When cafe institutions from Sydney and Melbourne come together for a collaboration, it’s exciting times. Lucky for Sydney-siders this collaboration produced Paramount Coffee Project in Surry Hills, a joint venture between Reuben Hills and Seven Seeds. I first visited the cafe on Commonwealth Avenue Surry Hills over 2 years ago. At the time, it was new, it was fresh, and was the “it” cafe. In 2016, the cafe is still a hive of energy, yet more established. While there were pop up stores in operation when it first opened, Paramount Coffee Project now takes centre stage. The naming of the cafe is a tip of the hat to the building that was home to Paramount Picture’s Head Office back in the day. While the exterior maintains its 1940’s heritage, the interior has been reworked into a beautiful space. Exposed brick columns, sleek lacquered communal tables, polished concrete floors, clean white subway tiles and lots of light put this cafe in top echelon of any eating space in Sydney.
Paramount and coffee in a cafe name is significant as there’s nowhere to hide when it comes to delivering coffee, and Paramount Coffee Project shines on many fronts. I start off with a filter coffee. The beans are sourced from the Jimma region of Ethopia and is craftily roasted by Reuben Hills. First off, there’s a delicate floral aroma that wafts up from the blue ceramic cups. Then there’s a slight citrus tang which leaves a tingle on your tongue for a few moments. It’s not your deep, dark, punchy coffee, rather a more serene coffee experience, and really prepares your palate for the fine food that follows.
Three of the Coco and Viners are present, and it’s Mavis who will usually go for the exotic or quirky coffee item on the menu, and today is no different as she opts for the business and pleasure, which is described on the menu as an espresso and shaken ice almond milk latte. The beverage is presented deconstructed, espresso in one cup and the shaken ice almond milk latte in another. Like opening an Apple iPhone box, there’s no accompanying instructions, so we just take the plunge and mix the espresso into the ice almond milk latte. Lattes are usually milk rich, but at Paramount Coffee Project you have full control of the coffee content. The nuttiness of the almond latte really works as a great partner to the espresso. Little wonder the almond milk movement has taken off in Sydney!
While the rest of the team’s heads were buried in the menu, I was peering at our neighbour’s table. I must have looked like old Mr Goggle eyes, as I eyed their French Philly cheese sub of southern brisket, sauerkraut, cheese whizz, holy trinity relish with bone marrow broth. Without any graces, I hastily placed my order for said sub, you know, in case they ran out of bread and stuff! When it did arrive, I was curious as to what I had to do with the little bowl of beef bone marrow broth. Slurp it down in one go? Dip a bit of bread in it? Drizzle the sub with the broth? On seeking advice, I was told to dunk a portion into the broth each time. The bread was easy to pull apart, soft and slightly sweet, yet so delicious even on its own. The beef brisket, wow, so tender, it’s just melted in my mouth! The sauerkraut did its job of cutting through the richness of the beef with sweet vinegar flavour. By dunking a chunk of the sub into the broth, you’re in for a treat as the broth softens the bread and delivers a meaty and rich kick of flavour. No sub will ever be the same as Paramount Coffee Project’s version has spoiled me in best sort of way with their French Philly cheese wonder.
PCP’s bibi is a contemporary take on a Korean bibimbap. It’s a textural Tour De Force with finely julienned carrots, bean sprouts, kale, mango kim chi and enoki mushrooms. Most times in Korean cuisine, kim chi plays a great supporting role, but with PCP’s bibi, it takes centre stage. It’s slightly sour with some of the heat you would associate with a conventional kim chi, but for me, fermented cabbage isn’t one my favourite flavours and the use of green mango is inspired. The best kim chi I have tasted, anywhere! PCP, please make bottles of this condiment!
Part the bean sprouts, lift the sunny side up egg and awaiting you is a surprise, sticky black rice. It’s cooked al dente, with a tiny bit of bite and nutty flavour. Being a chilliholic, I welcome the gojujang and spread it liberally through the bowl. It adds yet another level of pungent spiciness to the salad. In an utopian world of vegetarian cuisine, this creation would be a standard all others would be judged against.
I sneak a taste of the buttermilk fried chicken waffle. For those who have been camping under the culinary rock, sweet waffles with a savoury element are all the rage across supermarkets and cafes in Sydney.
PCP’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken Waffle offers its eater a tour through textures and tastes that evoke thoughts of “down home cooking” in the southern U.S., contrasted with more complex flavours that will intrigue the seasoned café connoisseur’s palate. The maple sweetness of the waffle with its almost crisp yet spongy, donutty texture is joy in the mouth, especially when combined with the perfectly moist fried chicken that yields its south-western flavours without a hint of greasiness. There’s a little bit of spice in the chicken seasoning that lingers on the tongue with the caramel and smoky notes from the maple bacon gravy. That’s not it, there’s more! I am blown away by the complexity of flavours, and who would think flavours like pickled apple, charred radicchio, and roasted hazelnuts can come together so perfectly. While the waffle is omnipresent, it’s the flavour combination that’s the reason you need to try PCP’s waffles!
No Saturday brunch is complete without a little sweet treat and PCP has a great selection of cakes which are on display behind a glass shelf. The one that stood out for me was the orange almond cake that had a rich citrusy nutty taste. It was topped with a swirl of cream cheese icing, sprinkles of pistachio, rose petals, a slice of orange, and a sliver of flower-shaped candy. It was not too sweet and evoked memories of some of the best Persian inspired desserts I have had in the city.
Before parting, I sample one last coffee, one that will sustain me until, well, tomorrow! It’s my standard cappuccino. PCP use a Reuben Hills blend for their milk coffees. The beans produce a sweet and fruity flavour, with caramel notes. It makes for great drinking, smooth, warm, and a middling strength. Coffee and milk balance is just right. A perfect way to end a meal!
Paramount Coffee Project ticks all the boxes. Chunky sandwiches, groovy salads and sweet delights, carried by supremely crafted coffee. It’s paramount you head to Surry Hills and chill in one of the coolest spaces in the city.