Time Out says
A new lease on life for a humble ’50s building also gives Ashfield a nostalgic gathering spot serving up quality café fare
From the outset, Outfield is a charmer. Sitting pretty on a grassy knoll in Ashfield’s Yeo Park, the former healthcare centre is a mid-century gem – all horizontal rooflines, mission-brown brick walls and porthole windows. The prime spot, though, is outdoors, where families gather under umbrellas and slatted tables or on provided striped picnic rugs beneath the trees, watching kids having a bat on the astroturf pitch. The forest-green iron chairs might be more at home in a backyard than a Sydney café, but they embody Outfield’s unassuming and community-driven approach while also laying down the game plan for the clever thinking in the kitchen and behind the coffee machine.
Owners Caleb and Belinda Maynard unveiled their update to the long-empty space in April of 2019. And while the building works the suburban nostalgia angle, the dishes are all present-day finesse. For instance, the King of Spin – the nickname of one of Australian cricket’s favourite sons, Shane Warne – features fragrant lemon myrtle-cured kingfish and a garden-fresh herb salad, pretty pickled radishes, a smear of sour labneh and a poached egg. It’s a healthy dish that would’ve done a better job of keeping Warnie’s weight in check than those infamous diuretic pills.
The menu is split up into healthy-ish open toast, rolls, salad bowls and specials presented brightly on the plate. If you’re looking for a clean start to the day, give the bowls a turn of the wrist. The bowls offer winning combinations of interesting textures, considered flavours and spot-on seasoning. Dukkah brings out the best of pumpkin softened into sweet submission and roasted beetroot in a Full Toss, while a generous squeeze of lemon and smattering of pickled raisins lift the Park Bowl’s mix of zucchini ribbons, fresh peas and hummus. Add crumbed chicken for $6, and you’ll have smashed it for six.
Pumpkin makes another appearance in a special worthy of all-star Big Bash status. At $16 for a hefty slice, the warm pumpkin loaf hits all the right nutty, tart and creamy notes, topped with ricotta, blackberries and a pummelled-into-smithereens pepita praline.
The coffee (from Stitch Coffee) is roasted nearby in St Peters courtesy of Collective Roasting Solutions, where Caleb previously worked. Whether you order a flat white or an iced latte, the full-bodied depth is in near perfect balance with the creamy milk. And during the drinks break after an arvo spent in the middle, a housemade sweet and tangy soda starring fresh pineapple juice and plenty of passionfruit pulp is just the ticket.
It’s hard to believe there hasn’t always been an eatery in this spot, considering it’s neatly on the edges of Ashfield, Dulwich Hill, Canterbury and Marrickville. The setting alone is reason for a visit, but Outfield takes “family-friendly” to the hilt: check in on social media and their schedule of play includes Uno championships, bocce and, of course, casual games with the ball and bat. It’s the understanding that a quality café should offer more than just good food and coffee coupled with an atmosphere that effortlessly blends into the neighbourhood that set Outfield apart. And that, to borrow from Richie Benaud, is marvellous.