In Short : Refined cafe fare, best for miles. Teas and sodas are definitely a must try. Coffee is Reuben Hills and is spot on.
When one thinks of Penrith, great coffee and food does not immediately spring to mind. I hope if you’re Penrith resident and reading this post, you won’t be offended if I suggest that it’s been a bit of a culinary desert in days gone by. There is a transformation occurring with cafes like Henri Marc setting roots down in High Street. The cafe has been operating for a just over three years and we visited it not long after it opened and we found the experience outstanding. We’ve since been coming back every few months and the quality has never waned. On a warm Sunday afternoon, we arrive just after the lunch rush and comfortably take a seat in the leather lined chairs. The fit out is country inspired with metal trusses, wood and brick prominently featuring throughout. Beautifully arranged dried native flowers really give off that farmhouse atmosphere. There’s also a long bar seating setup outside which is perfect during the spring, autumn and early on a summer’s morning.
After a morning cycling through the gorges of Sydney’s northwest, I need a cool beverage and treat myself to one of three sodas offered up at Henri Marc. The choices include a raspberry and tonic, grapefruit and mint, and my choice which is a lychee and vanilla. One sip reveals that familiar tropical sweetness of lychee and then subtle vanilla finish. The carbonated drink is refreshing, and nicely balanced. It’s not overly sweet either. A perfect drink for a warm day.
With my thirst quenched, it wasn’t long at all before the food starting rolling out. I am impressed that Henri Marc really pushes the boat out with their all day dining menu. I try a prosciutto with soft boiled egg, smashed green pea, sundried tomato crumb on sourdough. It’s a pretty looking dish with a nice assortment of flavours, and textures. Combining the slightly dry cured ham with the smashed pea was delicious. I love the intensity of tomato flavour that’s laced on the pea with the sundried tomato crumb. Soft boiled egg is creamy and injects a richness to the dish. Finally, pickled radish with its piquant flavour is a contrast, yet ultimately rounds the dish perfectly.
On our first visit, we were really taken with Henri Marc’s iced teas and their cool mugs. The mugs are gone but the teas are still sublime. There isn’t a standard offering, and a quick check with the waitress reveals the teas for the day. On this visit I tried their orange chocolate ice tea, which consist of chocolate tea, slices of blood orange, fruit bits, and mint leaves brewed in a teapot, served with a glass of ice. The flavour is more fruity orange with a hint of chocolate and mint. Its like a chocolate Jaffa cake in liquid tea form. Completely addictive and keeps you coming back till the last drop.
To match the climatic conditions of the day, I also sampled the meatball and mash brioche with pickled jalapeño and parmesan. The meatballs are coated in a rich tomato sauce. A generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese with its bold fruity flavours is just the perfect partner to the succulent meat balls. Then there’s the brioche bun which is soft, buttery and just totally addictive. Sliced, pickled jalapeño with its heat adds another layer of flavour, and for me, elevated this dish above similar meatball dishes. I love the boldness of flavours, another winner!
You didn’t think I’d come out to Penrith’s best cafe and not try their coffee? Of course I had to sample a flat white. Henri Marc have their own house blend which is put together by Sydney roaster Reuben Hills. A well made flat white that has the perfect layer of foam with fruity summer flavours coming through. I like the strength of the coffee, temperature and the toffee finish is icing on a great afternoon of food and beverages.
On the M4, the green boards pointing to Penrith are fleeting distractions as cars hurtle towards the Blue Mountains. With Henri Marc though, you need to take one of those exits to Penrith and try the food and coffee which would be at home in Marrickville or Surry Hills.