Cafe XXII, Pyrmont
Whether you have a voracious sweet tooth, crave somewhere serene to relax in inner Sydney, have a thing for icons of past eras or love yourself a good coffee, Café XXII is the place for you. Amy Rathbone writes.
Café XXII’s homepage features the Virginia Woolf quote, “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” It follows then that if you are trying to muster brain power, are in search of love or just simply after a good night’s sleep, Café XXII may well be all you need.
Our visit to the Café XXII happens to fall on a Sunday morning. It is quiet but this certainly has nothing to do with its quality. While we prepare ourselves for a lavish breakfast, the rest of Sydney sleeps.
And even if all of Sydney were up and ready, this would have little effect on Café XXII. Tucked away in a delightful 19thcentury sandstone plaza, the café is untouched by the hustle and bustle of city life. That’s not to say that Café XXII doesn’t get its fair share of dreary-eyed, coffee-craving commuters or the occasional uni student who sips their soy latte while “working” away on their laptop.
Rather, Café XXII is in a secluded pocket of the old Pyrmont; hidden among the elegant terraces and cottages of a bygone era. In such a setting and shaded by the large, leafy branches of a stunning tree, it’s easy to forget the world around you and just relax. And don’t we all need just that?
Café XXII occupies a corner terrace, with its own sunny courtyard. Diners are swept back to a prior era by the large sandstone brick walls, contrasting sleek floorboards, majestic fireplace and antique feel of the predominantly wooden furniture.
A waitress notices our entry and directs us to a free table, but really, she may as well have shoved us there. Ending on such dry, unfriendly service would have sworn us off Café XXII, but we manage to steer clear of her for the rest of our visit.
A significant amount of time passes before another waiter prances to our table to take our drink orders. Fortunately, this one is live and moving, armed with jokes and a wide grin. We order an orange juice ($4.50) and iced mocha ($5.50), and find ourselves with said items in a split second.
Our drinks are presented in quirky, curvaceous glasses. The orange juice is organic but, in all honesty, nothing special. The iced mocha, on the other hand, perfectly balances the dark chocolate and coffee flavours. It also arrives as ordered—with skim milk and no cream. It is amazing how hard this request is for some cafes.
Some time passes before the waiter returns to take our breakfast order. Mind you, we needed these 15-or-so minutes to make up our minds.
After a glance at the menu, we want everything. Instead, we find ourselves facing the stomach-wrenching task of deciding between all the breakfast staples—bircher muesli, eggs benedict, omelette, banana bread, pancakes and a big breakfast—and a couple of extras.
We finally figure that we both have massive sweet tooths that we haven’t placated in a while, and this seems like the perfect chance. We decide on the brioche crunch French toast with marinated strawberries and mascarpone ($14.50) and the buttermilk pancakes with caramelised banana and camp maple syrup ($14), to which we added praline butter for an extra dollar.
Again, we wait. During which we notice the pop music playing in the background. Rihanna’s “We Found Love” is a bit odd for nine in the morning, especially considering the contrasting rustic décor.
Still waiting, jealousy hits us as we observe the diners around us. Most are consumed by eating their meals, and all look satiated. One man plays away on his laptop while tucking into bircher in a latte glass. He appears relaxed, at home. Likewise, Café XXII is a little bit quirky, with a whole lot of special, and yet, the perfect location to unwind.
Our meals arrive, and god, the presentation is divine. The thick fluffy pancakes are contrasted by the crispness of the toffee glaze on top of the bananas. The whole thing is lathered in sweet and delicious maple syrup. The serving is huge, and even with our nagging sweet tooths and the two of us sharing, we struggle to get through it. On a negative note, we never received the praline butter that we asked for.
The crunch French toast is an experience, having never come across it before. The light and fluffy brioche is pitched against the crunch of its outer skin. The velvety vanilla mascarpone adds yet another fine texture. The French toast is so delicious that it’s a shame we couldn’t finish it. But then again, who could when the piece of toast is the size of a standard plate.
Café XXII also serves lunch and dinner, with the menu for the latter changing completely every two days bar three items. I would like to think that both are as great as their lavish breakfast, consequently making the café a pure gem.
Address: 22 Union Street, Pyrmont
Open: Breakfast Mon-Fri 7am-11.30am
Brunch Sat-Sun 8am-3pm
Dinner Wed-Sat 5.30pm-10pm
Licensed: Yes; BYO is $3 per corkage
Price guide: For breakfast, meals range from $10-17
Bookings: Recommended; 9552 3093 or at cafexxii.com.au