The things we do for our pets. Like sit outside on one of the coldest days of the year so far! The tall gas heaters at Ampersand Café & Bookstore were a welcome sight then. We did receive an eye roll and a sigh from one of the staff members when we asked if the heater next to our table could be turned on but her colleague who came out to light it had a much more pleasant demeanour.
Ampersand is part café and part bookshop with some exquisite items waiting to be found. The shop is comprised of multiple levels of zig zagging shelves and hidden treasures. It’s fun to explore thanks to an eclectic and humorous style. There are only a few tables inside so we huddled around one of the outdoor ones. Ordering and payment is done at the counter and I found the woman there to be very friendly and helpful.
The drinks were a mixed bag for us. While the coffee ($3.50) was strong and professionally made, the hot chocolate ($4) was bitter. I had high expectations after reading that Lindt chocolate was used but I’ve had much better hot chocolate. Organic teas ($5) are available as English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Egyptian rose, Jasmine, peppermint, chamomile or lemongrass & ginger.
There’s only one smoothie available and that is the banana smoothie ($6.90). I drink a lot of these and this one definitely gets my tick of approval. It’s quite thick and packs more flavour than a lot of others I’ve tried. With honey and cinnamon thrown into the mix, it’s a classic flavour combination that Ampersand executed well.
Our high hopes and eagerness for our meals soon diminished when the dishes arrived. The presentation of the Ampersandian ($18.90) was fine but the baked eggs disappointed. With a liquid centre and more clear egg white than one wants to see, it was obvious that the eggs did not see the inside of the grill for long enough. That could have been forgiven if the base of the dish had more flavour and wasn’t so completely watery. The beans were canned beans, nothing special or house-made and the dish overall was not piping hot as I would expect from a baked item. The beetroot relish on top provided more flavour than any other component but my guest left most of this dish in the pan.
She ordered crispy bacon ($4) on the side and as I type this I realise that it even mentions “crispy” on the menu. The strips that arrived were floppy and being the crispy bacon fiends that we are, we asked for it to be cooked until it was well done. Once again with much eye rolling by the same waitress, the bacon was taken away and returned to us looking as though it had been cooked for maybe another minute. We didn’t bother again.
I ordered the eggs on toast ($10.90) and added a selection of sides including crispy bacon ($4), tomato ($3.50) and rosti ($3.50). The bacon was similar to my guest’s. The tomatoes were as you would expect however the two rostis were quite cool (granted it was a cold day but I would have expected them to have come hot from the kitchen). They were seasoned well and appeared housemade but there was nothing to warrant ordering them again. The scrambled egg was cooked well with no wateriness.
It’s at this point that I normally go through some other menu items but based on the dishes I tried, there is little point. While our beverages were enjoyable, the efforts from the kitchen were lacklustre to say the least. Needless to say, we left feeling quite disappointed.
Overall Rating: 11/25
Website: http://www.cafebookshop.com.au and https://www.facebook.com/AmpersandCafeBookstore
Phone: 9380 6617
Address: 78 Oxford Street, Paddington
Payment Options: Credit cards, EFTPOS, cash
It’s both disappointing and reassuring to know that since my last visit to Ampersand in 2014 that it is just as awful as ever (watery eggs t. I miss the original owners; and I honestly cannot believe it remains so popular.