Richard Saliba continues to expand the cafe culture of the North Shore with the opening of his fourth cafe, La Cantina St Leonards. It's a bright, airy space with hanging plants and bold graphics inspired by their coffee provider, Bondi's Will & Co. The coffee is top notch; using 100 percent Arabica beans from Guatemalan and Brazilian origins, it's a particularly lovely little cup of warmth to perk you up on winter mornings. If you've already had your coffee fix for the day, you can create your own juice ($8.50).
Once you've had your coffee and juice, it's time to move on to bigger and better things. If you're a boozy bruncher, their selection of beers and wines will keep you happy through the afternoon. If you're feeling super fancy, go for sparkling and start the weekend — or weekday — off right.
What you're really here for though is the food. The exposed kitchen turns out some serious cafe fare, from Aussie classics like the salmon and avocado stack ($17.50) to the ultimate corn fritter dish ($18). It's a beautifully plated medley of sweet corn and zucchini fritters, smoked salmon, avocado and two perfectly poached free range eggs ($18) that manages to stay light and fresh despite the many layers. On the lunch side of things, the burgers include beef, chicken schnitzel and lamb kofta variations and all come with beer-battered fries ($18-18.50), while the marinated chicken risotto ($20.50) is the ideal winter dish. The super creamy rice is folded with succulent chicken and mushroom pieces and topped off with shaved parmesan, making it far better than your average cafe dish.
Overall, La Cantina has a pleasant atmosphere — in part due to the jovial, helpful staff — and is a great addition to the St Leonards cafe scene.