Sydney has a knack for turning seedy premises into excellent food joints.
Petersham’s Oxford Tavern is now known for its grill rather than girls, girls, girls. Similarly, where Cabramatta’s Iron Chef stands was once a strip club. Now, the folks at Mecca Coffee have opened up a fourth shop in Alexandria, on the former site of a brothel.
If you’re after pleasures of the culinary kind, you’ll be well-sated here. The menu is divided into toast, rolls, bowls and plates, and it’s a token example of the kitchen’s creativity that poached eggs only feature on one menu item.
Take the white bean roll. It’s a seeded bread roll, packed with big flavours. The white bean-mayo mash-up is heady with garlic—perhaps a little too much, which for this garlic queen, is saying something. I’m stoked on the salsa agresto, a pesto-like paste of toasted almonds and parsley. Sautéed leaves of cavolo nero hail the long-awaited demise of The Age of Raw Kale. To our long-suffering, not-another-scrambled-tofu-breakfast vegetarian sisters and brothers, this roll is a toast to all of you, and luckily you can join the party.
My mustachioed dining partner has opted for the alpha-male breakfast special of crispy ham, fried eggs, and braised lentils. And while it’s delicious, it’s also very... brown. A little nagging goes a long way, and after a lecture about eating vegetables (me), and resigned twitching of upper-lip hair (him), I’ve landed us a side order of house-made pickles.
The cynical Sydney native in me expects a tiny saucer of vinegary vegetables. Instead, $5 gets me a plate generously heaped with four colourful types of pickles—cabbage, ginger, carrot and beans. Each pickle has a different flavour to the last, and none of that lip-puckering pickle sourness. Highly recommended, especially if venturing into the menu’s meaty offerings.
I’m a big sucker for super-savoury options for breakfast. It’s perhaps borne from my childhood penchant for eating dinner leftovers in the morning (curry and stir-fries before school, yay!). So, like a hungry moth to an umami-emitting light, I’m drawn to the ‘divine broth’. A deep bowl arrives, filled with the most amazing chicken broth I’ve ever tasted. It’s at once clear, light and complex. A mound of pearl barley and sprouted lentils add beautiful crunch and nuttiness, and the charred shallots and cavolo nero will make you laugh in the face of raw food advocates. If this is the divine dish, then I’m very happy for the kitchen to keep preaching. It’s the best breakfast dish I’ve had in Sydney all year.
For dessert you must, must, must order the chocolate and salted caramel tart, courtesy of Flour & Stone. It’s dense, decadent, and just a common sense choice, really.
Of course, the coffee offerings are stellar. A rotating roster of feature beans showcase Mecca’s exemplary roasting and brewing skills. One week, I have an Ethiopian Hunkute on filter—floral, citrusy, delicate; another, a creamy Colombian Hermanos Motta on espresso. They know how to make a good tea, too.
In fact, it’s pretty hard to fault Mecca. The service, food and coffee are of a consistently high standard, even during peak times. You may have been unfamiliar with this Alexandria site when it was a sensual temple, but as its present culinary reincarnation, Mecca is simply heaven.
Image credit: Daryl Kong