Darling Street, Balmain is one of my favourite strips for fantastic food. Bar Contessa (or more recently known just as “Contessa”) has gone un-reviewed by me for a long time but that isn’t to say that it hasn’t been on my list due to many recommendations by friends. Blink and you’ll miss it but it’s situated directly opposite the police station.
Bar Contessa has been open since 1992 and in 2002 was purchased by the now-owner Mario Adoncello. He is extremely proud of his Brooklyn style café. I was impressed with the interior as it makes great use of the space but still isn’t too loud to enjoy conversation. Mario has managed to squeeze a lot of seating space into this very polished dining room.
One wall is dominated by Contessa (countess) Medici, from the family that commissioned Botticelli’s Birth of Venus painting, hence the name of the café. There are three or four non-smoking tables outside and if you manage to get one of these, you will have the expansive mirror over the bar with which to voyeuristicly watch over the other patrons!
Although Bar Contessa trades seven days a week for breakfast and lunch, there are plans for occasional dinner events soon. Whenever you go, you’re bound to see Mario hard at work whether it’s in the kitchen, at the espresso bar or on the floor. He is hands-on, full of life and exceptionally dedicated.
My dining experience was second-to-none this morning. Attentive, knowledgable, friendly and humorous waitstaff were always on hand. Coffee orders were taken promptly and delivered quickly.
Exquisite cups of coffee (regular $3.50, large $4) courtesy of Grounds Roasters beans. Definitely some of best coffee you’ll find in the area.
Whatever your pleasure they can oblige at Bar Contessa including chai latte, mocha or hot chocolate($4 each), an extra shot, decaf or syrups.
Tea Craft tea ($4) is also on hand to satisfy your leaf-derived caffeine requirements!
Those in search of either a smoothie (banana or strawberry, $6.50) or old school malt milkshake ($6) are also well catered for. Strawberry, chocolate, vanilla or banana are available and my vanilla variant sure hit the spot!
The seasonal fruit salad is a great way to start any breakfast and with such a big variety of fresh fruit in our bowl, there was virtually nothing for my guest and I to complain about! Top it off with vanilla yoghurt and mixed berry compote and you have one fine example of a terrific fruit salad.
I’ve discovered that it’s very easy to find average French toast. But I can safely say that they’re onto something special at BC with their version. The French toast ($18.50) is served with brioche, lots of very cripsy hickory smoked bacon, caramelised banana (which my guest asked to be left off so they gracefully substituted it with strawberries) and plenty of “real” maple syrup. I managed to snag a few bites of my guest’s dish before she secured the plate all to herself and completed her meal with a very big smile! The brioche is delivered fresh daily by a very close family friend as are various other breads and baked goods from two other bakeries including Luxe and Oregano Bakery. I couldn’t fault the brioche!
I was slightly dubious about ordering the brekky burrito ($18.50). So often these types of dishes come with way too much egg and little other flavouring. Well I will be returning to BC and I will be ordering this again. Every mouthful was full of flavour. The tortilla was lightly toasted and delicious, the scrambled egg exceptionally well seasoned and topped with a spicy tomato relish, enough chorizo and a to-die-for chipotle mayonnaise. Guacomole and fresh tomato sit on top of all of this and I was simply in Mexican-influenced flavour heaven! Much like the French toast, the serving size was quite large.
What else is on offer? A lot! Organic maple nut muesli with skim milk, vanilla yoghurt and mixed berry compote ($12.50), Hawkesbury free range eggs done any way with organic sourdough ($10.50) and a huge selection of sides, the popular Rosa’s breakfast bruschetta (slices of organic soy linseed sourdough with smashed avocado, fresh Roma tomato, basil, arugula, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic reduction and free range poached egg ($14.50) or corn cakes (house made) with guacamole, arugula, tomato salsa and balsamic reduction with a choice of bacon, Tasmanian smoked salmon, sauteed field mushrooms or chorizo ($18.50). Phew!
There’s plenty more available including what looked like a mouth watering burger so keep an eye out for me in my Sydney on Sunday T-shirt at Bar Contessa!
Overall Rating: 22.5/25
Website: http://www.barcontessa.com.au/ and https://www.facebook.com/BarContessa
Phone: 9555 7399
Address: 371b Darling Street, Balmain, 2041
Payment Options: Credit card, EFTPOS, cash