The mark of a really excellent vegetarian place is that you don’t even notice there’s no meat on the menu – you’re too busy trying to decide between a bright fresh tasting plate of springtime veggies or the waffles with fruit compote, blood orange syrup and buttermilk ice cream. In fact, we had paid and were out the door of the new Cornersmith in Annandale before we realised that there was no bacon to be had at this, their second Inner West café.
Fans of the original Marrickville venue will be familiar with the concept of the daily ‘plate’, which is a colourful medley of what’s in season. There’s usually something hot – on our visit it’s golden grilled wedges of squash dressed in a vibrant carrot and coriander dressing – and a cold, invigorating salad of cucumber and asparagus. A big, creamy dollop of strained yoghurt is the tie that binds the flavours together and fills you up with a little protein. With toast on the side, it’s a fresh riff on a ploughman’s board.
Do you prefer your morning meal to be as precise and segmented as an edible Duplo set? The Scando breakfast is for you. A tray with a big wedge of the gentle, creamy and slightly nutty Maffra cloth-bound cheddar, half a pear and a little pot of sweet apple and quince jam is joined by two finger-scalding boiled eggs, two thin slices of a dense rye bread peppered with sunflower seeds, and a pat of Pepe Saya cultured butter. You can approach it like a cheese board; make eggs and soldiers the priority; or treat it like a three-course toast tasting platter – there’s no wrong way to graze.
There’s no doubting you’re in the Inner West at Cornersmith. You’ve got designer dogs accompanying designer children eating little hand-sized goat’s cheese breakfast rolls while their owners and parents fill the tanks with an espresso blend from Mecca that tastes like dark chocolate and toasted coconut. The café is on a quiet, leafy backstreet lined with pretty terraces, and there’s a playground in the park opposite the café. For committed weekend warriors, you can pre-order a picnic box and eat it on a rug out on the grass.
Even on a weekday this light, bright and pared-back café is buzzing. After the school run, mums swap tips up at the whitewashed communal table while coffee meetings take place under the huge windows looking out onto the park. Locals who’ve woken to a bare larder can replenish their supplies of fresh bread, pickles, relish, coffee, tea, cheese, yoghurt, and ice cream here too. They stock products from companies that share Cornersmith’s ethical and community-driven approach, so you can think of that extra coffee and slice of moist zucchini, carrot and apple cake as a social good if it helps you justify why you’re spending all your time here.