Strolling into Barista & Cook's mega-scale space, I tell myself, 'today, you're going to make good, wholesome choices'. And although this is ambitious, with hungry eyes scanning the menu, I feel a grin spreading across my face — this may just be the perfect place to finally begin my health-conscious ordering habits.
For those not in the know, Barista & Cook is the latest eatery from DJ-turned-café owner Alan Thompson. Ending his seven-year run with Surry Hills' Bangbang, Thompson has now turned his attention to the burgeoning suburb of Waterloo. With an oh-so-simple philosophy of 'good food + coffee, done well, consistently', this back-to-basics approach ensures the cafe lays a solid foundation for culinary success.
Within moments of arrival, the venue's emphasis on coffee is clear. Immediately, my attention is turned to the impressive cold drip apparatus, serving as the centrepiece atop their large communal table. The baristas reveal they hope this tabletop feature sparks the curiosity of customers to ask questions about the Gypsy Espresso coffee beans on offer, and taste a completely new brewing process. Sampling everything from their cold drip coffee to a V60 pour-over (made to order, every time), their attention to detail translates into a delicate, balanced cup that hits the mark with each sip.
Adequately caffeinated, I take another look at the well-balanced menu; committed to using only the best local produce, a meal here can be as clean or cheeky as you like. Their signature smoked trout kedgeree of spiced rice, boiled eggs and citrus yogurt ($19.50) — like the majority of their breakfast options — proves light yet satisfying, leaving me without the need for a two-hour nap. To balance out a a few bites of their char-grilled pork belly (served with chilli fried eggs, crushed edamame and puffed black rice; $18.50) and the grilled mac 'n' cheese toastie ($12.50), I dive into their heirloom tomato salad ($17.50) for a refreshing burst of flavour.
Breakfast is only served until midday, and lunch starts thereafter. Just try to resist trying their grass-fed cheeseburger (served on a milk bun with house pickles, bacon jam and chunky-style chips; $19), or grabbing a piece of spicy Southern fried chicken ($19.50). I certainly couldn't. Polishing off their roasted broccoli with marinated chickpeas, toasted almonds, kale, feta and chilli flakes salad ($16), I'm ready to tackle one last menu item: their buckwheat waffles. Featuring butterscotch pears, raspberries, toasted poppy seeds and crème fraîche ice cream ($16), I can confirm it may see you licking the plate — before going in for more.
Getting a seriously impressive feed in such an airy, light-filled space isn't something that happens at just any old cafe. With pooch-friendly outdoor spots plus some of the comfiest, cushy booths you're likely to come across, Barista & Cook nail both style and substance. Waterloo, meet your newest local gem.