If Erskine Villa set out to be a cafe for the community, they found a pretty good site to set up on. The Erskineville Road eatery sits on land that was once the foundation for Reverend Henry Erskine's home Erskine Villa, after which the inner west suburb — and, evidently, the eatery — was named.
That's where it starts though — not where it ends. Erskine Villa goes beyond what a standard cafe offers, staying open for dinner and drop-in drinks three nights a week and hosting local live music, artists and other cultural happenings. They run a $5 happy hour from 4-7pm on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and, since opening this year, they've held a gin night with Newtown's Young Henrys, and another dedicated to childhood party games. Because if musical chairs doesn't bring the community together, what will?
Okay, food will. It's tried and tested. We're about to launch an official investigation into why a breakfast-acceptable poutine wasn't introduced to the general population sooner. Theirs — a beautiful mess of shoestring fries covered in a light curry sauce, goats' curd, crumbled morcilla and a 63 degree egg ($17) — is a true service to the community. It says it's best shared, but if you're dining solo don't be afraid to order this baby all to yourself — this diner certainly wasn't. It's also perfect one-handed fodder for newspaper-reading or laptop-tapping.
Their menu changes seasonally (as most do), but unlike other cafes, Erskine Villa is right on the money when it comes to cooler weather comfort food. The autumn menu features a congee topped with puffed rice, granola, spring onion and some seriously good slow-cooked salmon; it's warm and the stock has the perfect smack of savoury, making it the ultimate brekkie for when it's raining outside ($17.50). The coffee-rubbed black Angus skirt steak is a heavier, meatier alternative for those not into rice porridge — especially as it comes with a potato waffle, bacon and a fried egg ($22.50). There is a separate breakfast and lunch menu, however all the best dishes (that is, the ones mentioned above) feature on both.
So, really, it doesn't matter when you visit Erskine Villa. You can stop in for a morning coffee on one of the street-facing outside tables, come in for breakfast with a small group, or even bring your parents in for a nice lunch — the corner floor-to-ceiling windows make it light and a white marble bar and smart booth seating makes it feel a bit special. Plus, they're licensed with cocktails, beers, wine and Bloody Marys. If it's your local, then you're very lucky.
Images: Bodhi Liggett.