably like jamon nestle among brussel sprouts, roasted until caramelised and nutty. Toasted brioche is fluffy and light, enriched with a rich oozing yolk of a gently poached egg.
Winter vegetables, grains, olives and sheep feta $14
The winter vegetable salad is a feat of painstaking construction, involving both chefs working on the bowl for several minutes.
Instagramming in the kitchen
I love that the chefs are keen Instagrammers too. That's our salad above and the pic they posted.
There may be echoes of Rene Redzepi's radishes in soil at Noma in this dish, but this salad is resolutely fun. There's a wicked sense of plunder as you mosey around the manufactured garden, plucking a baby heirloom carrot here, or a thinly shaved radish there. Toasted grains, olive slivers and a bed of fetta create the soil at the bottom, adding a crunchy dip for your fancy crudites.
Hubba bubba lamington and single origin Venezuelan chocolate brownies $2 each
Desserts sit in the window display and are worth exploring too. Not pictured are the Campari cakes that were topped with ruby grapefruit and a dollop of chocolate.
Short black $3.50
They pride themselves on their coffee here, using a house blend for white coffees and a single origin for blacks. I missed out on the single origin due to a coffee bean changeover, but even the house blend espresso had a sweet robustness that was relished.
Single origin Venezuelan chocolate brownie $2
and Hubba Bubba lamington $2
We got stuck into the single origin Venezuelan chocolate brownie, rich with cocoa and almost fudgy in texture. And how could we resist the Hubba Bubba lamington? It really was reminiscent of the bubblegum from your childhood.
Flat white $3.50
I may also be a little in love with this suited up panda bear. Kawaii!
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In The Annex
35 Ross Street, Forest Lodge, Sydney
Tel: +61 (0)415 702 730
Monday to Friday 6am-4pm
Saturday to Sunday 7am-4pm
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7/25/2013 05:52:00 am