Our CBD has long lived in the shadows of Melbourne’s and its warren of European laneways, but Sydney city is no longer a workaday café backwater. It’s rocking a newfound comestible cool thanks to places like the newly opened Regiment.
Sure, the location is designed to suit the commuter crowd, but that doesn’t mean they’re not smashing out a surprisingly elevated menu from Lisa Northmore (ex-Plunge No. 46). Even their condiment game is impressive – typical toast-toppers like avo and Vegemite share menu space with wattle macadamia peanut butter, eucalyptus honey, dukkah, tequila jalapeño relish and bisque mayo – this is not a house of pallid paninis.
Inside it’s a warm hug of a place, but we’re not talking nana comfort here - regulars at Artificer or Neighbourhood should get ready to feel café-ja vu thanks to Porter and Maple’s trademark blonde timber finishes and diffused warm light, marble countertops and coppery mirrors. Even the chevron-striped takeaway cups have style.
Five Senses beans become skilfully pulled espresso shots on two shiny, white Synesso machines – the chocolatey, roasty Dark Horse Blend for your flattie, a rich, fruity, acid-forward Colombia Popayan Cincuenta for your doppio, and single-origin Ethiopia Ardi for filter orders. White coffees are balanced – no excessive milkiness – and black coffees are smooth with a nice bite to finish. The turmeric chai – a hybrid golden latte and house-made chai – has an airy, marshmallow-y texture and a sprinkle of spice, earning it the best in show award.
A properly made bircher muesli comes trussed up with discs of house-dried fruit; buttery croissants are slashed open so that blistery tomato and melty taleggio burst out; and your avo toast clocks in at a housing-affordable seven bucks.
Come midday the serious Instagram players hit the tables, like the cauliflower salad filled with brilliant yellow, seasoned florets offset by red ribbons of capsicum, almond crunch, and brightness from pickled shallots. Blackened sesame seeds speckle lime miso-laced soba noodles that are both exotic and comfortingly carby, topped with a tangy wodge of house-made kimchi and garnished with a crescent of tender roasted pumpkin.
Sandwiches are built on a base of Bread & Butter Project sourdough and filled with the likes of tender slow beef, taleggio and horseradish. Surprisingly, the obvious soul-warmer, the beef stew, loses points for portion size considering how generous the rest of the menu is.
If you’re not a CBD desk jockey, you should still gather the troops and march on Regiment. It’s compelling evidence that the CBD café scene might have the arsenal to give Melbourne’s a run for its money.