In Short: The Carpenter is the first nail in the rebuild of Leichhardt as a destination for foodies. A rustic space with a crew that are doing great things with coffee, and creating dishes that would have lines forming in cafes in Newtown or Surry Hills. My tip for coffee lovers is to try a Sparking Single.
Leichhardt is a suburb in transition. When I first arrived in Sydney in 1996, I spent the first 18 months living in a dingy studio on Parramatta Road just 300 metres from Norton Street. In that time I got to know Leichhardt quite well, and Norton Street was the centre of Sydney’s Italian community. It was a vibrant scene with outstanding Italian food, and on weekends there was an amazing buzz. Then, The Italian Forum happened, and that development sounded the death knell for the area.
I’ll be honest and say it’s been many years since I drove through Leichhardt, and as I navigated my way to The Carpenter, I was really taken aback by the amount of development that has taken place. Hundreds of brand new apartments have transformed the area. A good thing? I am not so sure, but inevitable given the suburb’s proximity to the CBD. What revived my spirits was walking down the lane that houses The Carpenter. I love that the cafe sits in a lane, and walking through the roller door, it got better. Firstly, Karma Chameleon was playing, followed by Come Together, and then Take Me On. Yes! This was my kind of cafe. The converted warehouse was spacious, relaxed, and full of textures. It had a relaxed ambiance that was so inviting and comforting.
We did not waste a second grabbing a coffee. The Carpenter source their coffee from The Little Marionette. A Flat White had that familiar flavour profile. I am big fan of the Little Marionette blend, having spent many an afternoon sipping coffee at their original cafe next to Gladstone Park in Balmain. I loved the medium body feel. It was full of chocolate notes, and handiwork by the barista ensured a smooth silky texture. Each of the coffees were presented in the cutest cups we’ve seen this year. I would’ve walked out with a second takeaway cup, but keep reading for one of my coffee highlights of this year.
Not long after finishing the coffee, my Spicy Beef Salad lobs onto the table. It screams freshness with vibrant greens of cucumber and shredded snow peas. A healthy portion of beef is just the right protein infusion after a morning of cycling. It was gently spiced, tender, and perfectly cooked through. I loved the Thai-inspired flavours that is laced through the dish. Fish sauce in the chilli dressing and roasted peanuts worked so well with spiced beef. Cucumber and tomato tamed the heat, and I really enjoyed how the snow peas freshen the palate. Blanched bean sprouts and vermicelli complete an accomplished salad. I could eat this everyday. The Carpenter, do you deliver to North Sydney?
Coco and Viner Mavis usually goes for the most sophisticated item on the menu, but today one word swayed her to simplify. That word was truffles. The Carpenter’s Truffle Eggs uses Tetsuya’s Truffle Butter Salsa to infuse the eggs with that heady perfume. The eggs were perfectly cooked, taken off the heat at just the right moment. Giant mushrooms were a bonus, and added depth and more earthiness to the dish. Brickfields sourdough, among Sydney’s best sourdough, was of the usual high standard.
Little Sammi auditioned the Chicky Nugget Basket with a side of hashbrowns. This is not your stock standard dodgy takeaway nuggets, but rather house-made cylindrical pieces of chicken fillet, crumbed and fried. Supremely crispy outside, yet moist and juicy inside, they were gobbled up by Sammi in record time. No nagging from me to finish up lunch is the ultimate compliment of the quality of food. The accompanying fries were coated in old bay style seasoning, which made them addictive.
My mum was up for a visit from Canberra and escaping the Néscafe of her kitchen, as we ply her with actual coffee and good food. She spoiled herself with The Burger. I loved how it was presented open faced with the pickle on top. My mum loved the minced patties, of which there were two, and commented how perfectly cooked they were. Two aspects of the burger stood out for her; firstly, she loved the house specialty sauce that was tangy and so smooth and secondly, sweet potato fries added a contrasting texture.
Now, for that show stopper coffee I alluded to earlier. Sparkling Single didn’t give away much on the board behind the bar, but it did pique my curiosity. Let me tell you though, it’s a golden glass of goodness! My tip for you, if you do order it, is to first resist taking a sip. Bring the glass to your nose for a moment and take in the aromas. That coffee, and almost beer-like aroma is…well…indescribable! I handed the cup over to my mum and then to fellow Coco and Viner Mavis, and they too were in agreement that it was unique in the most perfect way. After getting it back into my hands, I took a sip and fell in love with the full-bodied coffee flavour. It was creamy with low acidity with a fruity finish. For a few minutes, I thought I’d found coffee nirvana. The Carpenter’s creativity really shines through with this coffee creation.
I had been looking forward to visiting The Carpenter, and the team delivered in all aspects. Service was super efficient and so friendly. With a relaxed ambiance, outstanding coffee, and a menu that delivers on flavour, I have found a slick new cafe that I can stop in now on the way to, or back from, the city.