Cafe Ish – Surry Hills, Sydney, NSW

This has to be one of the most beautiful cup of coffee I’ve ever seen and tasted. No joke!

I ordered the wattle maccacino, under the recommendation from the friendly waiter as he said is good for photos (I like the sound of that), but of course it is also their signature coffee. All this time, I thought I have tasted some of the best coffees in Sydney, but boy… this is quite something else! The wattle maccacino has a very close similarity to a mocha in terms of flavour except they don’t use chocolate/cacao (apart from the sprinkle on top), but wattle and macadamia are the two ingredients that give it that chocolatey, nutty flavour. I like how there are some crumbly bits of macadamia and wattle seeds at the bottom of the cup to chew on when finished the coffee. It is unusually satisfying.

Cafe Ish is where you should be looking for and possibly is the only one place in Sydney that you can try this coffee. If the coffee doesn’t sound intriguing enough, they also have a very gutsy fusion menu, serving up bush tucker and Japanese food blend into one. It sounds so wrong in so many ways, like a car crash waiting to happen, but they will prove you wrong and they are always right.

I have heard a lot of good things about Cafe Ish and their amazing food with the twists, so I am dying to find out what the fuss is about. I finally managed to drag Boo (the food pornographer) along to check out this cafe in the morning after a big meal at Tetsuya the night before. And by the way, I finally get to use the word “porn” on my blog, woo hoo!

The new Cafe Ish is right at the corner between Campbell St and Foster St. As we step inside, it is surprisingly empty on a Thursday morning before 9am. There are only a few locals getting coffees to take out on their way to work, a couple is sitting outside having breakfast, and us. I’ve heard Cafe Ish moved from a tiny space in Albion St to this bigger new space, but to me is still pretty cosy and intimate inside. I can only imagine the previous premise must be like a pigeon hole.

Josh and Ai is the real John & Yoko of this establishment. Josh’s passion of outback ‘bush’ food and Ai’s influence from her Japanese background, this tag team has come up with some of the most niche and unique dishes in Sydney food scene. While Josh runs the kitchen at the back, Ai is in charge of the coffee machine, this couple seems to work like a well-oiled machine and no one will leave this cafe unsatisfied.

I order a hot chocolate to give my morning a sweet sugary boost while we peruse the menu. Boo falls in love with the “hug” mug immediately, a perfect hands warmer while sipping the rich creamy hot chocolate slowly on a winter day. The only one dish that I would really love to try is the soft shell crab omelette ever since I’ve read everyone raved about it on their food blogs. To my dismay, the waiter told me it is unavailable because it is too early in the morning and they actually haven’t heat up the oil ready for deep fry. I guess there are just not that many crazy people like me who wanting to have deep fried soft shell crab for breakfast.

While waiting for our food to arrive, the waiter brings out a condiment plate with three different type of salt and a cute novelty coffee grinder which turns out to be a pepper grinder! I like how you have to pull out the little wooden drawer underneath where the ground pepper is collected inside. So nifty.

After attending my first salt tasting event not so long ago, is no surprise that I suddenly have developed an interest about salt and starting to pay more attention at this little detail at each restaurant. The citrus salt does have a soury tang to it as I can see there are some dried citrus rinds in the mixture. The black volcano salt is milder with a very subtle smokey flavour, while the chilli salt, also my favourite, has a numbing sensation after effect. However, we actually ended up didn’t use any of the salt as we both believe the dishes that we’ve ordered are already well seasoned and the extra salt are unnecessary.

” class=”size-medium wp-image-10810″ src=”http://www.atablefortwo.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/cafe-ish-4-214×300.jpg” alt=””>

The first dish we ordered to share is the croc in a rock. This is the bigger sister of the “toad in a hole”, a thick slice of white toast has been hollowed out and then filled with an egg mixture of crocodile sausage chunks, shallot, fetta cheese, served with a handful of salad leaves and a side of tomato relish.

My first time to have crocodile sausage, it is surprisingly good and tasted like tender chicken meat. The melted cheese bind all ingredients together which gives it a rich creamy texture and add the salty component to the dish which is nicely balanced with sweetness from the tomato relish. A simple beautiful dish that I definitely will order again.

We wanted to try the baked beans with pork hock on the menu, so the waiter kindly suggested us to go for the Big Ish which we get to sample more variety including the baked beans. He also offers us to swap the croc sausage in the Big Ish to kangaroo sausage as we already had it in our first dish.

The Big Ish comes in a tower of two free range eggs, bacon, roast tomato on wholemeal toast, with wild thyme roast mushrooms and a little pot of baked beans with pork hock on the side. The sunny egg yolks are wobbly-licious makes Boo couldn’t help but start jiggling the plate.

The Big Ish is what a good big breakfast should be plus more. Not really paying much attention to the wild thyme roast mushrooms, as I am more focus on the kangaroo sausage and the baked beans. The kangaroo sausage is a lot firmer than the croc sausage, with a perfectly balanced flavour and not too gamey. But it is the baked beans that steals my heart. Sorry if I sound like a baked beans snob, but fresh cooked baked beans kick the canned one’s ass! The fresh cooked beans are not mushy and still hold a nice bitey texture, not overly sweet but with a great smokey flavour where you still can actually taste the beans. Then Josh took one step further and added a few chunks of pork hock for that little touch of luxurious on this humble comfort food.

After our meal, I can see why this cafe is so popular and they have every reason to be. As we are walking out the restaurant and Boo spotted the cafe sign outside that is clearly written “No sushi!” Yes, with exclamation mark. With such excellent food they are serving at Cafe Ish, I guess they have every rights to be a sushi nazi just like the one in Seinfeld but in this case,

“No Sushi For You!”

I shall return, and the kara-age soft shell crab omelette will be mine.


View Larger Map

Cafe Ish
82 Campbell St
Surry Hills
NSW 2010‎

P: (02) 9281 1312‎

Opening Hours:
Open Wednesday – Saturday for Dinner
Open 7 days during the day for your coffee fix and other dishes.

Cafe Ish on Urbanspoon