Eating with the AU: Devon Cafe – Surry Hills, Sydney.

The latest cafe to enter the trendy Surry Hills scene is Devon, appropriately named on the Central end of Devonshire Street; a sort walk away from the crowded Crown and Bourke Streets, in an area of the suburb which always seems to be reinventing itself.

Devon is by far the most upmarket cafe to approach the area, and in this category only faces competition from the nearby Cook and Archies, on Buckingham Street. With all this in mind, it’s unsurprising that the cafe has seen strong business since it opened up in the former home of Padi, an Indonesian restaurant that never seemed to garner much traffic in the daytime hours, during which the area is most bustling. It is, after all, a very short walk from our very own offices, and those of companies like ARIA, SPA and until recently, Pedestrian.TV.

Though a short walk would take you to places like the much lauded Reuben Hills, and indeed the aforementioned Cook and Archies has more than its fair share of charm, Devon is definitely in a class of its own, thanks in part to the influence of two ex-Guillaume chefs at the helm of the kitchen, while a husband and wife team found in Derek and Noni give the cafe the homely quality that all the best cafes of the area possess. It should also be mentioned that the pair have cleverly utilised the location’s garage space, making it suitable for additional tables, resulting in a cafe that’s much bigger than it looks from the outside.

The breakfast menu, which runs from opening until 11.30am on weekdays, and until close (usually around 3.30pm) on weekends (they are the only 7 day cafe we know of currently operating in the precise vicinity), is what we had the opportunity to try on our recent Monday morning visit.

It’s an impressive menu that serves as the focus of their cuisine. You can have everything from the simple “Just Eggs” ($9.50) with two eggs and your choice of toast, or their variation of the “Big Breakfast” in the impressively named “The Whole Nine Yards” ($18), which adds bacon, roasted trussed tomatoes, sausage and wilted spinach to the Just Eggs dish.

Even in the most simple of dishes, the presentation is exquisite and the ingredients are high class. They also offer to present your eggs “63 degree” style, which I haven’t seen on a breakfast menu before (I have had it with a pork belly in the past). This unique process sees your egg slow poached at exactly 63 degrees, which takes some 45 minutes to prepare (thankfully you don’t have to wait as long), and the result are runnier whites with rich yolk that seems to evoke the use of the word “gooey”. It’s impressive to see such an option accompanying even the most basic of dishes, especially in such a busy kitchen.

And that really is what Devon is all about – providing a gourmet experience to even the most casual of diners, at an affordable price; albeit sometimes a few dollars above what you will find at the more run-of-the-mills cafes nearby (as they say, you get what you pay for!).

From black rice pudding (“My Asian Cousin”, $10), to a PB&J French Toast with warm banana, nutella and peanut butter ice cream (“Little Lost Bread”, $16) there is a unique selection to suit any taste buds. I personally recommend the Bruschetta ($10), which features avocado and goat’s fetta mixed in with pickled beetroot, served on beautiful sourdough. On a previous visit, I had this and added in scrambled eggs, which is only an extra $3. A highly recommended combination.

On this visit, I started things off with a perfect hot chocolate (pictured above), presented with the same love as they would a coffee; I’m told the coffee is exceptional, though I’m not a drinker myself (seriously! A journalist who doesn’t drink coffee!? I know, right!?). The dish I tried today, meanwhile, was one of the most impressively inventive and daring breakfasts I’ve ever tasted in Surry Hills. They call it the “Breakfast of Champions”, and it’s a dish which started out its life as the chef’s special and has ended up as a permanent part of their weekend menu.

There is so much going on with this dish I struggle to know where to begin. It’s an incredibly rich dish and resembles something you’d find as part of a degustation at a hatted restaurant. With this in mind, I would only recommend it for the more adventurous of appetites – especially if it’s your first meal of the day. It’s perhaps best suited as an early Sunday afternoon lunch after an earlier bite. You really might be overwhelmed here; but that’s not a bad thing for this writer. I am a huge fan of spice and flavour, and with the Breakfast of Champions it comes in droves.

The heart of the dish, so to speak, is a Morcilla sausage – better known as a Spanish Blood Sausage, which is rich with blood, onions, rice and spices. A perfect interpretation has been presented here. The sausage is accompanied by an aforementioned 63 degree egg, potato gratin, apple puree and celeriac. No toast is served with the dish, though it’s far from needed; this is a more than satisfying meal. The apple puree is a particularly inspired touch, helping smooth out some of the stronger flavours, while the gooey egg mixes in well, fooling your body into thinking this is a suitable breakfast dish. But then you remind yourself that you don’t eat this every day and it should be thankful for the treat it’s consuming.

Not for everyone, but certainly for me – I’d highly recommend it. And for those slightly less adventurous, there are plenty of other just as affordable options for you to enjoy. I’m looking forward to heading back to partake of the pastries, which I’m told are divine.

Address: 76 Devonshire St, Surry Hills
Opening Hours: 7 Days a Week – 6:30 am – 4:30 pm Weekdays / 8:00 am – 3:30 pm Weekends
Contact: (02) 9211 8777
Website: http://www.devoncafe.com.au/

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.