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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A1 Canteen, Chippendale

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Sydney's new favourite eatery? It might well be A1 Canteen, the much anticipated venture from Automata's Clayton Wells. Initially slated to open in February 2018, A1 Canteen finally threw open its doors last Wednesday. It's a more casual offering for punters, open all day for breakfast, lunch and dinner including a takeaway window.

Dining room at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
A1 Canteen dining room

A1 Canteen has taken up residence on the ground floor of the Old Rum Store, virtually across the lane from Automata. Soaring windows mean the dining space is bathed in natural light during the day. The interior design by Matt Darwon is cool - but not cold - in tone, with a colour palette of blacks, greys, dark brown and white. There's a calmness about the space, manned by staff who are attentive and quietly efficient.

Head chef Clayton Wells in the kitchen at A1 Canteen in Chippendale Sydney
Head chef and owner Clayton Wells in the kitchen

Fried eggplant sandwich at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Fried eggplant, romesco and provolone $12

At lunchtime it's hard to go past the fried eggplant sandwich with its thick disc of panko crumbed eggplant. The use of tank loaf bread may be easily missed, but it's a nostalgic throwback to soft white bread.

Melted provolone in the fried eggplant sandwich at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Melted provolone 

Our sandwich has been buttered and pressed, resulting in oozing strands of provolone once it's cut open. It eats brilliantly, with the warm and buttery eggplant boosted by the sweetness of the romesco and the subtle smokiness of the provolone cheese. There's no oiliness to the eggplant either, and the panko crumbs retain their crunch.

Muffuletta pressed sandwich at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Muffuletta $14

The other lunch favourite you'll notice doing the rounds on Instagram is the muffuletta, a pressed sandwich that's an excuse to eat all your antipasto favourites in one bite. Wells' take on this New Orleans classic includes a strata formation of mortadella, salami, grilled peppers, marinated artichokes, fresh spinach leaves and olives.

Grilled kingfish with freekeh and bitter leaf and herb salad at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Grilled kingfish with green sauce and capers $22
with bitter leaf and herb salad
and freekeh salad 

For a step up in fanciness, you can mix-and-match mains (roasted lamb shoulder, grilled kingfish, smoked chicken breast or baked celeriac) with two of four salads.

Our grilled kingfish is cooked to a flaky succulency. Freekeh (green wheat) has a satisfying chew, dressed with fermented pumpkin and citrus and interspersed with pepitas. Contrast in flavours and textures come through in the bitter leaf and herb salad too, with the smoky sweetness of blistered grape played off against radicchio and rocket.

Roasted lamb shoulder with broccolini and romanesco green cauliflower and baby gem lettuce salad at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Roasted lamb shoulder with za'atar and tahini yoghurt $22
with broccolini and green cauliflower salad
and baby gem lettuce and egg salad

Roasted lamb shoulder yields a pile of fork tender meat, its heaviness tempered by a splodge of tahini yoghurt. We pick the remaining two salads: broccolini with green cauliflower and the baby gem lettuce and egg salad with curry vinaigrette.

Broccolini and romanesco green cauliflower salad at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Broccolini and green cauliflower salad

There's an elegant sophistication to the combination of crisp gem lettuce with creamy curried eggs, but the geometric patterning of the romanesco green cauliflower is even cooler.

Fried eggplant, romesco and provolone sandwich at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Fried eggplant, romesco and provolone $12

The next day - oh yes - I return for lunch again, this time with a different dining companion. And even though there are other untried items I could have ordered, my yearning to reunite with the fried eggplant sandwich is even stronger.

Fried eggplant, romesco and provolone sandwich cross-section at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Fried eggplant, romesco and provolone cross-section 

Unlike the previous day, our sandwich appears toasted but not pressed, or perhaps not as pressed for long. It makes for a lighter sandwich but it also means the provolone cheese hasn't really melted either. It's not quite as good as my first encounter, but it's still an impressive combo.

Roasted lamb shoulder with freekah and broccolini and romanesco green cauliflower salad at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Roasted lamb shoulder with za'atar and tahini yoghurt $22
with freekeh salad 
and broccolini and green cauliflower salad

The roasted lamb shoulder also earns an encore appearance. It's just as good as the day prior.

Breakfast at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Breakfast crowd

Three visits in three days? You bet I did. The breakfast menu looks too intriguing to resist.

Coffee at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Strong flat white coffee $4.50

But first can we admire the beautiful saucers that accompany their coffee cups? It's a stupendous marriage of form and function.

Curried scrambled eggs, LP's sausage and English muffin at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Curried scrambled eggs, LP's sausage and English muffin $17

We start with what looks to be an A1 Canteen classic, curried scrambled eggs with sausages from LP's. Curry powder with scrambled eggs sounds like an odd match but it works. The eggs, cooked to a velvety butteriness, have just enough curry powder to make its presence known without feeling overwhelming.

The star on the plate, however, has to be the sausage. They're noticeably meaty with a springy bite.

Grilled mortadella and fried egg sandwich at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Grilled mortadella and fried egg sandwich $12
with fermented chilli and fried shallots

The grilled mortadella and fried egg sandwich is comforting in every way, from the softness of the milk bun to the finely shaved mortadella to the gooey yolks of two sunny side up eggs. Fermented chilli and fried shallots add zing and crunch. This would work brilliantly as breakfast on the run and yes, it's available takeaway.

Open omelette at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Open omelette with shallots, confit garlic and bonito $16

The open omelette arrives at our table in an ordering error. We point this out but staff say we can keep it anyway. It's a visual spectacle, with bonito flakes dancing furiously. This is a simple dish but one done well, an eiderdown of softly cooked egg scattered with shallots and the gentle fishiness of bonito.

Eggs benedict, blood cake, leg ham and hollandaise at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Eggs benedict, blood cake, leg ham and hollandaise $19

There's definitely an eggy bent to the breakfast menu, featured in five out of nine options. The eggs benedict is right up my alley. We pierce the poached egg to release a river of golden yolk, cascading over a mountain of leg ham, fried blood cake and English muffin.

The blood cake is a highlight, fried so the edges are crisp. And we relish the zingy and silky hollandaise.

Bacon sandwich at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Bacon sandwich with cheddar, fermented cucumber and Branston pickle $17

For real grunt-worthy satisfaction, my money is on the bacon sandwich. The bacon is crisp but not dry, bolstered by English-leaning additions of cheddar and its best friend, Branston pickle. It's a ripper of a bacon sarnie.

Doughnut with calamansi yuzu curd and creme fraiche at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Doughnut with calamansi yuzu curd and creme fraiche $8 ($6 takeaway)

Desserts? Of course we did. The doughnut isn't as spherical as you'd expect but it's soft and fluffy, piped with calamansi and yuzu curd and creme fraiche. 

Mixed berry tart at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Mixed berry tart $12

And if you see the mixed berry tart on the counter, get it. You'll be rewarded with a buttery base topped with frangipane and berries that teeter terrifically between tart and sweet.

Coffee and dessert at A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells in Chippendale Sydney
Coffee and sweets

Next stop: dinner. There's a lamb tartare on the menu with my name all over it.

A1 Canteen by Clayton Wells on Kensington Street in Chippendale Sydney


A1 Canteen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

A1 Canteen
Ground floor, 2-10 Kensington Street, Chippendale, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9280 3285

Opening hours
Sunday and Monday 8am-3pm
Tuesday to Saturday 8am-3pm and 6pm-10pm


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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 6/26/2018 02:30:00 am



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