Ampersand Cafe Bookstore – it’s a good ‘un

10 May

So we are back in Surry Hills, I think there is a long rubber band connecting us to a Crown street sign post: after a long stretch away, it tugs us back again. What better way to mark our return, but to visit what is apparently a contender for the top breakfast in Sydney title – Ampersand.

I have walked past Ampersand hundreds of times and never really noticed it, I must be seriously out of the loop. I wasn’t aware of its reputation, celebrity chefs and ability to go 4 rounds in the ring with Kazbah and come out with only a little egg on its face. I needed to see this for myself.

Corn fritters  - Ampersand The timing could not be better, with a Kazbah booking, safely locked into the diary for next weekend, Ampersand this weekend made for an epic ‘clash of the Sydney brunch titans’. I’m pretty excited.

It‘s a lovely day and Sydneysiders are out in force with a ‘garage sale trail’ on throughout NSW, everyone is out looking for a bargain. After a successful ‘garage sailing trip’ and a few vintage bargains under my belt, we had worked up an appetite for a brunch (we hoped) to remember.

As we enter, it’s clearly busy and we are in risk of being turned away. We were greeted promptly and with a smile – this is already a lot better than usual. The waitress suggests we could find some more seating upstairs. My heart slumps as I fear being ‘that table’ tucked away that the waitresses have all forgotten, slowly starving to death. We climb the stairs to find a busy room full of brunchers and no room for us, around the corner is a little library selling second hand books with a couple of tables and some couches for a coffee and a short read. What do people read in these places – 1 chapter? I never understood the point. It’s like watching 10 minutes of a movie and then turning it off.

To our surprise, the waitress who directed us upstairs has come to find us and take a drinks order. This lady isn’t our waitress; she just came up to make sure we were ok. Our waitress then checks we have ordered drinks and fetches us fresh menus, we relax in the knowledge that we are going to be looked after here.

The coffee arrives and it is great, it smooth but strong and flavour filled.

There is a buzz of chatter and noise from next door, but our little book room has soft furnishings from the carpet and the walls of books, which muffles out all the racket for a quiet and relaxing ambiance. The music is good too, the soft sultry sounds of a female vocalist, calls for a Shazam. Its ‘Emiliana Torrinie’ and the song is ‘Gun’, I have never heard of her, but I can watch her on YouTube, see her upcoming tour dates and lip sync to the lyrics – I love my phone!

Bloody Mary - Ampersand Back to brunch, I order the ‘Corn fritters – sweet corn and capsicum, gluten-free, fritters served with fresh avocado, rocket and tomato salsa’. Finally a healthy breakfast option that tastes divine, I have a little dance in my seat. Packed full of flavour, I savoured every single mouthful. I quite often chose a corn fritter option, and these might be the best that I have had to date. Light, fluffy, not too stodgy and the capsicum gives them a nice fresh bit of a crunch. This is pesto perfection. The sauce is packed full of flavour and really sets off the dish, making it a real winner.

 He orders the “Bloody Mary breakfast – baked eggs with chorizo, avocado salsa & sour cream served with toasted sour dough’ without the Bloody Mary accompaniment, it’s pretty bloody good! Add tabasco sauce if it’s too early for vodka.

What’s the damage? No more than we spent in Corelli’s last Saturday but a million miles from that grease pit.

For me Ampersand is no longer an innocuous cafe opposite the library, this was a brilliant experience with service and a price which can’t be faulted. One not to miss, Kazbah better bring it on Saturday!

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