Billy was energetic, engaging with the customers on another busy arvo. The clouds had whipped up for a while by now and soon the inevitable expected rain, with turbulent winds and pelting water, washed the windows and outside pavements, as if a baptism by Nature - and I thoroughly enjoyed the ambiance, cocooned in a rather remarkable refuge - the Cornersmith, at the junction between Illawarra and Petersham Roads in a rather densely populated inner suburb of Marrickville. I somehow sensed that most of the visitors to Cornersmith are regulars, part of the cafe's culture of being different, of being focused on what they are and how they are serious about it. The place is not overly large, reminiscent of being in Melbourne, its dark shady interior accentuated by the weather. people moved about with an intent, a purposeful lifestyle.
Oh yes, Billy ! He is from Launceston and works now in this iconic and unique Sydney providore. He is slim, always looking out over the tables, having a decent conversation with the guests. Cleaning, serving, suggesting and ensuring things are moving on and taken care of. I like the savoury relish tasted in my breakfast choice, then I go to select a sweet preserve to take home - I am thankful that Billy helpfully reminds me, before I lock the purchase in, that this is not what I had at the cafe and is something else completely.
Amidst the diverse multi-cultural landscape that is past and present day Marrickville, twenty minutes by car or train or bus from Sydney's city centre, is a stand out hipster modern Australian joint that values the slow movement in ethical food, that abhors manufactured processes, that thrives on natural means in preparing food and that is proudly aligned with small scale food originators and growers.
Cornersmith is more than a cafe and coffee hub, it also thrives on making pickles, tonics, preserves and jams - at a separate, dedicated Picklery site not far way from the cafe at 441 Marrickville Road. A husband and wife team have developed a special cultural hub here - Alex Elliott-Howery has a background in the Eclectica related store Pigeon Ground whilst James Grant came from Mecca Espresso.
I enjoyed my breakfast item for lunch on this visit - there was harmony between the elements, mainly a clever salad mix with Soba noodles that was uplifting in taste, poached eggs, relish and a Brasserie Breads sourdough. This dish I had reflected the relative simplicity and sincerity of several creations in the menu, things one would do on the range with organic and more natural stuff, lacking manufactured tastes and factory made sauces.
Many of the dishes are best eaten shared in a communal spirit with mates, partners and family. The best illustration of this is the Cornersmith Plate, with free range ham as the centre piece, held together by a feta and pomegranate salad, pear slices, red cabbage and Cheddar cheese in a toasted bread cover. Be prepared to be surprised, for a dish you may have gotten fond of may not be available on your next visit but comes back with the rhythm of produce and season. Think of degustation especially in the evenings when a guest chef may feature one month and another the next.
Produce, origin, freshness and care is what Cornersmith tries hard and succeeds. There is a clear disdain for artificial additives. Lots of fruits, relishes and spreads are utilised to reassure, like King William apples from Johnnie's Mum, sesame seeds as garnish, soy milkshakes, goats cheese and olive Ricotta. The black boards on the wall are chock-a-block with details, many selections and variety. There are products and creations from neighbouring suppliers, like in a knit close village community.
Workshops, primarily on baking, preserving, fermenting and pasta making, especially relating to bees, breads, gluten free ingredients and cheese making, are organised on a regular basis. The main idea is to encourage personal interaction, sharing of joy, opportunity to discover and then apply.
The Cornersmith Cookbook is also available from its website.
My overall impressions:
Food, produce and drinks: Fun and synchronicity with seasonality in availability. The produce one can take home have vibes of being lovingly home made. One has a true feeling of having an experience and bite that cannot be found elsewhere.
Ambiance: You are in the centre of the Big Smoke, but yet feel echoes of being in the countryside miles away. And yes, there are beehives on the roof of the cafe.
Customer engagement: Many customers say it is like coming to the family home for a feed - and they get to partake of things if they could find the time to organise such carefully prepared more healthy combinations. The La Marzocco barista machine is reassuring. Mum can also have gently brewed Tea Craft blends.
Seating: Can be limited at popular hours, but there is always take away!
Cornersmith is located at 314 Marrickville Road, at the corner with Petersham Road in Marrickville.
Telephone: 612 8065 0844
Opening Hours: Cafe is open every week day from 630am to 330pm and on weekends from 730am to 330pm. Open from Thursday to Saturday evenings from 530pm till late.
Takeaway or sit in, it is your preference.
Vehicle parking can be not easy on the main roads, so best to arrive by train or bus or if you must, park your car on side roads in competition with residents or fellow visitors.
The Picklery at 441 Marrickville Road, Marrickville is open from 9am to 5pm every weekday and on Saturdays, from 830am to 3pm.
Telephone: 612 8964 7463