Driving along Crown Street, Surry Hills, you can tell instantly which are the popular cafés by how many people are queuing outside. This morning we thought we would buck this trend and initially stopped at a quieter establishment. After not receiving our menus and seeing the disappointed looks on the faces of the people eating next to us, we moved on! We found Gnome Café which is opposite fouratefive and about 50 metres from Bird Cow Fish. The above photo is deceptive as we waited for a break in the number of people waiting to get a clear shot. Seating is at a premium here with a small number of tables outside and even fewer inside so we felt lucky to snatch a seat so quickly. After a few minutes, our drinks order was taken but only arrived with and after our food which was disappointing. We hope the lax service was due to the fact that everyone is still in the festive/public holiday mood!
As well as the usually available coffees ($3 to $3.50), we were pleasantly surprised to see that Gnome offers filter coffee ($5). Filtered either through paper or fine mesh, this is a fantastic way to make coffee so don’t turn it down if it’s on the menu. This Gnome blend (available for $11/bag) was exquisite and quickly raised this café to be amongst our top coffee picks.
We had ordered the Gnome iced tea with citrus sorbet, lemon and mint ($6) which they had unfortunately run out of. So instead we opted for the smoothie with mixed berries, yoghurt, vanilla bean gelato, honey and milk ($6). That’s a lot of ingredients but it made for a thick and delicious smoothie. The fresh berries and gelato work well together and provide the majority of the flavours. Everything else took a back seat but complimented the drink well.
The menu is split into three main sections – breakfast, sandwiches and boards. The breakfast menu features dishes such as eggs Benny breakfast roll – poached egg, hollandaise and ham on brioche ($7), burnt fig, cinnamon and almond muesli with berries and yoghurt ($8.5) and poached eggs, asparagus, parmesan and grilled polenta ($11.50). The sandwiches sound (and looked) just as inspired with offerings including: tuna, corn, chives, capsicum, tomato, avocado, mayo and baby spinach on soy and linseed ($9), poached chicken, slivered almonds, shallots, salad, mayo and celery on baguette ($9) and pumpkin burger with fetta, tomato, capsicum and star anise relish and rocket ($8). Are you drooling yet? The prices were also very reasonable so it started to look like we had a high quality café with a unique menu and fresh ingredients.
The boards are made up of a variety of fresh and separate ingredients served on a wooden board. Some of the boards available are mixed olives, buffalo mozzarella, olive oil and semolina grissini ($11.50), cloth bound cheddar, Brie de Nangis and goats blue cheeses with guava paste and muscatels ($16) and fremantle marinated sardines, white anchovies, smoked salmon, capers and wasabi creme fraiche ($16).
We chose one of the lunch boards; the salami board ($10.50) which features brie, pickled onion, tomato, ham and rocket with sourdough bread. We can only assume they were our of pickled onion and chose the pickles as a substitute which still worked very well. It’s very hard to critique a dish such as this when only a small amount of work goes into preparing the dish. What we can say (which was also blindingly obvious from the dishes being served around us) is that Gnome takes its food very seriously. Everything was fresh, well presented and of very high quality. The poached eggs and asparagus mentioned earlier was served to a couple next to us and looked scrumptious.
One of two boards on the breakfast menu (the other being the popular avocado, tomato, olive oil and basil on toasted sourdough ($9)) was the aptly named breakfast board ($9.50). Making up this fresh and healthy breakfast we have ricotta, a hard boiled egg, ham, avocado, fresh tomato and toast. Once again, nothing could really be faulted as everything was of pure quality and tasted fantastic. The choice of ingredients was great and the breads (see the coffee photo) were soft , warm and too good to let anything go to waste!
We found the coffee to be one of the top reasons to visit Gnome. People agree as there is a never-ending congregation of people waiting outside for their takeaway (or a seat) keeping the freakishly busy and efficient barrista on her toes. The food was also fantastic and light. It was nice to leave an establishment and not feel like we were about to explode which so often happens writing a food blog and eating some of the rich, large and bounteous food we do. Crown Street, Surry Hills has no shortage of boutique shops and quirky places to visit so make a day of it exploring all of the galleries and shopping this street has to offer.
Overall Rating: 18/25
Phone: 9332 3191
Address: 536 Crown Street, Surry Hills, 2010
Payment Options: CC, EFTPOS, cash