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Sunday, January 05, 2014

Three Williams, Redfern

Brioche french toast at Three Williams Cafe, Redfern

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.

Decor inside Three Williams Cafe, Redfern
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
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 with slaw, gherkins and chipotle mayo
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 with avocado, sweet corn and tomato salsa
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 neck narnie with carrot and daikon salad and hoisin dressing
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 with avocado, cashew and citrus dressing
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 salad with quinoa, walnuts and preserved lemon
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
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 with blueberries, yoghurt, roasted pecans and maple syrup
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.

Swan, double fern and phoenix latte art at Three Williams using Single Origin Roasters coffee beans
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.

Double macchiato with fern latte art
Latte art on a double macchiato

Macchiato drinkers don't miss out either.

Housemade honeycomb dipped in chocolate
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.

Entrance to Three Williams Cafe, Redfern

View Larger Map
Three Williams on Urbanspoon

Three Williams
613a Elizabeth Street, Redfern, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9698 1111

Opening hours
Monday to Sunday 7am - 4pm

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Redfern - House of Crabs
Chippendale - Brickfields

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40 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/05/2014 09:28:00 pm


  • At 1/05/2014 9:31 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    LOVE the chips and narnies AND their cauliflower salad (and this is coming from someone who dislikes cauliflower)

  • At 1/05/2014 10:38 pm, Blogger Jarhead said…

    Fantastic post and superb photos! I keep hearing about this cafe... really need to visit it. Really want to get my hands on the beef brisket narnie. The food looks pretty fresh and different.

  • At 1/05/2014 11:03 pm, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    The beef narnie is insanely good and so were the chips. Good coffee and love the space! I gotta try the French Toast next time.

  • At 1/05/2014 11:11 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    absolutely dying to try the epic sounding crunchy brioche french toast!

  • At 1/05/2014 11:33 pm, Anonymous Chris @ MAB vs Food said…

    Hehe I love how the fish croquettes are served in a egg carton!

  • At 1/05/2014 11:41 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Missed out on the brioche french toast last time. Got to make my way there ASAP! :D

  • At 1/06/2014 7:14 am, Blogger vegeTARAian said…

    Those chips are so dang good! And the brioche French toast is such a treat. The honeycomb looks incredible!

  • At 1/06/2014 7:55 am, Blogger Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    What an awesome place to have hit our shores - its bloody amazing. Everything I tried was nothing short of tasty and worth every cent!

  • At 1/06/2014 9:11 am, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    I've read so many reviews on this cafe recently and you have ordered some interesting dishes. It would be difficult deciding on which narnie as they seemed to have nailed 3 irresistible choices.

  • At 1/06/2014 9:11 am, Anonymous john | heneedsfood said…

    I may one the few people that hasn't graced Three Williams. The owners can't be unhappy about the online attention they're receiving!

    And, something doesn't surprise me about your caramelised cauliflower affection. Sounds like a winner.

  • At 1/06/2014 10:14 am, Blogger Annie said…

    think i'm one of the few people who haven't tried this cafe yet. so much that i wanna try here especially the narnies and the croquettes. hope to head there really soon

  • At 1/06/2014 10:37 am, Anonymous Joanne T Ferguson said…

    G'day! Seems to be the place to go, true!
    Your photos are YUM and my eyes stopped at the narnie too!
    Cheers! Joanne

  • At 1/06/2014 10:40 am, Blogger Vivian - vxdollface said…

    I want everything on the menu! Can't wait to check it out since I haven't had a chance yet :9 mmm fries and brioche french toast

  • At 1/06/2014 11:14 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    All I would need to be exhilaratingly happy is that caramelised cauliflower salad and the freeeeee honeycomb.

  • At 1/06/2014 11:37 am, Blogger Jacq said…

    wow everything looks so good! Really keen to try out the narnies and that brioche toast

  • At 1/06/2014 1:06 pm, Blogger gaby @ lateraleating said…

    Wonder how many people ask the owners "Are you William?". This is indeed the hottest cafe of the moment... it doesn't offer many gluten-free options from what I've seen but I'm keen on giving it a go, I don't want to be the last food blogger to try it!

  • At 1/06/2014 1:37 pm, Blogger K said…

    I really like this place. Beef narnie is my fav, followed by the cauliflower salad. I'm yet to try the chips though. Both times I had a sore throat. :(

  • At 1/06/2014 4:15 pm, Anonymous Iron Chef Shellie said…

    "just begging to be instagrammed" bahahaha love it!!

    That french toast has my name written ALL OVER IT!!

  • At 1/06/2014 5:43 pm, Anonymous Kat @ KatCakes said…

    So this is Three Williams! Food looks fantastic. Also, I love the coffee art. Looks so darn awesome! And that French Toast *drool. Definitely have to visit soon.

  • At 1/06/2014 5:44 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    Every blogger has been raving about this cafe! Just looking at all the pictures of the french toast and narnies are luring me to make a visit... Must make enough stomach space!

  • At 1/06/2014 9:59 pm, Anonymous msihua said…

    SIS (Shit Instagrammers Say) :P That Croquetteeeeee *drools*

  • At 1/06/2014 10:53 pm, Blogger thecitygourmand said…

    It was here I discovered "narnies", hopefully 3 Williams is here to stay

  • At 1/06/2014 11:06 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    Oh hey wow that French toast looks awesome!

    A friend of mine told me I have to make cornflake French toast because it's apparently amazing - I think it would look/taste like that crunchy French toast in your picture! :)

    xox Sarah

  • At 1/06/2014 11:33 pm, Anonymous Cindy (A Foodie's Joy) said…

    My friend tells me the beef brisket is superb! Love your pics and descriptions! I need, I must go...one day soooon! :)

  • At 1/07/2014 6:28 pm, Blogger Mel said…

    I visited here a few weeks ago and LOVED my narie & chips. I do want to go back for the cauliflower tabouli as it looks so great! If ONLY this was closer to work...d'oh! I like the space too...it's crowded by so spacious that I didn't feel cramped at all...

  • At 1/07/2014 6:55 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Going on the list as destination yum! I gotta get my hands on a narnie stat! Alongside a few delish fish croquettes for an IG moment ;)

  • At 1/07/2014 8:02 pm, Blogger excusemewaiter said…

    I absolutely adore this place! How awesome is the french toast :)

  • At 1/08/2014 8:05 am, Anonymous liz @ strayed table said…

    Narnie's, thats just crazy talk. Mind you they do look really good, I wonder how long the sensation will take to hit Briz. Also those beer battered chips look the best I have ever seen so crunchy. Hope you had a happy new year.

  • At 1/08/2014 1:04 pm, Anonymous charlene @ aus2usa.wordpress said…

    this place looks incredible! Yes yes yes to the french toast brioche. 2 of my favorite things in 1! french toast and brioche.

  • At 1/08/2014 4:15 pm, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    i loved my meal here, the french toast, the narnie the chips, everything!

  • At 1/08/2014 7:17 pm, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    i really like this place. Especially the narnie and the chips! YUM!

  • At 1/09/2014 10:30 pm, Anonymous Priscilla @ foodpornnation.com said…

    Need to try this! It's all the rage right now!!

  • At 1/10/2014 8:09 pm, Anonymous Hilda said…

    Three Williams is at the top of my next cafe must try! Can't wait.

  • At 1/14/2014 12:11 am, Anonymous sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Sigh, no honeycomb for me when I visited :(

    But no issues, had a great meal, and how good are those croquettes!!!

  • At 1/14/2014 9:46 pm, Anonymous The Food Sage said…

    What an awesome find … everything looks good, but the fish croquettes are the drawcard for me. Thanks for sharing, Helen.

  • At 1/15/2014 1:57 pm, Blogger Buggles and Squeak said…

    Your post inspired us to try this place out.... It is fantastic! The beef Narnie has knocked "Reuben Hills'" short rib burger and the 'not Reuben' sandwich off the pedestals they occupied in my mind. Buggles loved the prawn one too. On a return visit I tried the Bircher muesli and it is awesome also!!! Love, love, love this place for food, space and the brilliant service!

  • At 1/17/2014 10:10 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    omgooodly goodness im dying to try this places thanks heleen again for the post that has now made this place an instant virtue :P

  • At 1/19/2014 7:01 pm, Anonymous missklicious said…

    this is definitely my new favourite cafe! have tried all the variations of the narnies, and love them all! must get around to trying the new pork one!

  • At 1/19/2014 7:01 pm, Anonymous missklicious said…

    this is definitely my new favourite cafe! have tried all the variations of the narnies, and love them all! must get around to trying the new pork one!

  • At 1/24/2014 10:07 am, Anonymous Amanda @ Gourmanda said…

    Everyone's been talking about this place! My instagram feed has so much in Three Williams, I really should get here ASAP. The brioche looks great.


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