Unlike Melbourne, Sydney has never quite gotten the ‘all-day dining’ thing right. There have certainly been valiant attempts (vale, A1 Canteen), but for some reason or other – the atmosphere, the neighbourhood, the variability of the offering – ‘morning-till-night’ places just don’t seem to last too long.
It is hard to imagine that Bar Mammoni, the laneway café and bar from the up-and-coming House Made Hospitality group, will suffer the same fate. There’s the location, for one thing – tucked behind Customs House in the burgeoning Quay Quarter Lanes precinct off Circular Quay – which pretty much guarantees steady foot traffic. There’s the lure of the operators, too, who made a big splash in 2021 by transforming neighbouring Hinchcliff House into a red-hot, Italian-accented mega-venue.
The real hook, though, is neither of those things, but an item on the breakfast menu: a rolled-up slice of slippery LP’s mortadella that’s brushed with feisty salsa verde and laid inside a neat rectangular croissant on piped little clouds of whipped ricotta. It’s called a cro-sando and, at $8.50, has to be among the most purely enjoyable things you can eat in this city for less than a tenner. If the notion of ordering one before 9am makes you feel especially smug, know that you also have the option to spike your morning juice with a nip of Campari.
To experience Mammoni at its peak, aim to arrive not long after the doors open at 7am. That way, you’re more likely to pinch one of the 30 seats (24 of them outside, six stools inside; all for walk-ins only) and secure unobstructed access to the pastry display case, which is where you will want to spend most of your time. Acclaimed baker Jonny Pisanelli, from Adelaide’s Abbots and Kinney, is in charge of the viennoiserie, and he most definitely isn’t holding back. Ask a member of the exceedingly patient staff to walk you through the dozen-plus options, and chances are you will both be left breathless.
There are cronuts that glisten with sugar, capped off with raspberry jam; croissant-cannoli hybrids flecked with crushed pistachios; lipstick-red coils of pastry sandwiching choc-cherry coconut mousseline; turnovers stuffed with baked cheesecake cocooned in blueberry icing. Most of these have silly, cutesy names like ‘Sugar Lips’, ‘Puff Daddy’ and ‘Cherry Poppins’. None, however, are quite as ridiculous or delicious as the ‘Cinna-Bon Jovi’ – a knot of cinnamon-streaked brioche bigger than a ball of yarn and covered in a ghost-white, salted vanilla glaze. The bitterness of an Allpress long black does well to subdue the sugar, but the decision to serve it as a double espresso shot with a jug of hot water on the side feels cumbersome, especially at five bucks.
Come lunchtime, the focus shifts to salads, antipasti and pizza-style sourdough “slices”, made with flour milled at Grana Bakery in Hinchcliff House. These are heated to order, which does well to enhance the crackle and crunch of the 72-hour fermented crust but also has a tendency to dry out what’s on top, depending on how long it’s been sitting in the cabinet. Better to opt for the pizza bread splotched with garlic and herbs and use it as a vessel for salumi, anchovies, burrata or a meatball spiedino rolling in a reservoir of salty tomato sugo.
What little reprieve there is from carbohydrates comes mostly in the form of drinks, overseen by House Made’s beverage director, Jason Williams. His tight, aperitivo-centric list whittles it down to the essentials: a Negroni here, an Americano there, a half-dozen wines and a trio of seasonal Spritzes that go down with a dangerous degree of ease.
If there’s one major drawback to all this, it’s the cluster of umbrellas that hover over the outside tables and offer almost nothing in the way of shelter from the elements. Gusty winds or a downpour pretty much spell a pivot to takeaway, but that definitely shouldn’t stop you from getting your hands on these baked goods. They travel incredibly well – and the upside to tak ing a half-dozen pastries home is that no one needs to know they’re all for you.