One of the best things about food blogging is the people and places you get to meet and explore in the search for truly outstanding cafes, coffee and food. Getting to know every inch of a city can be a reward in itself, but when you include finding a gem like John Smith Café in Waterloo to the equation, it really makes you feel like you’ve struck gold in a culinary treasure hunt.
Walking into John Smith Café you’ll feel the frantic buzz of the busy street slip away as you’re greeted by a space that feels like a cross between a funky industrial loft and a Spanish cantina.
Having travelled through Europe where restaurants and cafes embrace this truly open spaces concept, I love the environment that John Smith Café has crafted by simply creating a connection to the community through the use of open window seating combined with intimate booths and sidewalk tables. The effect is a really relaxed atmosphere that lets you enjoy a peaceful coffee if you’re by yourself or a comfortable conversation with friends.
Seated in one of the cosy booths, we started off with the Cold Drip and Iced Coffee as the temperature outside crept above 30 degrees Celsius. John Smith’s Cold Drip reveals the smooth, caramel complexities that the Rebel Roasters brew has to offer. The flavours linger on the palate with no bitterness whatsoever. This combination of refreshing yet mature flavour profile, makes this Cold Drip one of the City’s very best.
Equally as satisfying is the simple and subtle Iced Coffee. I’ve been on a bit of a rant of late about how “Iced Coffee” in many Sydney cafes has morphed into an overdone concoction that resembles something you’d order off the dessert menu at a well known fast food chain. There’s no need for fake whipped cream or simulated chocolate sauce. Let the coffee itself shine through and you can’t go wrong. That’s just what John Smith have thankfully done to save the perfectly simple Iced Coffee. Make sure you stir this delicate drink to allow the milk to mingle with the coffee and you’ll be rewarded with a nutty, caramel experience that is naturally sweet.
Contentedly sipping our chilly drinks and soaking up the chilled café vibe, we’re served the delightfully unassuming Breakfast Bowl. This wholesome and rustic bowl of healthy goodness is a stealthy flavour revelation. Sure, it looks yummy enough, but once your fork begins exploring the carefully chosen components that make up this bounty, you’ll be wishing the bowl was bottomless.
The menu breaks the bowl down to ingredients like quinoa, daily greens, peperonata, a poached egg, but the standout here for me is the beetroot humus. This beetroot bliss really took me by surprise with its smooth, measured sweetness and how well it worked to compliment the other flavours. If they sold this stuff by the gallon, I’d be first in line. One tip for this dish would be to add one of the meat options available…my choice would be the braised pulled pork.
Ever thought what smashed avocado on toast would look like if it decided go to Mardi Gras? No? Neither have I… but if it did, it might look something like the one served at John Smith Café. Wow! Colour and taste with a punch of sriracha avocado salsa is what sets this otherwise well-know café mainstay apart from the rest. With goats cheese and lime on rye caraway sourdough, this plate is a winner.
For both the herbivores and carnivores, the Herb Roasted Mushroom Burger offers not just a deliciously healthy alternative, but one that leaves you feeling perfectly satisfied. Served on a milk bun with greens, goats cheese, avocado salsa and… wait for it… oh yesss… beetroot humus, this mound of melodious flavours is as much a feast for the eyes as for the mouth. In the words of our Coco & Vine stunt taster, ” I didn’t think I’d be filled by a veggie burger, but the mushrooms were so robust that I felt like I was eating a real burger”.
To continue the healthy theme, we decided to try the delicately fresh Chickpea Salad with shaved fennel, wild rocket w/ salsa verde and pomegranate reduction. This is another favourite among the John Smith regulars and a perfect plate for a mid-summer’s lunch. While this time we ordered it without a meat/topping option, this base salad suits itself ideally to one of the upgrade choices; chicken, braised pulled pork, or avocado salsa. Once again, I’d lean toward the pulled pork the next time we drop in.
Sitting quietly in a display case in the middle of the café just minding its own business, this little “muffin-like” treat beckoned to us as we were just about to thank the friendly and welcoming John Smith crew and hit the road. There it sat, kind of like that last puppy in the pet store window. We couldn’t resist, so we rescued it from its glass prison and promptly shared it gleefully. Poor “muffin”… Do I know what its called? Nope. Do I think you should definitely try one when you go to John Smith Café? Yes!
John Smith is a delightful mix of relaxed atmosphere, outstanding food and some of Sydney’s best coffee. If you value the attention to quality and authenticity true food atrisans can offer, John Smith Café in Waterloo is a foodie must.