Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Bread and Circus Wholefoods Canteen, Sydney

Sydney has an amazing cafe culture, particularly places that serve brunch.  This is one of my favorite aspects of Sydney (well, besides the weather, the beaches, the thai food, the tropical fruit, the friendly people ... Ok, I love a lot of things about Sydney!), but, the amazing cafes are certainly a big draw for me.  That, and the fact that brunch is often my favorite meal, generally an excuse to eat desserts and call it a "meal".

On my recent visit, we took a walk even further outside the CBD than normal, to Alexandria, to a cafe I had read about somewhere called Bread and Circus.  They serve breakfast until 12 on weekdays, and all day on weekends (along with daily lunch after 12pm).  The lunch offerings are actually fairly unique, "boxes" of assemble-your-own-sandwiches, with the sliced bread and other ingredients in a box, even if you are dining in.  An interesting concept I guess, but, we weren't there for lunch, you know me, I'm all about breakfast and brunch!

Our group of 6 arrived at 11am on a Sunday, and joined the orderly queue lined up inside.  We were seated within about 10 minutes, so it wasn't much of a wait.  The place is clearly very popular, as it was bustling the whole time we were there.

Service was ... well, awful.  We were constantly asking for things as nothing was ever provided and getting any attention took considerable effort.  One of our dining companions was a local, and he said that this is normal for the area, that cafes are under-staffed and staff just can't take time to pay attention to tables.  This certainly seemed true, as our server seemed busy not lazy, just, never able to give us any time.

The food was ... mediocre-poor.  Many things were missing from our dishes, but, we didn't bother try to get these issues resolved, as we couldn't get any service anyway.  Needless to say ... I won't be returning.

The Setting

Front Register.
Bread & Circus is located in one large interior area alongside a Campos cafe, and the two spaces are just divided by little quasi-walls they put up.  On the Bread & Circus side, the walls are ... pink, and decorated with lots of plants.  It all felt busy and cluttered to me.

The register to pay at was along this front pink divider.
Barista Station.
On one side is a barista, and next to that, an extensive juicing station.   These were very busy stations.  Drinks were served in cute pink mugs.  Noticing a theme?

The barista area also had more plants, and some random vegetables on the counter.

Pink: check.  Clutter: check.
The main kitchen is open in the middle, but hidden behind more plants, random vegetables, and fruits.  We couldn't really see much action in the kitchen.
Booths, Water Station.
Booths were all brightly colored.  The water station had a sign saying that it was reverse osmosis filtered water, which seemed funny, as only the servers ever filled up water jugs, and I'm sure most patrons never saw this.
On the table was a (pink) bucket with spoons, forks, and knives so we could serve our own cutlery, tabasco (red and green), pepper, salt, and a bowl of spiced brown sugar.  Warning: if you want any other sort of sugar/sweetener, please bring your own, this is all they have available.
Plates & Bowls.
Guess what color the plates were?  Yup, pastel pink.  The pinks really got a bit too cutesy for me.


The drink menu is even larger than the food menu, one huge page, double sided.  They have all the expected coffee drinks, including the ever trendy "Liquid Lama" with coffee blended with butter and coconut oil.  They also offer a huge number of cold pressed juices, blends, and smoothies.  One whole side of the drink menu is a tea menu, both hot and cold (nit: they listed the rooibos under black tea!)

Our group ordered an assortment of drinks, many of them juices, which I had to stay away from due to watermelon at that station.
Pimms without Pimms. $6.
"Preservative-free ginger beer poured over slices of cucumber lime and seasonal fruit w/ fresh mint."

Ojan went for this drink, and it really was impressive.  Slices of lime, slices of cucumber, slices of pears, halves of strawberry, and mint leaves were all inside.  Oh, and there was a little spoon made of ice!

It not only looked good, it was good.  It was refreshing and had a great ginger flavor.  Ojan loved it, and said it was the best part of the meal.  I agree.  The slices of fruit and cucumber were a bit funny though, but, it gave him something to munch on during the rather long wait for food.
Decaf Iced Long Black. $3.50.
I just wanted coffee, but since it was 90+ degrees out, I wanted it iced.  They had regular iced coffee available, but, not decaf, so I went for a decaf iced long black (basically, an americano, just with the shot poured in after the water).  It came in a regular glass, with exactly 3 ice cubes, all of which promptly melted.

The coffee wasn't great, and I needed more ice.  Luckily, one of my dining companions had asked for ice about 10 minutes earlier, and it came about 5 minutes later (it only takes 15 minutes to get ice here!), so I was able to add some to my coffee.

The others got juice blends, but, since they went for ones containing watermelon, I stayed far away.


Since we were there before noon, only the breakfast menu was available, but that is what I wanted anyway.  I had my eyes on the ricotta pancakes, as I'm still looking for somewhere to replace Bills, since I haven't enjoyed it the last few times I was in Sydney.  I also wanted the fancy sounding porridge (they do porridge so well in Sydney!).  And I heard great things about the scrambled eggs.  Oh, and it was my last day in Sydney, and I realized I hadn't had halloumi yet, so I wanted that too.

I was having a hard time deciding what to order, so I asked if folks wanted to share, and, luckily for me, they did.  Thus, I ordered everything I wanted ... "for the group".
Foxy Spring Porridge. $15.
"Pre-soaked and whisked organic rolled oats, w/ caramelized banana, toasted coconut, blueberry, pistachio and mint drizzled with agave, a dollop of organic clotted cream."

So, that porridge.  A hot bowl of porridge is a rather strange thing to get when it is 90 degrees, which we realized once we had ordered, but, there weren't actually many items that weren't hot.  Some chilled overnight oats sure sounded better at that point though ...

Anyway, the porridge was a huge disappointment.  It really was just a big bowl of really, really mushy oatmeal.  The oats had no flavor at all.  There were generous toppings though, including the toasted coconut, some blueberries, a ton of caramelized banana, pistachios, and springs of mint.

I did like the caramelized banana, they did a nice job creating a crispy candy top, but everything else fell a bit flat.  I appreciated the crunch from the pistachios and coconut.  We all thought the porridge was really bland, and Ojan resorted to mixing in some of the brown sugar from the table to give it some sweetness.  Where was that agave from the description anyway?  Oh, and speaking of where are things, um ... where was the clotted cream?  Clearly, one major reason I ordered this was for the cream!

I tried to get a server's attention for a good 10 minutes, and finally gave up, as it was too late to ask for clotted cream at that point.

Anyway, this was really not good, my least favorite dish.
Caramelised lemony banana pancakes. $19.
"Banana, ricotta and biodynamic egg flourless pancake w/maple syrup, lemon compound butter, caramelised banana and strawberry."

Next we had the pancakes.  When I think of banana ricotta pancakes, I think of Bills, and, the last few times I went to Bills I didn't love it, so I was hoping these would be great and be my replacement.  They were not.  They were far worse.

The pancakes were thin, and not at all light and fluffy like a ricotta pancake should be.  I'm not actually sure they had ricotta in them.  They also just tasted ... healthy.  I didn't like the pancake at all.

The strawberry on the side was just strawberry.  The banana was nicely caramelized, like in the porridge.  The ricotta on the side was ... ricotta.  Not sweetened nor flavored in any way.  Syrup was syrup.

Where was the lemon compound butter from the menu description?  No where.  No plain butter either.  No lemon element whatsoever.  "lemony banana pancakes", eh?  Sigh.

So another dish that was just ... boring.  The pancakes weren't good, and although I like ricotta and I liked the brulee banana, they didn't really go together very well, and I had no real desire to eat this dish either.  I drizzled some maple syrup over the ricotta, and ate the slightly sweetened ricotta with strawberries, but, alas, not a winner.  And ... $19?

I wouldn't get it again, but, I guess it was my second to least favorite, as the sides were marginally better than the porridge.
Parmesan not-so-scrambled eggs, chilli version. $20.
"Biodynamic eggs w/ fresh chilli [or] real truffle oil, under shaved parmesan w/ avocado, baby spinach, tomato, fresh herbs and sourdough."

One of my tablemates really wanted eggs, so we got the scrambled eggs.  Since Ojan hates truffle, we went for the chilli version.

The eggs were actually good, soft, fluffy, and really did have some kick from the chilli. We didn't detect much parmesan though.

I didn't try the avocado since I'm allergic, the toast since I hate sourdough, or the tomato slices or spinach, so, I don't have much to say about this dish, besides the fact that the eggs were the only thing that I ate that was actually good.  Uh, my favorite dish?  Surprise, given that I don't generally care for eggs.
Grilled haloumi. $6.
We also opted for a side of simple grilled haloumi, 3 slices.

The haloumi was grilled, not too squeaky, a bit salty naturally, but not seasoned in any additional way.  It was fine I guess, but I prefer more of a char, or at least some seasoning.  Second pick of the meal, but I wouldn't get it again.
Morning Jumble, small. $15.
"Very brilliant bircher or crunchy granola w/ a selection of fresh, seasonal fruit and biodynamic yoghurt and a drizzle of agave syrup."

As we sat waiting, and waiting, and waiting for our food, we saw basically every other table ordering plates that had tons of fresh fruit on them, along with bowls with something in them.  I saw passionfruit, dragonfruit, figs, and more.  We looked at the menu, and saw two items that sounded like fruit and yogurt.  The first was the fruit plate: "seasonal fresh fruit w/ biodynamic yoghurt and a drizzle of agave syrup".  The second was the super bowl: "biodynamic yoghurt w/ strawberry, stone fruit, kiwi,  passionfruit, banana, blueberry, toasted coconut,  fresh mint and maple syrup."  These sounded very similar, both with yogurt, both with fruit, just one had agave and one had maple syrup, and one specified which fruit it was?  The fruit looked good though, so we wanted to add this on to our order.

We asked another server what the dish was that he brought to the table next to us, loaded with fruit.  "Is that the fruit plate or the super bowl?", we asked.  The answer?  Neither.  It was the third nearly identical menu item, the "morning jumble", the same fruit and yogurt and agave, but with granola too.  Since I like granola, this sounded better to me, so we went for it.

This dish is also available with bircher muesli instead, which I obviously would have ordered in a heart beat, but, sadly, they were out of bircher muesli already by 11am!

The yogurt was in a little bowl, just plain yogurt, tart, topped with pomegranate seeds.   Meh.

We had one half a passionfruit, it was dried out.  The two cherries were decent.  A few slices of fig were ok.  The grapes, with pits, had very bitter skins.  The three slices of dragonfruit were watery and flavorless.  The nectarine slices were fine.  And then, a lot of mint.  The fruit was fine, but, certainly it looked better than it actually tasted.

The granola was loaded with nuts, seeds, and tons of hard-as-rocks raisins.  I hate it when granola is like this.

And, like the other dishes, we didn't taste any agave.

Very mediocre, middle pick of the meal for me.
Bread & Circus Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato
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