There are warehouses… and there are warehouses. Nobody wants to sit in at the Bunnings café for their relaxing midday meal. But Alexandria, historic home of industrial Sydney, has beautiful, aged warehouses by the bucket load. And so it is that another café has opened up in one, in all of its industrial-chic-meets-we-paid-a-lot-for-this-designer getup.
Mecca is a really, really, ridiculously good-looking café. Designed by Smith&Carmody (you know them from Cornersmith and Brickfields), it’s all aged brass, monochrome tiling and mid-century inspired furnishings. Think copper piping aspects and lots of whitewashed bricks. Even the disabled toilet has plywood finishings and concrete rendered walls. Ooft.
Mecca, who have been nailing the Sydney coffee scene for around a decade, with cafés in the CBD, Ultimo and Circular Quay, have actually been utilising this space for some years now as their roastery, and it’s still up there in the back. Such is the proximity of beans to coffee machine, that you’d expect the coffee to be downright brilliant. And it is; the flat white smooth and caramelly, with none of the bitter aftertaste which comes from the roasted beans lying around for too long.
The food, too, does not disappoint, with a menu that basically wails at you to order everything on it. Like their design-sibling, Cornersmith, Mecca are fermenting and pickling their way through the vegetable wheel, and their wares feature throughout the menu (and on the drinks list – we’re looking at you, keffir spritz). Such is the case with the robust wedge of beef brisket, served upon a generous bed of creamy white bean purée and a Barbie-pink pile of house-made “soultrain” sauerkraut. There are a couple of crisp, juicy smashed kipfler potatoes crunching things up on the side, and a good splosh each of acidic mustard and garlicky aioli, too. Everything you could want is on there, and works brilliantly together. Bravo, Mecca.
A chicken broth with poached egg and greens is pure winter comfort. The stock is dark and bone-rich, and the cavalo nero and radicchio leaves are big, crunchy and, it feels, mainly there for texture, and perhaps health, reasons. The complexity of this dish lies in the stock though – any bone broth devotee will tell you it’s about the time it takes to extract all that goodness from them bones.
A wintery salad of both soft, cooked and contrastingly crunchy, sprouting puy lentils, layered up with silky roast leeks and more of that radicchio is a comfort-eat as well. The yogurt-tahini dressing barely hints at the inclusion of sesame, but is light and bright all the same, and the whole dish feels like winter embodied in its cosy wholesomeness.
Order another coffee and don’t miss dessert. The orange and lavender cake is syrup-drenched and will have your sugar-cravings sorted till teatime. The lavender doesn’t come through as much as we would like (although the flowers are so pretty!) but the dense, chewy texture is a winner. And the slightly salty yogurt sauce on the side works a treat against all that sweetness.
There is love in this here coffee, and in the menu - and you sure can feel it. It’s carefully prepared food that makes a reason out of travelling to Alexandria which doesn’t include the Grounds. Go for the coffee, stay for the food – hell, stay for the interior alone. A bit of luxe in Alexandria is no bad thing.