We’re at Henry Lee’s on the Saturday of that notorious wet, wet, weekend. Despite sitting outside, we are dry as bones. The café, part of the new Eveleigh Creative Precinct, has an ingenious outdoor/indoor space design. The courtyard is covered by a flat, protruding glass roof, which lets in the daylight while sheltering us from the pelting rain, and the wall-mounted bar heaters do a surprisingly excellent job of warming us against the outdoor chill.
Central Coasters would be familiar with Green Tangerine, the popular bakery/café in Long Jetty. Owners Kath and Aaron Devaney have set up a second shop on the same block as Cake Wines Cellar Door, and design group Frost Collective. Of course, for a café named after the Nick Cave waltz, the menu is strewn with references to his songs, albums, and lovers/collaborators. This is the place to nerd out on Nicky C in-jokes, and pig out on tasty café fare.
The ‘Get Ready for Toast’ genuinely gets me excited... For toast. And the plain-speaking ‘Poached Eggs’ should really have been named ‘Where the Wild Yolks Grow’. I’m torn between ‘Push the Sky Away’ polenta porridge and the cured salmon ‘Polly Jean’. It takes me a moment, but go Polly. Yep, uh huh, her.
Polly is pretty in pink. The salmon, usually cured with gin and citrus, is today flavoured with beetroot juice. The fat, blushing tongues of beet-tinged fish are fanned out attractively on the plate, and circled by crunchy hazelnut dukkah, blobs of labneh, and a grapefruit radish salad. A couple of plump poached eggs sit on the side, wobbly as clouds, and just need a gentle coax of the knife to release their creamy goodness. As a dish, it’s a pretty beautiful mess we’re in.
As a civilised race, can we have lamb shanks for breakfast? Yes we can! ‘The Lyre’ is an open sandwich of shredded slow-braised lamb, studded with real-deal nutty chickpeas. The thin slivers of preserved lemon impart a pleasing tart contrast to the stew, and there’s a rosemary and olive gremolata mixed in there too... But, to be honest, all I can concentrate on is that amazingly yielding lamb. As a hearty breakfast, it’s an Orpheus choice.
Unfortunately, Henry Lee’s makes my “great food, crap chairs” hit list (comprising of the ex- Surry Hills Billy Kwong’s, and any hole-in-the-wall wine bar, ever). The black wire chairs may look stylish, but throughout breakfast my tush feels like a slab of Vegemite being pushed through the little holes of a Sao biscuit. It’s my only gripe about the place, truly.
On a cold day, if the neat coffee by Little Marionette ain’t your jam, there’s a pretty comprehensive chai, tea and tisane selection from Sydney’s Tippity Tea. With our bellies full and warm, we troop into the storm, and we la lalala la, la lalala lee the whole way home.
Want more cafes in Sydney? Check out Sydney's best cafes in our Directory!
Image credit: Federica Portentoso