Through an inner-city industrial area, across the road from Dan Murphy’s and in the shadow of a big green street sign, at the back of a reclaimed brick warehouse, just past the Campos coffee you’ll find a new(ish) face on the Sydney food scene.
But don’t get caught calling them a ‘cafe’ [gasp], Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen is a fresh, open space tucked away on the western edge of Alexandria, serving – in their own words – ‘amazing tea, mostly organic and biodynamic food and sweet things and no coffee – not a single drop’. The canteen opened in the very end of 2011 and has been buzzing ever since.
Between the comments I had seen floating around and the market-fresh, ever-changing menu I knew Bread & Circus was right up our alley. RJ and I got there as soon as we could carve out a free Saturday-brunch time slot… back in February – what?! Somehow two months have gone by since our early afternoon feast that produced these photos – although I have been back since with some girlfriends for pancakes and a few more happy-snaps.
This place is serious about tea. There’s a loose-leaf menu that is nearly as long as the daily dishes and reads like a wine list, while the generous and elegant glass teapots are swoon-worthy. Coffee lovers don’t despair though, although B&C won’t touch the stuff you can still partake, grabbing a take-away from the adjoining Campos space to have with your meal. At the top of the tea menu is a dangling-carrot of a tease in the form of a future afternoon commoners low-tea promise – yes please!
Although there are a few staple dishes, the ever-changing menu is based on whatever is available at the markets each day, the bread is Infinity Organic Sourdough and the baked goods are house-made. Ordering is done at the counter but just a hint – if you can locate a loose one, grab a menu from the front to work out your order while standing in line – once you get up to the iPad register there is far too much pressure to peruse all the options on the spot. The circus ring-leasers, co-owners Amanda and Danny, can usually be found in the kitchen cooking for the masses and somehow the food is delivered [mostly] correctly without numbers or names being given when orders are placed.
Tables made from rustic, heavy wooden slabs provide communal seating with a mix of benches and chairs spanning the length of each side. Magazines scattered around provide reading material if you neglected to stop off for a paper on the way and grab-your-own cutlery and napkins are placed in the centre of the tables. There are also colourful canvas-sling sun chairs and small tables outside if you are looking for something a bit more private but beware the concrete reflection if you are sensitive to the sun!
Ok, on to the food, that is what you’re here for isn’t it?!
We started with an exquisite Silver Jasmine green tea [$4] for me a seasonal smoothie [$9] for RJ. The flavour of the day was blueberry and banana with organic milk and flax. It was delicious and a relatively decent size but be warned as at $9 any add-ins will push your drink into double digits territory.
RJ of course went straight to the biodynamic parmesan not-so-scrambled eggs [$18] with bullet chilli, fresh tomato, buttered spinach & sourdough and added a side of preservative-free free-range ham [$4]. The eggs… oh the eggs. A slightly scrambled, slightly omelet-ed pile of perfectly cooked heaven – every bite infused with butter and parmesan and punctuated with an occasional bite from the chilli. The spinach was ever so slightly wilted and we were pleasantly surprised by a slab of perfectly ripe avocado tucked under the bread.
It is worth noting, the eggs are available with truffle oil instead of chilli and on my return visit one of the girls had the truffle alternative – butter, parm and truffle oil, yeah it was as good as it sounds.
I decided to forgo breakfast options for a change due to the more-ish sounding list of five salads. Now you know I love a good smorgasbord so the option to ‘choose any or all’ was beckoning – ‘all’ it would be. I had the half plate [$14] with a side of bread and organic butter [$4]. I had asked on ordering if wholemeal was available and was given a blank look but I caught a glimpse of a hearty brown loaf on the way out, oh well. The half plate was plenty for me with the bread and some kidnapped avacado from RJ and while I didn’t spot the regular plate [$16] anywhere the people sitting across the table had a share plate [$25] which was enormous.
The salad list on the day included baked eggplant halves w lemon-thyme-apple buttermilk | braised poppy seed cabbage w miso agave mirin | roasted red capsicum on lemon zested olive-oil couscous w mint biodynamic yoghurt | blanched snow pea & bright cherry tomato tossed w mirin-parsley butter | raw coriander sweet corn red onion & spicy lime agave. All of it was delicious but the winner for us both had to be the sweet corn and coriander.
On my return visit the very particular pancakes [$16] of pre-soaked buckwheat black quinoa coconut-rapadura w maple biodynamic yoghurt got my attention immediately. Just-crisp around the edges with a slightly dense, earthy flavour they were served with crunchy apple slices and fresh mint and hit the spot perfectly. A boiled biodynamic egg [$3] on the side and a pot of beautiful green tea, as before, rounded out the meal. It is worth mentioning that a workmate gave the foxy porridge [$15] glowing praise although I haven’t tried it as of yet.
There is do doubt we need to head back at some point soon to resist the allure of brunch and partake in some of the heartier lunch items instead. Although there are no other shops aside from Campos in the warehouse space, Danny mentioned that there are plans for bakeries, fruit and veg stands and other various fresh-market stalls in the near-future, I can’t wait!
- Value: Biodynamic, organic food is by no way cheap and a meal for two will put you out $50 on average at Bread & Circus. However the servings are substantial, delicious, creative and beyond fresh.
- 5 Senses: Sky-high ceilings, louvered glass doors, boxes and bags of fresh ingredients and rustic finishes stitch together into simple and bright if slightly cluttered industrial-eco-chic. Enticing scents waft across from the open kitchen and the communial seating lets you peek at the meals as they churn out. Best to grab one of the outside spots if you want to have a private conversation though.
- Service and convenience: Order at the counter quickly please before the queue behind you swarms, food dropped at the table by whomever grabs it. Keep an eye and ear out for your sides and drinks lest they end up with the neighbors but all the servers are willing to help out when asked. They do take card but if it isn’t working – as it wasn’t on the second visit – there is not much around to facilitate cash withdrawal. Same for newsagents so bring a paper or be content with the shared mags.
- Boomerang Effect: In a word, yes. And every day if possible. However the cost is a touch prohibitive for a regular brunch outings so it may be more of an every-now-and-then place than a every-weekend one. Although a salad plate and tea only comes to $20… hum…
BREAD & CIRCUS WHOLEFOODS CANTEEN – ALEXANDRIA, SYDNEY
21 FOUNTAIN STREET
SYDNEY, NSW 2015 AUSTRALIA
Completely unrelated sidebar
On the way home we drove by a game of bicycle-polo played on a basketball court by grown men wearing spandex suits. You bet we stopped. Prepare yourself…