Calico Cafe is a new cafe in the Redfern/Chippendale area that opened on March 12 when COVID-19 first took hold of Sydney. Located in a former Calico fabric factory it takes the place of Rabbit Hole Tea on the corner of Hudson and Abercrombie streets. It's a mix of healthy, vegan dishes but also includes meat dishes and brunch items.
Although Ivy and I are eating outside, I sneak a quick look at the inside space. Calico is an eye catching café with exposed brick and it is a large airy space with a sun drenched ante room at one side. There are sewing machines and little motifs that reference the building's former industry.
The menu is a collaboration with chef Danny Russo with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dishes with all day breakfasts that include the usual suspects like eggs on toast to more creative offerings. Drinks include vegan protein shakes, cold pressed juices and coffee by Cleanskin. Calico have also just opened for dinner from Thursday to Saturday nights with a bar type of menu that includes charcuterie and cheese boards and nibbles that go well with drinks.
We both start with drinks. Mine is a cold pressed Raspberry Beret (one of my favourite Prince songs, it's a sign!) with Granny smith apple, raspberry and elderberry. It's delicious and I like the combination of flavours as the elderflower and raspberry gives the apple juice an intense aroma. Ivy's choice is a Coco Logo with coconut, pineapple, mango, mint and lime and this isn't too sweet but has a nice creamy texture.
Service is really lovely from our waitress who a) doesn't mind coming back when we can't stop talking long enough to look at the menu and b) gives us some solid recommendations including this stuffed, baked eggplant. It's half an enormous eggplant filled with pearl barley, Napolitana sauce, feta, pomegranate arils and spring onion on a bed of hummus. And you know what? It's delightful. There's so much flavour in this and the eggplant melts in the mouth and I love the addition of hummus. In fact I only realise that Ivy (who doesn't usually like eggplant) is now enjoying her first eggplant dish in the entire time that I've known her!
I mentioned the menu had vegan items and it also has gluten free vegan items like the Green Goodness cracker. It's a long, rectangular, gluten free tomato cracker topped with peas, broad beans, edamame, mint, lemon and garlic. It's nice and the peas have an appealing sweetness and it's a very spring time sort of dish.
Our waitress also recommended the cheeseburger and after about 2 seconds of consideration we ordered it because balance (see dish above) ;). It's a beauty with a milk bun filled with two beef patties, cheese, secret sauce and pickles. When you're going to eat a burger make sure that the calories are worth it and this one is. The fries on the side are optional and said to come with truffle oil although this isn't really that apparent. It comes with a choice of chipotle mayonnaise and a chilli sauce but we asked nicely and they gave us both to try.
By now we've been sitting here in the sun for a couple of hours and I remember seeing the knafeh on the menu. Ivy has never tried knafeh so we order it for dessert. It's stretchy cheese, kataifi pastry shreds with rosewater syrup, pistachio ice cream with candied orange peel and rose petals on the side. I'm not such a huge fan of the pistachio ice cream but the rest is delicious, especially the cheese when hot and stretchy.
So tell me Dear Reader, how often are you too busy talking to take a look at the menu? Have you ever tried knafeh before?
Cnr Abercrombie & Hudson Streets, Redfern NSW 2016
Monday to Wednesday, Sunday 7am–4pm
Thursday to Saturday 7am–10pm
Phone: (02) 8384 9791