I found this poster in an alley in Redfern, an arty part of town that’s on the up and up from its grungy past. My friend Bianca laughed for a good five minutes after I showed it to her. At breakfast yesterday, after our 6:30 a.m. yoga class, I said offhandedly that Sydney is like that super-nice boyfriend, the one who’s so good to you and good-looking too, who drives you crazy because he’s so perfect. She agreed, “Sydney has no dark side!” And if it does, it hides it very, very well.
It does rain here, especially when it’s late fall, like it is now. But it doesn’t stop Sydney’s inhabitants from its happy, healthy life. Yesterday, I took the ferry in the rain to Manly, one of the northern beaches that got its name when Arthur Phillips, the first governor of New South Wales, saw a bunch of manly aborigines on that jut of land. The story is almost too good to be true, but so right on target. The beach was still full of surfers, the path to Shelley beach still populated with runners.
This last morning in Sydney, I know I’ve had a wonderful time. I got my photo taken with sleepy koalas at the Taronga Zoo. I went on a cool, forest walk in the Blue Mountains outside the city. The Sydney Opera House is almost more impressive from the inside than outside, and the view of the city at night when you’re on the ferry coming back is almost psychedelic.
But Sydney is the kind of city that makes me miss home. So it doesn’t surprise me that one of my favorite moments was the breakfast Bianca and I had at Appetite Cafe in Redfern.
Sitting in that dark café, with its uneven art and mismatched chairs, I had one of the best breakfasts of my life. (Maybe almost as good was my breakfast at famous Bills, where the ricotta banana hotcakes were all eggy light glory.)
It’s a “halloumi hash,” a hockey puck of shredded potato mixed lightly with cheese, stacked with dark, salty bacon, toasted sourdough, a poached egg, and something they call “tomato jam,” which is sweet and salty and tart all at once. My favorite kind of food, so many textures and flavors all running together. Halloumi is pretty rare in NY, but it’s offhandedly on so many menus here. The combinations are different from New American, and I think not quite even Modern Oz, which is what they say. It’s artful but not self-conscious, even at the almost angst-y Appetite Cafe.
Appetite Café also serves Campos coffee, which is their shorthand for “serious coffee.” Delicious, especially as I have a weakness for silly things like dorky souvenir spoons.
Bianca, who used to live in the East Village, says she can’t wait to come visit New York and roll around in its grittiness. She says Appetite Cafe is practically the only cafe of its kind in Sydney (though she also says Melbourne is a completely different story). It’s true that I can think of half a dozen cafes we could go sit and write in. But the Aussie spin on the café—the carefree, creative food—I don’t think I could find quite so easily.