On my recent trips to Melbourne, visits to Pope Joan, Code Black Coffee and Duchess of Spotswood had me lamenting about the lack of something plausibly similar in Sydney, apart from The Grounds of Alexandria. Essentially, all started out as Cafes at the core, but simply refused to be restricted by that strict definition. Sensibly they chose to challenge their culinary brief, whilst always keeping the food real on the plate. Fortunately Three Williams on Elizabeth Street in Redfern has thrown its hat in the ring also, in an absolutely huge open space, which is truly everything to all people. It is 1.30pm on a nondescript Tuesday in its third week, and the joint is cranking with hipsters, mothers, foodies and working types who don’t appear to be in any particular hurry to go anywhere. The other thing that strikes me is the generous spacing of the tables, and the number of floor staff, which indicates that providing a comfortable space and relaxed experience is of premium importance to the owners.
Starting with a very refreshing jug of pineapple and mint ‘house made’ soda ($12), which is the perfect thirst quencher for any hot summer’s day, and would easily see out a table of four. For the coffee tragic, Single Origin Roasters is the bean supplier of choice, which is extracted with both precision and care. The ristretto, a true test of both barista and beans, has a thick crema with a complex layering of flavour profiles and depth. Later, for a primarily a milk based coffee, the latte has both a distinctive texture and finish. I am told a liquor licence is in the works, which would add the final dimension to a extremely versatile space, especially with the kitchen headed up by talented Chef Tim Bryan (ex Aria and Chiswick). Manager Glen Bowditch (ex Grounds and Sonoma) also brings larger scale experience into play here, with some tweaks that are clearly in the customers favour.
Fish croquettes ($3 each) are playfully served in a half egg carton, with a wedge of lemon and the new benchmark for aioli, which is entirely flawless. Perfect crunch, seasoning, interior texture, all dipped in that divine aioli is all manner of good. The glazed beef brisket narnie ($14), has developed a cult following in a very short space of time, and for very good reason. ‘House made’ naan style flat bread does its best to house a generous portion of sticky slow cooked brisket, vibrant slaw, gherkins and chipotle mayo. It is a challenge picking it up, with juices dripping everywhere, but the payback is the savvy balance of flavour and textures that has you contemplating another. Beer battered chips ($6), with that killer ‘house made’ aioli is the perfect side to match, or perhaps the chicken salad ($15) maybe the more guilt free option if that is an issue. It is worth having just for the moreish crunchy spice roasted carrots alone, with the avocado, cashew and citrus dressing finishing it off nicely. The solid combinations of the grilled prawn narnie ($14), with avocado, sweet corn, tomato salsa and aioli is also worth consideration.
If the technical standard of the chocolate cake and Madeleines are anything to judge by, desserts overseen by Noreen Bryan who had a stint at Marcus Wareing’s ‘The Berkeley’, should be worth watching. It is early days, but Three Williams is off to a cracking start with the hand picked team it has already assembled, and with the versatility of the space, the future looks very promising. There is clearly untapped potential for perhaps a Wine Bar concept at night with an extended menu. The large scale and open plan of the space would also open up launches and functions, with the possibility of utilising an absolute dream laneway space at the rear. Thankfully, when someone from Melbourne asks me where they can grab some breakfast or lunch with great coffee, I can tell them with confidence to get along to Three Williams…
613a Elizabeth Street, Redfern
Daily 7am to 3pm
Reservations: 02 9698 1111