It's a rare thing indeed where you go to a café where they are truly thinking about every single aspect of their produce. Ora do, in Manly, as do Cornersmith in Marrickville. Now there's a brand new bakery-cum-café that's taking produce seriously.
Berkelo is situated in the up-and-coming, warehouse-bedecked Brookvale – what we like to call the Alexandria of the north, already home to the excellent Brookvale Brewery Truckbar. It's set amongst the houses and warehouses and is across the road from Warringah Mall, but you feel miles away from the hustle and bustle in this elegant, cute, artisanal little café.
It's run by a couple of chefs, Tom Eadie and Matt Durrant. They want to make bread that’s good for you, and so the sourdough is fermented anywhere from a day to a week to get it where it needs to be, using a rye starter milled onsite. They make and culture their own butter, and the large block of honeycomb behind the counter comes from Eadie’s dad’s farm. His sister is even making coconut milk from scratch, which they use in their coffees for dairy-free diners.
There are loads of breads on offer, made fresh each day. The house sourdough is almost as good as Iggy’s (give the boys time), with a chewy crust and a fluffy, soft, bouncy interior. But the khorasan sourdough is even better, benefiting from the umami additions of malt and rye, with some honey to balance things out. Because it’s fermented for a long time, and with khorasan being an ancient form of wheat, this bread might even be OK for gluten-intolerant folks. But there’s also gluten-free bread that sells out at light-speed, which is soft and sandwich-friendly, thanks to sturdy teff flour and fat-rich ground almonds. We love the fruit bread, which is studded with cherries, figs and grapes dehydrated onsite, and infused with lemon myrtle tea. Order the mixed bread with butter and honeycomb (only $5) and you’ll see what we mean.
You need to stick around for the cakes, which are all made with either raw honey or treacly rapadura sugar, rather than refined cane. We first tried their éclairs at Ora when Berkelo were just a start-up, and now they’ve morphed into craquelin-encrusted éclair rings stuffed with whipped labne crème pâtissière and topped with thick caramel, fruit and nuts. The individual carrot cakes are more savoury than sweet, topped with juicy muscatels, caramelised walnuts and layered with Pepe Saya’s mascarpone. They make all their croissants with their own cultured butter, and the pain aux amandes are shaped like little loaves of bread, because that way, Eadie tells us, “when we roll them, the almond praline is layered all the way through.” Genius!
There are savouries too. All the meat comes from organic butchery Shiralee Meats, which is just across Pittwater Road. The tender, unctuous grass-fed brisket pie is mixed with sweet caramelised onions and buttery mashed potato, and chicken is paired with pancetta and silky leeks. Both pies are enclosed in short, buttery pastry made with their own butter, of course. And don’t miss the ‘fish cracker’. It’s made from veggies and flax (the recipe changes day-to-day) topped, when we visit, with house-cured moonfish, crunchy fennel, creamy avocado, peppery mizuna and miso sesame powder for extra umami. It’s a truly beautiful plate befitting of any fancy restaurant. But here it is in Brookie for just $12.
Coffee is from new Frenchs Forest roastery Sovereign Speciality Coffee Roasters. Our flat white is clean and nicely acidic, and is sweet from creamy, part-Jersey, unhomogenised milk. The hot chocolate is worth a look-in too – it’s made with a base of melted chocolate, cream and milk, and you can have it with any milk you like except for soy, which they don’t do. Ask for it super chocolaty and short if you’re after something robust, or long, milky and frothy if that’s your swag. It's served in handmade Kaz Morton ceramics that will send you straight to their online store; they’re that beautiful.
Service is incredibly helpful and informative, and there are plenty of milk crates to sit outside if you want to stick around and eat in. It feels like the Northern Beaches now has its very own Iggy’s. In fact, maybe old Bronte has a bit to catch up on here; Berkelo even has seats.