Hello Everyone and welcome back to an all new Review Sunday! Ampersand Café & Bookstore is one that I am very fond of mainly because of the memories and conversations shared over food. I have been going to Ampersand on a frequent basis over the past 4 years; it was the go-to brunch/lunch spot before or after classes at the then-COFA (now known as UNSW Art & Design). I remember popping by the café with Bec many times before our 9am classes; I would always get a regular latte, and she would always get a regular flat white. Then there are many times we’d visit for a quick brunch/lunch in between classes. Most recently, it was an after photography class lunch date for Anastasia, Jess, Jialing, and myself. We would sit and talk about the most random things for 2 hours, and even quote from White Chicks all throughout lunch.
What I also love about this café is that it is also a bookstore! It has a rustic, or as one would use the term, ‘hipster’ feel to it which makes it even that more inviting for the suburb that it is in. The café and bookstore has three amazing floors of dining areas surrounded with an adjoining library and bookstore with many books to choose from. A great place for those who just want to sit and immerse themselves in a book over a cup of coffee, or with friends over food.
Besides all the fond memories I have of this café, and the cozy ambience, the coffee and food are also quite excellent! The menu that you are about to see in this post is some of the dishes that my friends and I have indulged in. I have had many more dishes from this café but I think that during first two years of visiting this café I wasn’t taking any photos or I just can’t seem to find where the photographs are if I did take any. I have indulged in the Ampersandian, the Morning After Breakfast, and their Club Sandwich from their counter items. Nonetheless, I feel like the dishes on this post are quite a good range of the food that Ampersand has to offer. Also, I should make mention that they also have another café known as Ampersand on Crown | Café, Bar & Bookstore. I actually didn’t know that this existed until I went and had brunch with some friends at Rustic Pearl. Ampersand on Crown was just right next to it! 413 Crown Street, Surry Hills for those who want to know where!
HOT DRINKS: CAPPUCCINO
brewed using Allpress Beans (Regular $3.30, Large $3.80)
Their coffee art amazes me every time. I have yet to come across an ampersand on the drink as I have seen in many Facebook/Instagram posts by others.
HOT DRINKS: LULLABY NIGHTCAP
Nutmeg, malt, cinnamon, and honey served with hot milk ($4.80)
What really struck me about this drink was that, on their blackboard menu, it said ‘seahorse eggs’. Being naive and gullible at that time, I legitimately thought that the drink actually had seahorse eggs it in. Only then did I come to a realisation that the seahorse eggs referred to the frothy, fizzing bubbles in the drink. I was not disappointed though; the drink was absolutely amazing! However, probably not a great idea to have before a boring lecture (which was what I did at the time). It’s all in the name of the drink!
LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: RISOTTO
Arborio & barley risotto, confit cherry tomatoes, garlic, halloumi, and pesto ($15.90)
What attracted me to this dish was the fact that it was originally ‘arborio & barley risotto, tiger prawns, lemon butter, and crumbed pancetta’ on their blackboard menu. The combination sounded so great in my head that I had no second thoughts of wanting to order it. However, for a reason that I cannot remember, the lady at the cashier told me that their risotto for that day was confit cherry tomatoes, garlic, halloumi, and pesto. At first I was hesitating whether or not I should have that or order something else off their menu, but at that time there wasn’t anything else that tickled my fancy. So I decided to go for this, and absolutely no regrets. It tasted amazing! But I secretly think that the tiger prawns, lemon butter, and crumbed pancetta would’ve been amazing-er!
LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: THE HASH
Braised beef cheeks (slow-cooked), seasonal veggies, potato rösti, and poached egg ($16.90)
This dish, that Jialing ordered and we shared with Annie, was again to die for! The only criticism I have with this dish that it said ‘poached egg’ and the egg we for that day was what you would get between a soft boiled egg and a hard boiled egg. No runny yolk! Disappointed. Other than that, the beef cheeks where tender and full of flavour; verging on the dry side which is why it was important that we had that runny yolk!
I mean, if these empty plates of the first two dishes mentioned above does not convince you of their deliciousness, then you sir are not my friend (the other empty plate is of the stuffed red capsicum which is the very last photograph on this post).
LUNCH BLACKBOARD MENU: SWEET POTATO CRISPS
served with aïoli ($6.00)
This is a winner side dish for me. I never fail to order these babies each time I visit Ampersand. But sadly over the past month in late October, early November last year, I did not get to have any. Why? Because their deep fryer had been broken during those times. But for a month? Pure torture. I have not been back since our last photography class which was in early November. Maybe it’s time I paid another visit – hopefully their deep fryer is fixed by now! I just love the thin crispy sweet potato sliced paired with garlic-y and tangy aïoli.
Besides their blackboard menu, they also have a selection of pre-cooked counter items. Possibly an easier and quick option for those who have their breakfast/lunch/brunch to go, but that never stopped us from trying them ourselves over a two hour lunch session. You can probably tell that we have a thing for their arancini as it appears in almost every counter item on this post, but are paired with a different salad each time. This is because no salad is ever the same whenever we visit the café. One thing that I do love about their salads is that they aren’t your regular Joe that you see in almost every café; they are pretty exotic to your taste buds! Black sticky rice? Miso chic pea? Cracked wheat? I mean, who would’ve thought these combinations would work so well?! Yum! So what you can do is order an arancini, sandwich, wrap, or whatever hot dish they have at the counter, and then add $5.00 on top for a salad on the side.
COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CHIC PEA SALAD
Arancini with tomato & mozzarella ($5.90) & Chic pea salad with miso and red wine dressing, enoki, kale, and raw zucchini (+$5.00)
COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & CRACKED WHEAT SALAD
Arancini with tomato & mozzarella ($5.90) & Cracked wheat salad with mixed beans, feta, grilled sweet potato, asparagus, and sweet & sour paprika dressing (+$5.00)
COUNTER ITEMS: ARANCINI & ROASTED EGGPLANT AND WHEAT SALAD
Arancini with tomato & mozzarella ($5.90) & Roasted eggplant and cracked wheat salad with green peas, red pepper, and balsamic reduction (+$5.00)
COUNTER ITEMS: BREAKFAST WRAP & BLACK STICKY RICE SALAD
Poached egg, crispy bacon, spinach, tomato, cheese, and hollandaise ($9.50) & Black sticky rice salad with cherry tomatoes, bocconcini, rocket, and balsamic reduction (+$5.00)
COUNTER ITEMS: STUFFED RED CAPSICUM
with pearl barley, pumpkin, feta, and spinach purée ($5.90)
Ampersand Café & Bookstore
78 Oxford Street
Paddington, New South Wales
– Ally xx