Expansive polished concrete floors play off the exposed pipes, painted brick walls and a blackboard-backed kiddie area.
A mix and match of wood, marble and metal tables and chairs provide an air of casual nonchalance.
The servers and baristas, dressed in faded black with pants rolled above the ankle, are Redfern gentrification at its finest.
With its Facebook-only website and little more out front than a copper ‘W’ plaque next to the door to indicate its existence, Three Williams Cafe is as industrial chic and hipster cool as you would expect, but don’t be fooled…
The stoneware plates cost more than your wedding china, the owner is ex The Grounds and Sonoma, and the head chef is an alum of both Aria and Chiswick. This is a serious inner-city cafe.
The buzz over Three Williams has been steadily growing over the past few months so I was pleased when I was invited to attend a tasting breakfast back in December. The food and drinks flowed thick and fast, giving us an opportunity to try a bit of almost everything on the menu — and while I tend to like my brunch a touch more relaxed, a smorgasbord of options is not a bad alternative every now and then.
Helping myself to some fresh orange juice on arrival, I ordered a green tea and only just glanced at the menu before the breakfast dishes started hitting the table.
A beeline for the baked beans and avocado was a given, as was nicking a poached egg, some fetta and a few marinated peppers off another plate its way through.
Spicy smashed beans with avocado on charred toast ($13) is a generous serve of roughly mashed avocado spiked with lime. The beans, while not particularly spicy, were obviously house-made.
An almost a ploughman-esque plate, the poached eggs, marinated bull horn peppers, serrano ham, feta, dukkah, on toast ($16) is great for those wanting a slightly more highbrow big-breakfast alternative.
Of course if a plate-of-meats traditional big-breakfast is more your thing there is always the big william: bacon, fried eggs, nuremberg sausage, roma tomato, hash, onion relish ($17). I was surprised however to see that the hashbrown looked a bit like it should be in a paper sleeve…
Three Williams version of an egg roll is the merchant: chilli fried egg, crispy bacon, pickled slaw, ranch dressing on a warm brioche bun ($12).
The perfectly cooked egg sat there winking at the cameras, ready and waiting to release a gush of egg-p*rn on contact with knife or teeth. Yes it’s on brioche and you know what, I like brioche, so all you brioche haters can just get over it and order something on sourdough.
Granola with hibiscus pear ($12) is a sweeter option topped with yoghurt and served with a side of milk. The granola is weighty with nuts and oats although all the dried fruit isn’t really my thing.
Ok, ok, it’s almost cruel for me to have waited this long to reveal the dish everyone is talking about — crunchy brioche french toast, blueberries, yoghurt, roasted pecans and maple syrup ($14).
Now my love affair with crunchy french toast is well documented — first back in late 2012 when we discovered it in LA then in early 2013 when I posted a recipe then again in the end of 2013 when we were back in LA.
The Three Williams version is damn good with creamy yoghurt, a sprinkling of pecans and berries and perfectly crisp edges in every bite.
Both the price ($14 for a single piece of toast) and the taste are rich though, so if there are a few of you get one for the table and share it around.
Of course like any good cafe Three Williams isn’t just about breakfast, and the opposite side of the menu (with everything available from 7am-3pm) is well stocked with hearty salads and naan-style flatbread sandwiches.
The salads provide really solid vegetarian alternatives (but are all available with chicken too) and we tried the caramelised cauliflower tabouli, with quinoa, walnuts and preserved lemon ($13). While the idea and flavour combinations were good overall, I found the marinated florets quite salty. Could have just been the day?
Next time I think I’ll go for the spice roasted carrots, avocado, cashew, citrus dressing without chicken ($12) and pop a poached egg on top.
Before launching into the Narnies, let us take a brief interlude for crunchy fried things. Fish croquettes, lemon, aioli ($3ea) were crisp bites filled with soft potato and fish and came perched jauntily in recycled egg cartons.
But it is the beer battered chips with house aioli ($6) that really stole the show. All hot chips are not created equal and these are miles ahead of most.
Stunningly crunchy and more-ish, I could go on and on but what would be the point? Just go get some and see for yourself.
Next up, a trio of fillings wrapped in grilled flatbread landed on the table in quick succession and each Narnie provide something different.
Grilled prawns, avocado, iceberg and aioli ($14) had a crisp pop and creamy finish.
Fried tempeh, asian-style pickled veg, sriracha & lime mayo ($12) is one of the more interesting veggie alternatives I’ve seen around lately. I’d of course love to have a full vegetable option instead of a vegetarian meat substitute, but maybe that’s just me.
Glazed beef brisket, slaw, gherkins, chipotle mayo ($14) received positive reviews all around from my dining companions.
There are a couple of interesting drinks — house-made sodas, cake-esque flavoured smoothies and a peanut-butter milkshake that will knock you on your rear in the best possible way.
And on the off chance you still have room (or simply pop in for coffee and cake) there is a dessert case that includes one of the richest chocolate brownies I’ve had in a while.
You could pass Three Williams off — with its already established cult-following dishes and mid-morning queues — as Sydney’s newest fad. But if you did that you’d miss out on a solid menu and great inner-city cafe, and that would certainly be a shame.
- Value: average Sydney prices and average size servings with no real surprises. Some things are a bit more generous (the chips) and some a bit less so (the french toast) but it appears to average out in the end.
- 5 Senses: Lots of hard surfaces mean the volume can rise above a dull roar at busy times but the tables are spaced out enough that you aren’t on top of your neighbours — novel concept in most cafes. Lot of vego options as well as sweet and savoury will suit pretty much anyone.
- Service: When we arrived at 9.30 there were plenty of open tables but by 10.30 a queue started to form. Due to the nature of my visit I can’t comment on service but will update this once I go back.
- Boomerang Effect: If I find myself around Redfern I wouldn’t hesitate to stop into Three Williams again. Perfectly poached eggs and generous servings of avocado are always a winner for me and I know there are plenty of things on the menu that RJ would like too.
- Curtain Call: Based on the past history of the chef I’d imagine that the menu will change seasonally (I’ve already spotted a summer bircher on their FB page) to keep the punters coming back for more. Not to mention there is talk of a liquor license in the works so dinner is only a matter of time.
THREE WILLIAMS CAFE — REDFERN, SYDNEY
613A ELIZABETH ST
REDFERN, NSW 2016 AUSTRALIA
JJ dined as a guest of Three Williams. All opinions are fully my own, etc, etc, andele, andele, arriba, arriba. Editorial policy here.