Is there any cafe hotter than Three Williams right now? Who knows whether it's the narnie, the crunchy brioche French toast or the kids corner bringing in the crowds - and their kids? I'm guessing it's all three, combined with a welcome twist on salad offerings, chirpy service and a barista who takes every coffee order seriously.
Three Williams decor and the Willy's Corner kids' section
Three Williams has taken up residence on the site of a former storage space, perched in an otherwise no-mans land of Elizabeth Street between Redfern and Cleveland. Its name, according to co-owner Glen Bowditch (ex-The Grounds and Sonoma) comes from three notably historic Williams of the area: William Redfern, William Chippendale and their friend William Hutchinson, a successful landowner and pastroralist.
It's easy to walk past the entrance - only a stylised copper plaque by the glass entrance doors gives away any clues. At the top of the stairs, the cavernous basement setting makes for quite a sight, stretching as far as the eye can see. The semi-industrial look was designed by architect Anthony Gill, mixing up concrete floors, exposed copper pipes, casual timber seating and a kids chalkboard play area, anchored by an open kitchen down the back.
Fish croquettes with lemon and aioli $3 each
The all-day menu means you can order an heirloom tomato salad ($13) for breakfast or coconut bircher with vanilla poached pineapple ($12) for lunch. We started with the fish croquettes, mini footballs of mashed potato and flaked hapuku that taste more than a little reminiscent of bacalhau cod fritters, deliciously crunchy on the outside with a fluffy soft centre. They're served in too-cute egg cartons cut-outs - just begging to be Instagrammed. Ha.
Glazed beef brisket narnie $14
with slaw, gherkins and chipotle mayo
The narnie sounds like a gimmick - a culinary mash-up of naan bread and a sandwich - but eat your words because this hybrid is surprisingly good. It's no surprise to find that the head chef is Tim Bryan, ex-head chef at Chiswick and ex-Aria.
The narnies are made in house and it shows - soft and fluffy pillows of naan flatbread that are still pliable enough to be bent around an assortment of fillings. Has the infamous David Chang pork bun heralded a public shift away from eating bread with crusts? Maybe, but here the lightly browned surface gives a little more substance to each bite.
Glazed beef brisket taps into the current obsessions with all things Americana, hunks of brisket slow-cooked until the fat has rendered into a melting mouthful, perked up with crunchy slaw, pickled gherkins and doused with chipotle mayonnaise.
Grilled prawn narnie $14
with avocado, sweet corn and tomato salsa with aioli
Things are a little lighter in the grilled prawn narnie, seared prawns wedged in among a pile of crisp iceberg lettuce, sweet corn kernels, aioli and a fresh tomato salsa.
Slow-cooked pork narnie $14
with carrot and daikon salad and hoisin dressing
The slow cooked pork narnie is one of the latest additions to the menu, echoing Vietnamese flavours with chunks of tender pork neck, shredded carrot and daikon, coriander and a healthy daub of hoisin sauce. I was left hankering for a little fresh chilli, but otherwise this combination of zing is my kinda thing. The narnies are bigger than you think too, measuring the size of a man-sized fist.
Chicken and spiced carrots salad $15
with avocado, cashew and citrus dressing
There are three salads on the menu. The chicken and spiced carrots salad marries protein with slow roasted spicy carrots and lush buttery slices of avocado.
Caramelised cauliflower tabouli $14
with quinoa, walnuts and preserved lemon
Caramelised cauliflower tabouli is my favourite of the day, cauliflower florets roasted until golden brown and nutty, tossed through with red onion slivers, toasted walnuts, mint leaves, salty preserved lemon and pomegranate seeds that provide a burst of colour and sweetness.
Beer battered chips with house aioli $7
And then there are the beer battered chips. They're worth splurging on. Screw the calories. It's an enormous bowl - enough for three to share as a side without squabbling - with the batons deep-fried to a resounding and irresistible crunch.
Crunchy brioche French toast $14
with blueberries, yoghurt, roasted pecans and maple syrup
We forget to check the display counter for the desserts of the day, but the crunchy brioche French toast needs to be ordered, whatever you do. It tastes as good as it looks, a hefty slice of rich brioche bread dipped in egg and pan-fried to a swoon-worthy combo of softness and crunch. A splodge of virgin white yoghurt, fresh berries and roasted pecans add instant virtue.
Latte art: swan, double fern and phoenix
The coffees are great too. They use beans from Single Origin Roasters topped with an impressive collection of latte art. You might get a swan or a phoenix if you're lucky.
Latte art on a double macchiato
Macchiato drinkers don't miss out either.
Complimentary housemade honeycomb dipped in chocolate
We're also surprised with a complimentary serve of housemade honeycomb too. I reckon they've recognised Mr Manchego, a recent obsessive who has visited the cafe more than five times over the past two weeks. The shards of honeycomb have been freshly dipped in melted chocolate, and the barely set chocolate may have ended up smeared across a few cheeks - just like it did when you were a kid.
There's talk that Three Williams is looking into getting its liquor license soon and dinner openings won't be too far away either.
Three Williams recommences its regular hours of trade from today, Monday 6 January, after limited hours over the Christmas/New Year break.
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613a Elizabeth Street, Redfern, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9698 1111
Monday to Sunday 7am - 4pm
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1/05/2014 09:28:00 pm